Mr. Louis Picard and his wife, Pauline Greenlick, both successful educators, are well-traveled, and live in a roomy home on Orchard Drive.
How did they became advocates for Ugandan children affected by extreme poverty and violence? “Well, that’s a story,” as Dr. Picard would say in describing the events leading them to Bright Kids Uganda, on the outskirts of Entebbe.
Picard, a professor at Pitt’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) since 1987, is an author, and a consultant on politics and terrorism in Africa and the Middle East.
Greenlick, an instructor in special education at Carlow University, has taught for 35 years. The couple has two daughters: Hannah, an R.N. in Washington, D.C., and Madeline, who works at a center for domestic violence survivors in Utah. Both women are GSPIA graduates.
After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1965, Picard spent three years in Uganda with the Peace Corps teaching high school. There, he met Manuel Pinto, who became a member of parliament, and ran Uganda’s successful HIV/AIDS campaign. The two men continued to stay in touch over the years.
Six weeks before Picard and Greenlick were to visit Uganda in 2008, Pinto was killed in a car crash. They flew to meet with his family and toured Bright Kids Uganda, a project he had co-founded with Victoria Nalongo Namusisi, a former journalist and government official.
Bright Kids Uganda (BKU), has grown to support more than 110 children abandoned by civil strife, violence and HIV/AIDS. BKU also supports the education of an additional 465 children not residing there.
The root of the civil unrest and violence was Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which enslaved tens of thousands of children as soldiers, killing their parents and burning homes and villages. Thousands of children were pushed to displaced persons camps with little food and scarce medical care. Namusisi rescued children living there and on the streets of Kampala and brought them to live at BKU. She has also founded an organization to support survivors of acid attacks, which happen often in Uganda.”If it were not for Victoria, these children would have been dead,” Greenlick says.
Impressed with Namusisi’s work, Picard and Greenlick immediately offered support to her and her “Bright Kids.”
Since then, their efforts have focused on funding education for the children through administering a microloan program small loans of $50 to $150 each with the profits recirculating into additional microloans. One of Picard’s interns wrote a successful $50,000 grant proposal for social entrepreneurism, which yielded a bed and breakfast and a mini-mart and is helping to launch an eco-tourism business, all to keep BKU financially sustainable and the children in school.
Greenlick created The ASA Social Fund for Hidden Peoples to generate support for an array of beneficial programs: a school for children with special needs; aid for gender violence survivors; and a school and home for children, established by one of Namusisi’s former students.
Retail sales of handicrafts, books, and CDs, available on the ASA website in the U.S., help supply needed basics: food, clothing, medicine, and transportation. To support their home expenses, BKU also raises and sells chickens, eggs, and crops grown on the property.
Telling the Story
To raise awareness of Victoria’s kids, Greenlick has produced two films, and is working on a third. The first, Under the Umbrella Tree, she shot with Leonard Lies of DreamCatcher Films in Dormont, in 2015. Another, Unveiling the Scars, a film on acid attack survivors, is on YouTube. Her third is about one of Victoria’s kids, Ronald, 17, whom she rescued at a young age and is now studying in high school.
In November, Greenlick journeyed to Uganda with Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Martha Rial, who photographs mtl’s Finish Lines subjects each month. Rial’s photographs depicting the empowerment of children and adults affected by extreme poverty, war and gender violence will be shown at 937 Gallery in downtown Pittsburgh starting September 23. A portion of the proceeds from print sales will be donated to Bright Kids Uganda.
“It is such an honor to know Victoria, and to see what one strong woman can do,” says Greenlick. “It could be in Pittsburgh, or in the Chicago slums. What this woman has done for children is what other people can do, too.”