Making Connections Across the World

Jonah Heinrich

Last year at summer camp I met two amazing people, Samson and Isaac. They were my counselors at Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute (OSRUI). They came all the way from Uganda, Africa. Throughout my four weeks at camp, I spent a lot of time talking with Samson and Isaac. They told me about their daily struggles and tried to paint a picture for me of the details of their life in Uganda.

These conversations really made me think deeper, and I tried to put myself in their shoes. What would it feel like to barely have enough water and food every day? To eat the same cassava, a dry tasteless vegetable, at every meal because it will fill your stomach and ease your hunger? Jobs are very hard to find because employers are often corrupt and employ their relatives over others who might be more experienced or more educated. This makes Isaac and Samson feel that their education is useless. Also, many employers don’t want to employ someone Jewish because they won’t work on Saturday. To a large extent, job opportunities are the greatest hardship they face as a minority religious community.

For these reasons, Samson and Isaac had been trying to start a business selling kippot handmade by women in Uganda. They wanted to help their community as well as help themselves. Each kippah is handmade by a woman in the community in Mbale, Uganda. Some of these women are from the Abayudaya Jewish community and some are from the general community. They are all living in dire poverty and working together for a better life. Samson and Isaac planned to buy the materials from community members, pay the women who make the kippot, donate a portion of the income to their synagogue for the most impoverished people, and support themselves. I felt compelled to do something to help.

I decided to try to help Samson and Isaac start their kippah business. We talked about how I could help by selling kippot here in the USA. My parents and I gave them money to get the materials for about 650 kippot, which we committed to selling for them. We received the kippot in October, and my Mom and I started to brainstorm different ways to sell them. We got a list of synagogues in the Chicago area and started calling their gift shops and finding out about their holiday fairs. So far we have sold 400 kippot through holiday fairs, family and friends, and we were helped by an article about my project in Wilmette Life, which led to orders from all around the country. We have been able to send $6,000 to Samson and Isaac, which has helped them with college tuition, medical bills, food and so much more. I will continue to sell the kippot as long as I can to continue to support Samson and Isaac.

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HaYidion Summer Homework Summer 2017
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Summer 2017