City On A Hill Press
UCSC student newspaper
June 5, 2014 page 7
by Ardalan "Ardy" Raghian, student reporter
Sowing the Seeds of Sisterhood
Santa Cruz looks to make Kasese, Uganda a Sister City
When Godfrey Kasozi flew from Kasese, Uganda to attend UC Santa Cruz in 1999 he hoped to return with information on sustainable agriculture, but the stories he shared moved community members who wanted to see him return with more.
Kasozi lived his whole life in Kasese and founded the Center for Environmental Technology and Rural Development (CETRUD) prior to being chosen for an internship at the UCSC Center for Agro-Ecology. CETRUD works to mitigate health and poverty issues through its nine different programs, which range from developing sustainable agriculture, to child sponsorship programs.
A group of friends Kasozi made during his first trip to Santa Cruz helped him connect with nonprofit organizations like the Firelight Foundation and the Santa Cruz Sunrise Rotary Club, inspiring him to take steps to make Kasese a Sister City.
“The idea of a Sister City is that you have an ongoing relationship that’s built up a lot of exchanges between the communities,” said Deb Abbott, director of the Cantú Queer Center at UCSC. “One of my desires is to bring it to the next level so it’s not just a group of close friends that when there is a flood we’re all sending him personal money. He needs a higher level of response.”
Abbott is also a member of Friends of CETRUD, a core group of six Santa Cruzans looking to help raise funding for Kasozi and make Kasese a Sister City.
During May 2013, a flood devastated Kasese, displacing over 25,000 people and destroying Kasozi’s Center. Fundraisers in Santa Cruz and help from the local government in Kasese has helped CETRUD get back on its feet, but Kasozi and community members are still working to rebuild the Center.
“We have more than fifty people giving us a hand for rebuilding the Center, we did fundraise in Santa Cruz during my stay last year and some good friends of CETRUD have continued supporting us,” Kasozi said.
In 2011, the Sister City Committee in Santa Cruz approved Kasese as a Friendship City, the first step toward becoming a Sister City. In June of last year, a delegation from Kasese, including the Mayor, Kasozi and three other leaders, visited Santa Cruz as a step toward becoming a Sister City. They met with local leaders, participated in local events and held a fundraiser for the recent flood.
“I try to come to Santa Cruz every year depending on what I’m doing and if funds allow, I have fundraised for projects in Uganda,” Kasozi said. “People have been so good to me, that is why I call it my second home.”
A Santa Cruz delegation is currently being set up for February 2015 by Peggy Pollard, Chair of the Kasese subcommittee of the Sister Cities Committee, an advisory body to the Santa Cruz City Council.
Pollard said former Mayor Hilary Bryant and current Vice Mayor Don Lane are on the list of 12 potential delegates planning to pay out of pocket to visit Kasese in February. She hopes the delegates’ experiences will give Santa Cruz the push it needs to upgrade Kasese from a Friendship City to a Sister City.
“Meeting in person is very powerful, there is a certain realness in seeing firsthand how much we can do to help,” Pollard said. “The memory of that can last a long time, even for many years and far away across the globe.”
The two cities will work to implement cooperative activities and exchanges in education, culture, technology, business and humanitarian fields.
Earlier this year, Uganda passed an anti-homosexuality law that further criminalizes same-sex relations with penalties including life in prison and execution. Pollard expressed that passing this law drove the Sister City Committee to be concerned about a future Sister City relationship. A potential delegate even dropped out because of the law.
“This kind of issue is exactly why we should become a Sister City with Kasese — the best way we can help protect the human rights of [people who identify as lesbian or gay] in Uganda is to have an ongoing relationship with the Kasese leaders so we can talk with them about it and they hear other voices rather than just the fearmongers,” Pollard said.
Pollard hopes the Santa Cruz delegation will solidify Kasese’s path toward becoming a Sister City.
“Santa Cruz should get more involved so we can exchange our programs, having Santa Cruz as a sister will help into developing Kasese,” said Kasozi. “The benefits are based on business, tourism, education and cultural exchanges. Personally, the relationship I have with the people of Santa Cruz will live on forever." [end]
THANKS ARDY! GREAT JOB!