Lorna Pitcher, founder, , Toronto
In 2007, Lorna Pitcher, 63, spent her March Break visiting her friend Barbara Wybar, who operates a vocational school in southern Uganda. After travelling hours to the northern part of Uganda, Ms. Pitcher walked into a room full of orphaned children, and she walked out vowing to help them by getting them into school. Five years later, Ms. Pitcher has donated her salary as a supply teacher, rallied her colleagues and has stood on a street corner at the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto selling recycled paper bead jewellery made by African caregivers. Raising more than $250,000, Ms. Pitcher has helped to educate more than 400 children who were abducted or orphaned by the Lord’s Resistance Army or lost their parents to AIDS. She is feisty, angry and at the same time thankful that Kony 2012, a viral video about LRA leader Joseph Kony, has redirected attention to these children.
“On March 13, 2007, I walked to the Lira Town Hall with Barbara, where 43 children were sitting in a large circle on white plastic chairs, many two to a chair. They had a bottle of Coke or Fanta. My speech was short. If they promised to take care of each other, I promised to go back to Canada and start to help them.”
“I asked my colleagues at Sterling Hall School if they could sponsor children for $100 each (my goal was to have a sponsor for each of the 43 children I had met). The response was so incredible that I asked if there were another 100 children whom we could help.”
“Five years equals 164 orphaned children attending primary and secondary schools in and around the town of Lira, northern Uganda; 12 girls from the village of Aboke (who had been abducted by the LRA in 1986 and held in captivity until 1997 and gave birth to 18 children), now attend university; 286 teenaged boys and girls attend Barlonyo Technical and Vocational Institute and are being trained in carpentry, bricklaying and tailoring thanks to the generous support of Jeffrey Wortsman, president of Danier Leather.”
“Twenty dollars buys a four-inch foam mattress for the girls’ dorm, $29 buys a complete school uniform, $125 buys a treadle sewing machine for the tailoring classes, $150 pays a BTVI vocational teacher’s salary for a month and $427 pays school fees for a year for primary boarding school.”
“Until Kony 2012 went viral, it was difficult to tell the story of children in northern Uganda who desperately needed our help. Earlier this month, in the concourse of the Bay Adelaide Centre, I raised $2,850 selling the stuffed animals and paper jewellery made by the children’s caregivers.”
“Esther Atoo, 32, director of COHU. If I ever get discouraged about where the next funds will come from, Esther keeps me going. … And there she is living in a house with no electricity, raising three young children, having to beg 31 principals for more grace period when I’m late getting her funds.”
What keeps you going?
“Oh, I can Skype Esther or get an e-mail telling me about the kids in school who are getting closer to their dreams of being doctors, lawyers, politicians. I love that! For example, Fiona, 18, who, with eyes shining and full of spunk and ambition, wants to go to Parliament or be a lawyer when she is finished school. She will do it.”
“Uma Thurman, who is producing a movie called Girl Soldier based on Ottawa journalist Kathy Cook’s book Stolen Angels. It tells the harrowing true story of the 30 Aboke girls abducted by the LRA from St. Mary’s Girls School on Oct. 10, 1996. When Girl Soldier comes out, Uma Thurman will have shown the world the most inspiring story of human resilience.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.
Farah Mohamed is president and chief executive officer of the G(irls)20 Summit. Send suggestions for Action Figure to .