This year I met president Obama after being chosen to be one of 500 (out of 30,000 applicants) to become a fellow with the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a program introduced by the U.S. government to provide tools, training and technology to promote leadership skills among emerging young African leaders.
My first memories of Andrew bring a smile. He loves to dance and worship God. When he does, it’s as if no one else is in the room. To watch him, one can’t help but laugh with joy at the uniqueness of this blissful young man who loves God with all that he has. I had the privilege of being a part of Andrew’s formative years in ministry. I have watched him grow from a young man who loved to be the centre of attention to one who serves God with confidence and boldness. The doors that God has opened up for him are beyond anything we could have imagined back then—but that’s the work of God. He takes a young life, fills it with dreams, desires and talents, and places him/her in unique situations to inspire change within their circle of influence and beyond. Andrew is one of many young Africans whom God is calling to bring change to Africa. I hope that you will be inspired by his story.
This year I met president Obama after being chosen to be one of 500 (out of 30,000 applicants) to become a fellow with the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI), a program introduced by the U.S. government to provide tools, training and technology to promote leadership skills among emerging young African leaders. Though I knew God had placed creativity within me, I never imagined that He would give me such an incredible opportunity to serve Him in such a unique way.
As a child, I felt I did not belong anywhere. This feeling made sense after discovering that the person I thought was my father actually wasn’t, but merely a good man who worked hard to fill that gap and accommodate a naughty child. I was in an extended family with lots of grannies, aunties and uncles. I learned firsthand the value of hard work because my parents ensured that everyone contributed to the cleanliness of the household. We fetched water from the community well that was more than two kilometres away and cleaned the house. I was raised with eight other siblings. Going to Sunday school was a must, and this became fundamental in so many years to come for all of us.
My parents’ sacrifice and hard work helped me attain the best education. Despite that, in high school I got expelled from two schools in one year. This became my turning point, and a life of alcohol and nightclubs became regret before my own eyes. I came back to church after almost five years away. This impacted me greatly, and despite taking a long time before serving as a Christian, my dream was always to become an inspiration to people—especially to those without hope. I had seen my grannies look after less privileged people; my parents did too. I always gave a lot of thought to how I could use my gift as an artist to speak for those who could not speak for themselves. At university I studied art and design and worked part time for different people. I made beehives for a women’s project, made burners, worked for a tabloid organizing newspapers, worked in an internet café, and also on a delivery van. Despite the long hours, I was paid very little. This was a difficult time as I wasn’t sure how to achieve my dream of one day owning an art gallery.
After attending a youth camp, I decided to serve in ministry and joined a drama team at church. It opened a door for me to volunteer for an international conference being held by my church. Through this conference I was offered a job to be a team host/events assistant. Under the leadership of “Auntie Linda,” I discovered the real essence of detail and team spirit. This allowed me to thrive and grow as a person. It awakened so much in me. The loyalty nurtured in us and the compassion toward the orphaned children of the church were second to none. I could feel the creative spirit in me waking up. My job required talking to so many people from all over the world. As I developed in confidence, I started writing my own stories and painting again. It became a time of healing for me.
In 2008, student teachers from Ireland invited me to conduct an art workshop at—coincidentally—a school I went to as a child. I had no idea what awaited me. The workshop was held in a classroom in which I had struggled the most, where my teachers yelled that I would never amount to anything. I took the kids into an art and writing exercise, and their work has since shaped the vision God revealed to me concerning my life. In their work I saw myself. I saw the kid who was told he wouldn’t be anything. I saw a child who had so many stories but no one to share them with. Children have the same needs, and there seems to be such a disconnect when negative words and attitudes take over their environment.
In May 2010 I began to build a platform of expression, one that stirs creativity and imagination and empowers young people. This journey has seen me visit Australia for an artist-in-residence program and Hong Kong seven times. I now run a company called Ludigo Creations (U) Ltd. My ministry impacts kids in both school and community. I have contributed to teaching and infrastructure in different schools. I have helped to create jobs through internships and have witnessed interns use art to rehabilitate street children.
Becoming a YALI fellow has greatly complemented my vision and allowed me to believe more for greater milestones. Through this newfound network, I hope to build more partnerships and position my company to become more influential in the fortunes of this East African region, challenging ourselves and ensuring excellence in all we do. I plan to improve the standard of infrastructure in schools and one day set up a creative art institute. I have hope that Ludigo Creations Ltd. can become a formidable design enterprise that directly promotes positive social change and ultimately brings glory to God.
Andrew Ludigo is a Ugandan visual artist, actor, curator, writer, and social entrepreneur. Linda Duncalfe is a PAOC global worker serving in Uganda. Visit www.paoc.org/donate/LindaDuncalfe.