Former Refugee Fighting for the Bullied in Uganda


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Former Refugee Fighting for the Bullied in Uganda

 
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Opii Bitek Jibidayo is an imposing presence – a tall man with striking dark skin and a strikingly gentle spirit. His voice is big and kind. His mind is sharp and generous.

Bitek was just a child when his village in northern Uganda was destroyed by the Lord's Resistance Army, a movement that tore through Uganda in the early 1990s burning villages, murdering, kidnapping, and turning Ugandan children into sex slaves and child soldiers. Forced to flee with his family, he grew up in the refugee village of Kiyembera, a hub of cultural and tribal diversity. There Bitek was identified as a young leader and became fluent in nine languages.

He went on to study at Restore Leadership Academy, where he assumed a leading role among a small number of students selected in 2010 to participate in vocational training for water well drilling. Over the next few years, Bitek went on to lead drilling efforts with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe at Restore International, and also Restore Leadership Academy on its permanent 50-acre location north of Gulu.

He also co-founded his own Ugandan-registered business and managed two active drill teams for several years; and he trained well drillers from seven African nations to help bring clean water to their countrymen to end the water crisis across Africa, one village at a time. With almost 400 wells drilled and 300 African communities transformed since 2010, today he manages TAK Water Uganda, a social entrepreneurship dedicated to providing sustainable clean water solutions to every corner of Uganda and the surrounding region.

 

A Legacy of Nation Building

 

We think Bitek’s leadership and heart might just be genetic.

He is named for his grandfather Okot p'Bitek, who was born in 1931 in the shadow of colonialism. Okot studied law at the University of Wales and social anthropology at Oxford, and later became one of the most influential East African poets of the 20th-century. His famous 1966 epic poem, The Song of Lawino, lamented the struggle between European colonial influence and the preservation of African culture.

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More than 50 years later, his grandson and namesake is leading a team working to preserve the culture of the Batwa Pygmies in southwestern Uganda, some of the most bullied people in the world. After co-existing with the rainforest as hunter-gatherers and "Keepers of the Forest" for thousands of years, the Pygmies are now being systematically evicted from their ancestral home. With no compensation for their losses or tools to help them adapt to modern society, they have been left landless, homeless, hopeless, and on the verge of literal extinction as a people.

Along with Fight for the Forgotten and in-country NGOs, Bitek and his team are working to broker land, water, start-up agricultural resources, and education to enable the Batwa to preserve their culture and build their own sustainable future. We think his grandfather would be proud.

When you give to our Mission to Uganda, you’re not just supporting the Batwa Pygmies, you’re supporting visionary, hard-working Ugandan entrepreneurs like Bitek who are working to change the face of their nation.