In today’s digital age, it is more apparent than ever what a huge and interconnected world we live in. People from all across the globe constantly chat, meet, and communicate online, but outside of the internet, people are far closer to each other than many might realize. One local group, the Shine Initiative, is taking the lead in building a global community.
Founded by Lovelyn and Matt Palm, the Shine Initiative operates in a rural village along the Nile River outside of Jinja, Uganda. Lovelyn and Matt Palm, the parents of 11 children including four adopted from Uganda, founded Shine after putting down roots in the village in 2016. They built a home there and found their neighbors to be “joyful, resilient, hard-working, loving people,” who due to economic or social circumstances, found it difficult to provide needs like food, clean water, and education.
“Once we really planted roots there and began to experience life with our neighbors, we saw their true lives,” said Lovelyn Palm. “Even though they have much joy and are very hard working – jobs are scarce there, and it’s hard to make money.”
One of the light bulb moments for Lovelyn Palm occurred when she saw a 12-year-old boy who had always been working hard and helping their family, selling fried fish for about 33 cents each. She asked him what he was saving for and found out that he was raising money to afford school fees for his family.
“I was heartbroken,” said Lovelyn Palm. “I’d never even thought about him being around all day, every day, meaning that he wasn’t in school. We’d been thankful for him, but I was so wrapped up in my family, homeschooling, and our new daughter that I’d never paused to think about his life. That he was saving these 33 cents for school just didn’t seem right to me.”
The couple founded Shine not long after, and the village already feels the impact it makes. Although Lovelyn and Matt Palm have supervisory roles, their staff is all Ugandan and champion Shine’s efforts every day. Shine organizes a few key programs, the first and primary being their Saturday morning feeding outreach and bible time, where they provide bread and eggs to more than 400 children. There is also their 'Empowerment' program, where four currently enrolled families receive aid, mentorship and other kinds of development to reach high levels of success and self-sufficiency as well as provide school fees for their children.
“Most of the kids in our village were not in school,” explained Lovelyn Palm. “That also makes it hard for the mothers to work. Sending the kids right to school is the first thing we do, that way they’re getting an education and the mom is freed up to doing whatever goals she has towards empowerment.”
Shine’s long-term goals center on building a community center to host their programs, as well as a garden, playground, soccer field, and water well. They have already secured the land for this project and are in the process of finishing the village’s first clean-water well.
The Palm family are literal neighbors with their Ugandan community, but they see the whole world as one giant neighborhood. "Loving thy neighbor" is what their mission, to “preserve families, prevent orphans, and proclaim the Gospel,” is based on.
“We love Northwest Indiana, and we love our family and community here,” said Lovelyn Palm. “But to me, we’re all neighbors in the world. There are people living without clean water, and who have kids that can’t go to school because of $10 a term in fees. To me, the world is all of ours and we belong to each other. So, if we have so much, I don’t understand why people wouldn’t want to reach out and help someone.”
To learn more about the Shine Initiative, please visit shinevillageinitiative.org. From here, you can get involved in all manner of ways, from sponsoring a Saturday’s bread and eggs for 400 plus children, find crafts from Shine’s Ugandan artisans, sponsor families in the empowerment program and more.
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