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REACHING ACROSS THE WORLD

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REACHING ACROSS THE WORLD By Allyson Marrs

There are Seven Wonders of the World. Any given year, that list adapts to reflect the latest all-natural or man-made beauties. Yet something that has yet to be honored is the people who inhabit this world. And there are some wonderful people doing incredible things to actually change the world we live in.

Members Jeff and Amy Rogers started making their mark with just three empty acres in Wamala, Uganda. These acres have since transformed into a school with multiple classrooms, a computer lab, a kitchen, a soccer field and soon, a baby house. "We have a lot of reasons to be thankful. In reality, when you look at it, it's really come a long way," Amy said.

The journey across the world started here in Bellevue, when the Rogers family decided it was time to do some good in memory of Amy's brother John who passed away from AIDS. Finding a cause became a way to honor his name.

5 ReflectionsAfter extensive research, interviews and family votes, an opportunity in Uganda struck their interest. "We were passionate about the opportunity to serve kids in need and be able to engage our family in that process," Jeff said.

"So many opportunities present themselves, but very few involve the family. We wanted to do something that would allow us to not just go to one more board meeting or write one more check, but to actually have our kids engaged in what we were doing, so they could learn," he added.

By 2005, the Rogers' three daughters weren't the only kids learning. With the opening of the John T. Miller School, 40 Ugandan children finally had the chance to attend school. With the recent expansion, attendance is up to 242 students—students that otherwise wouldn't have been able to get an education.

Things quickly bloomed from there.

"One thing that came out of this that was unexpected, was the interest in our community in Bellevue of people who wanted to help," Amy said. To date, nearly 100 Bellevue friends have made the trek to Uganda with the Rogers. This outpouring of interest spurred the decision to turn the work into a foundation.

Doingood started in 2007.

"It got too big for one family to manage," Amy said. The foundation has five board members and three junior delegates—the Rogers' three daughters, ages 12, 16 and 21. They also have partners throughout the community.

"This is a globally connected community," Jeff said. "Based on the ties and reaches in Bellevue, it's not far relationally to anywhere in the world. One of the questions is not just how do we impact, in this case, Wamala, Uganda, but how do we impact Bellevue, Washington?"

So they grabbed some local businesses to join in the fun.

"It doesn't only do good there," Jeff said of Uganda, "but it can change lives here." Expressive Businesses Strategies signed on to Doingood in 2008, taking business leaders to Uganda and bringing resources along.

Rather than simply investing money, they invest their time and knowledge, hosting business seminars that have reached attendance of upward of 6,000 Ugandans. "This is a more inexpensive way to affect the next generation. It's a way to help their economy," Jeff said.

In a nation that's plagued with a struggling economy and even fewer resources, citizens are eager for any information they can get about incubating businesses.

Another business that partnered with Doingood is EarthWise Ventures, harboring a relationship for the past three years. But they're conquering the waterways, building a new ferry and transportation system to navigate Lake Victoria—the body of water connecting Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Once dependent on the lake for 30 percent of its economic activity, Ugandans now must resort to treacherous, arduous roadways. With the development of the new ferry, Uganda will have access and a means to boost the import and export of its products.

Finally, Doingood's relationship with Pilgrim Fellowship Ministries for the last two years has helped further develop the John T. Miller School and the new baby house, which will be complete this summer.

But the projects that make an impact aren't always extensive. It's the random acts that can mean the difference between life and death for families in need.

During one of the family's many trips to Uganda—Amy, herself, has been 14 times in six years—they came across a home that needed a little work. For two straight days, the team helped a family mud a hut, adding a metal roof and solidifying the structure to protect against weather and animals. From elementary students to junior-high teens, college kids and business-minded adults, everyone lent a hand.

"Those are the times that you come home and think, 'I did something that changed a family's situation,' " said Amy. "'I did something that just made life better for them.'"

And ultimately, it's about impact.

Jeff breaks it down threefold. "In short-term impact, we built a house in two days. For the kids that traveled with us, there's a sense of completion. They started something, and they finished it. That's significant," he said.

The school—a multiyear project—represents the mid-term impact. "It educates children in a community that has no education. They're setting themselves up to have an opportunity. For kids and family, it gives a sense of continuity that they've been able to work through," he said.

Holistically, it's about long term, which the business seminars help shape. "They provide hope for what's next," Jeff said. "We didn't set out at the beginning saying, 'here are all the things we're going to do.' It will go far beyond what we ever see."

But why put forth all this energy for a country a world away? "As a mother, what would I want someone to do for my children if I were struggling, if my husband died and I had no way to make money?" Amy asked. "Would I want some stranger to come and help me? I would. I look in the eyes of those kids in Uganda and think they won't forget the people who helped."

And those who are doing something won't forget the children.

"You'll be forever impacted helping just one little kid who wouldn't have been able to get somewhere without your help," Amy said.

Jeff believes that oftentimes, you have to take people out of the comfort of their own environment—their own culture—for them to feel safe enough to make an impact—to put their ideas into action.

From kids to teens and adults, work with Doingood has spread compassion across the world.

"There's a realization that we actually can all make a difference," Jeff said. "We can all do something."


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