Kulanu is honoring our dear colleague Laura Wetzler! As Kulanu’s Coordinator for Uganda, and as a singer-songwriter and world music performer touring in 150 concerts a year, Laura has friends and admirers around the globe. So instead of the usual dinner and soft-cover advertising booklet, we decided on another way to show our regard for Laura and to raise funds for the projects nearest to her heart.
Kulanu is creating a virtual on-line journal. The journal will look like a booklet you would receive at a dinner you attended in person, but in this case, you will see the pages on-line. The journal will display your message and those of others, along with wonderful pictures of Laura and the community she loves. By donating to express your good wishes to Laura, you will be helping the Abayudaya community of Uganda with many vital development and education projects.
When Laura heard the 1995 NPR report on Kulanu’s first visit with the Abayudaya, little did she realize she would become “Sister Laura,” a beloved figure in the community to which she would journey annually, working many hours a week mobilizing resources and expertise from around the world. From her first visit to Uganda in 2002, Laura’s heart was captured by Abayudaya warmth and dedication to Judaism, and moved by the many pressing survival needs of the friends she has gotten to know as family.
Inspired by Tom Dichter’s book, Despite Good Intentions: Why Development Assistance to the Third World has Failed, with no formal training in the field, Laura went to work with Abayudaya leaders and Kulanu’s network of supporters to create and facilitate more than 20 innovative grassroots projects that have improved the lives of the 1500 Jewish inhabitants of eight villages, along with their Christian and Muslim neighbors. A knowledgeable observer has called Laura “the best community development professional” he knows.
n collaboration with visionary Abayudaya leaders and Kulanu colleagues and supporters, Laura has helped build and support the Abayudaya primary school and high school, initiated a school-based child hunger program, a special education program for deaf children, and shared skills in planning, budgeting and project facilitation, With farmer JJ Keki, Laura created the award-winning anti-poverty “Delicious Peace” fair-trade interfaith organic coffee project. Preferring sustainable economic development to the charity model, Laura, Abayudaya leaders, and Kulanu created the first farmer and tourism business training, and the first Abayudaya small business micro-financeand women’s empowerment projects. Together, they designed the first running water project for the Abayudaya elementary school, installed clean water catchment tanks, improved sanitation, and negotiated a cost sharing deal with the government to bring electricity to the main village.
It would be a shame not to mention the annual “Jewish Life in Uganda Mitzvah Tour & Wildlife Safari” Laura created with the community, a remarkable development project that features visits with Abayudaya members in their village synagogues, an exciting safari, and the fantastic “Abayudaya Music and Dance Festival.” Anyone who has been fortunate enough to travel with her can attest to the care and attention Laura brings to the participants, to the multitude of community projects she oversees, and to so many individuals in the community.
Clearly, these projects and more recent ones would not have reached fruition without Laura’s skill, determination, and a no-nonsense working process Laura describes as “teamwork, homework, and footwork.”
Please join us in showing our appreciation for all the work that Laura continues to do as the personification of the Jewish spirit of tikkun olam, repairing the world.
You can send your message and donation by mail or on-line. If by mail, please fill in the form below and send it to us by May 1, 2011. Make your check payable to Kulanu and mail it with the form to: Harriet Bograd, President, Kulanu, 165 West End Ave., 3R, New York, NY 10023.
To donate online, go to kulanu.org/donate. See contribution levels below. In the comment field, please write “Wetzler Tribute” followed by the text of your ad (limit 100 words for full-page ads, 50 words for smaller ads). If you have any questions, or to send any images for your ad, write to:firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you so much.
Harriet Bograd, President