At the end of last year, a civil war broke out in the South Sudan, forcing millions of people to flee the country and become refugees in neighboring countries such as Uganda.
Since then husband and wife Carl and Julie Gaede, who are trained trauma counselors, and their family have been doing what they can through their nonprofit organization Tutapona to help the newly displaced refugees of the South Sudan and other refugees throughout Uganda.
“Since we were here last, there was civil war of sorts started in South Sudan so refugees started flooding out of South Sudan from that point,” Carl said. “By mid-March … there were 56,000 refugees in the refugee camp where we are working near the border. We have started working with the UN and providing trauma rehabilitation there. We are currently in three different refugee settlements, as well as in the northern region of the country.”
The family’s latest operations, as part of the nonprofit Tutapona, which they started in 2008, are taking place in Adjumani, Uganda, with refugees from South Sudan. The family also moved to Uganda in 2008 and currently live in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda.
“We decided that we couldn’t just sit by and be idle, we needed to do something,” Carl said. “It felt like God was calling us there and that if we were going to do trauma counseling we needed to go where there was trauma. That felt like it was the heart of trauma.”
Carl and Julie, along with daughters Grace Gaede, Emma Gaede and Judith Piloya, as well as her son Elijah Opakrwot, are currently back in the United States to visit family and friends, but they are also back to help raise funds for Tutapona to help more people in Uganda.
“There are huge needs; there are literally millions of severely traumatized people in our own backyard,” Carl said. “Our biggest challenge is trying to discern what needs we are able to address and what needs we are called to meet. Really, our biggest limitation is finances. We have the people trained and ready to do the work but we don’t have the money to be in all the places we need. When we get the funding, we move forward and move into a new location.”
To help raise the funds for their projects, the third annual gourmet pancake breakfast will be held on May 3, at the New Richmond American Legion from 8-11 a.m. Carl Gaede will be the keynote speaker at the event.
Along with the pancake breakfast, the Gaedes are also trying a new fundraising campaign called “Live Below the Line,” which looks for local people to live below the poverty line for five days straight. Those who join the campaign will try to live on $1.50 a day for both food and water from April 28-May 2, in order to raise sponsorships from family and friends. All the money raised in the campaign will go to support Tutapona. Donations for the “Live Below the Line” campaign can be made on the Tutapona website through the end of May.
“The campaign is meant to raise awareness of what is going on in the world and the plight of the refugees that we work with,” Carl said. “It is a global campaign with over 20 organizations participating, with the largest being the World Food Program and we are the smallest. It is something we are trying this year for the first time and we are excited about it. It can be a fun thing that we all do together.”
Aside from the work the family is doing to help the millions of refugees in Uganda, they are also learning about the world and becoming better rounded people because of the work they do and the people they meet.
“It has been a wonderful opportunity for our family,” Julie said. “I feel quite grateful to be raising our children with world perspective. They have big hearts for what we are doing and jump in and get involved. And to be honest, it is refreshing to get them away from some of the stuff that goes on in America.”
According to Julie, even though the children love coming back to New Richmond and seeing their family, it does not take a lot to get the kids ready to go back home to Uganda.
“Our kids really miss being home and miss their family and grandparents who all live in this area, so they always look forward to coming back here,” Julie said. “But we find every time we are about ready to head back to Uganda that they are ready to head back there as well. I think for all of us we kind of experience where we don’t fit anywhere … we are changed people.”
Along with their other fundraising efforts, the Gaede’s will also speak at area churches throughout their stay. A schedule of the churches they will speak at can be found at tutapona.com. A golf fundraiser and a run are in the planning stages for later this year.
“We feel like a ‘normal life’ doesn’t fit us anymore or appeal to us anymore,” Carl said. “We are very excited about the work we do and we feel privileged to be a part of all that God is doing. We feel fortunate to be able to be a part of what God is doing.”
Tutapona Inc., named after the Swahili phrase for “We will heal,” can be contacted at P.O. Box 214, New Richmond, WI 54017. More information is available at tutapona.com.