NORMAN — Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, a Ugandan nun of global acclaim, visited the University of Oklahoma, giving a brief speech Thursday evening on continued efforts and aid and expressing gratitude for the extensive and unique support she has received from the OU community.
An innovative dynamo, Sr. Rosemary bravely responded to the horrific devastation caused by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army by founding a school and refuge for the abducted women and children who escaped.
Located in Gulu, Uganda, the St. Monica campus has been a haven of empowerment and healing for traumatized former members of the LRA and has provided a case study of battling poverty and economic disadvantage by imparting marketable skills and even creating new industries.
“When I visit here, I know I am at home and am tempted to say Oklahoma is part of Uganda,” Nyirumbe said. “I can speak at length because I know I am among friends.”
Pros For Africa, an Oklahoma-based nonprofit founded in 2009 by Reggie and Rachelle Whitten, has worked closely with Sr. Rosemary, using the pipeline of OU students, faculty and community to bring vital resources to the people of St. Monica and northern Uganda.
“It’s (PFA) only about three years old, and it’s causing quite a stir,” Whitten said.
PFA has gone a step further than simply diverting supplies or funding to students at St. Monica. It has provided medical and engineering students with an opportunity to practice and develop their skills.
PFA also has connected St. Monica students with a consumer base for the handmade products they’re learning to create.
“The purses are a way for these women to know they have dignity and worth,” Nyirumbe said. “They work and are paid for their work and pull themselves up from begging and seeing themselves as worthless.”
Sr. Rosemary and her students began crafting purses out of recycled pop tabs and yarn, and by selling these purses to American consumers, Sr. Rosemary is able to pay her students for their work — an opportunity many of them would have never had without the school.
“Whatever you can give to the children of Uganda, you receive back twofold. Once you see this or help these people, you’re not the same,” Whitten said.
According to Nyirumbe, the act of affecting positive change is not about huge gestures.
“It’s all about involvement and being present to yourself ... I have many people asking, ‘What can I do, what can we do,’ and I don’t have an answer for that because the answer lies in your hearts,” Nyirumbe said.