A Dream Has Come True

September 23, 2012 by  
Filed under LIFE STAGES

Today was a wonderful day!

I met with Laurie McCutchan, the Executive Director of The Hope Institute of Uganda, to learn about its work in Jinja, Uganda to empower families towards economic viability, education for all, access to affordable health care, and more.  Laurie’s fantastic husband Jim came along — because we would put him to “work” loading up Laurie’s van a little later — and we had a wonderful lunch together in downtown Lake Geneva, Wisconsin overlooking the shimmering, boat-filled lake. The weather was sunny and crisp amidst a stunning cloud-filled sky of blue. Fall colors were EVERYWHERE. I was so excited during my drive to Wisconsin — and the barns and farmhouses, pumpkin piles, mums and haybales, farm stands and even some Oktoberfests along the way only made me feel more and more alive and inspired. I just could not wait to get there!

I had met Laurie and her friend, Kathe Kexel, also a volunteer at the Institute, at a conference in May when our booths were “coincidentally” located next to each other. She and Kathe were selling beautiful handcrafts from Uganda and I was promoting my book, The Pinwheel Girl Takes Flight.  We hit it off immediately and I couldn’t take my eyes off the beautiful products. As I looked at the gorgeous beaded jewelry, cow horn carvings, wired sculptures, paintings, and more I could literally feel enormous doses of love emanating from each piece. I knew that this work was very special, coming from very special people, with very special needs to express their spirit and heart. I was so completely moved by this experience and I just could not forget it.

Beautiful baskets made by master weavers in Jinja, Uganda plus unique bowls carved from cow horn

I recently announced that I was able to donate books to not-for-profit organizations helping women and girls and it was then that Laurie and I re-connected. She said “I will take whatever you have to give.” And so a new aspect of the Pinwheel Girl’s journey began.

Laurie told me all about her work with the Institute and the kinds of projects it sponsors and supports. Their work is AMAZING and includes Fair Trade co-ops for both women and men, surgical services for local residents from trained doctors and nurses, the development of a bakery — including training for local residents on how to make nutritious bread using local agricultural products, empowerment programs for school girls and women, refugee support, school scholarships for children, and MUCH MUCH MORE.  It is all so very inspiring…and the beauty of all of this good work is that it is being accomplished by a SMALL group of people based in Janesville, WI — about 6-12 people!!!  This reinforced for me how so much can really actually be done, that solutions can be very simple, and that the work that results can have lasting and meaningful impact on those who need it most. So often we feel helpless, that the “issues” are too big for us to make a dent in…but Laurie helped me understand that this is just not necessarily so.

Ugandan Children ~ Photo courtesy of The Hope Institute of Uganda

I learned about how $300 can support a child through one year of school — and that includes EVERYTHING — books, school supplies, uniforms, socks and shoes, toothbrushes, personal care products, backpacks. Everything for a YEAR.

Then she told me that the Institute is just getting ready to implement its Personal Hygiene Kit for Girls program. If a girl does not have the proper sanitary supplies to use while she is menstruating, then she is not allowed to attend school. So that means girls are missing up to one week a month of school. This leads to falling behind and ultimately to dropping out. Solutions are SIMPLE. The results are ENORMOUS.

I am so honored & privileged that The Pinwheel Girl Takes Flight will be a small part of this overall project — my book will be given to school girls in two orphanages, women in the sewing & beading co-op, and those in surgical recovery. I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for the opportunity to share my voice with these special women and girls who are each on a very poignant empowerment journey.  When Laurie told me that she felt my book was perfect for the young girls in the orphanages to help them feel proud of themselves, to take charge of their journey, to cultivate courage, and to think in new ways, I felt all my angels and Guardians suddenly swoop in to surround me, hovering around my head and shoulders — right there in the middle of the restaurant! It was a Divine moment and suddenly I was reminded of how all of our connections and meetings with one another are palpable and real.

Laurie went on to describe how the book could also be used with women in surgical recovery — something they can read while in the hospital waiting for discharge. And also with the Sewing & Beading Women’s Co-Op to keep their burgeoning empowerment alive and growing strong. She was very excited about the journals, too — something the girls can use for self-expression that belongs only to them.

Eye-catching jewelry made from election campaign literature from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential bid

I am in awe of this powerful new connection. When I wrote my book it was with the strongest feelings of love and healing for anyone who needed it. And I mean anyone. I didn’t exactly know what that meant except that it was written out of love and healing — I never did it for money or the New York Times Best Seller List. I have resisted mass marketing it in a way that is insincere and inauthentic. I have always believed that theme of The Pinwheel Girl Takes Flight was “One Book, One Woman, One Life at a Time.”

I remember when I wrote and drew the Pinwheel Girl illustrations how everything poured out of me. Messages came to me in dreams while I slept, visions of her poses appeared to me at the most unlikely times of my day-to-day comings and goings.  I learned to carry a sketchpad with me at all times to capture all of it. All of it had to come out. All of it had to be expressed. And with every expression I felt love stirring in my heart.

Laurie McCutchan, Executive Director, The Hope Institute of Uganda, poses with Pinwheel Girl Products on their way to Africa

The Pinwheel Girl has touched many, many women across the United States. I never ever thought she’d travel transatlantic to the savannahs of Africa.


So…the mission is working. A dream has come true.

And I just checked my passport. Yes, it is good for a few more years. I think I’ll be booking some very special “flights” of my own soon.

To learn more about The Hope Institute of Uganda, click here.


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