It was the animals that brought me to Africa….. The landscape that captivated me when I landed ….. The people that captured my heart and changed my life forever!
This journey to Africa has been a calling within me since the day I was born. It is a part of me that has driven the direction of my life with every turn of a new corner. It has lead me to Uganda where I found an inner connection deeper, more real and pure than any I have ever encountered with any other culture I have traveled to see or lived amongst.
My Ugandan adventure began with the desire to see, experience and share time with the silver- back gorillas, not with the expectation of starting a Not for Profit organization. Not with the expectation of falling in love with the children and people of Uganda that will soon be educated at Pearl of Hope Nursery and Primary School. Not with the conviction that I will build Pearl of Hope Health and Wellness Center. It was simply with the desire to enjoy a species that is in danger of becoming extinct.
January 2011 my life was changed forever. The meaning and purpose of that inner calling found its roots and a very beautiful connection was formed over an unexpected dinner in Bwindi.
While staying at Mahogany Suites, I found that the lodge was quite peaceful and only had one other couple booked for the evening. In order to provide a more expansive experience the owners of the lodge invited a local couple from a near by hospital to join us for dinner. It was this chance encounter with Okello and Diana that opened my mind and sparked the energy that has developed in to Fitness For Africa. It was our simple conversations, open honest sharing of dreams and hopes and an invitation to visit a local school and their hospital after my Gorilla trek the next morning that opened my mind and my eyes to the future. I left this dinner with something ….. Something that I did not understand or recognize till months later. I left this dinner with the connection I had been searching for my entire life. I left this dinner with the direction the rest of my life would take and the unknowing bond to a family that has since enabled Fitness For Africa to be born and find its personality, strength and reason for being. I left this dinner connected to Okello Lwanga. Survivor of a Kony rebel capture as a young child and son of a family that was displaced from their property in Gulu, Northern Uganda.
Fitness For Africa was born with its actions in March of 2011 when I sponsored 26 students at Victory Nursery and Primary School. Fitness For Africa was formalized with paperwork to become a Not For Profit May 2011. As the end of 2012 approached my dreams had taken form and become reality:
*Flip2BFit is being accepted throughout Gulu as a means of organized fitness instruction and I am ensuring that one child at a time, one exercise at a time that lives are being changed to ensure that generations of the future are all open to what a healthy lifestyle is all about.
*Plans are in work and taking form so that Pearl of Hope Nursery and Primary School will be able to open its doors to 30 youngsters aged 3 and 4 to begin their journey of education and knowledge focused around living a healthy lifestyle.
*Childrens PenPal project is running strong with more than 100 Children writing letters each month to build friendships and bonds that will last a lifetime.
*Plans are in work for the Women’s PenPal and Literacy Project and so much more !!!!
As of April 2013 the IRS has officially accepted and documented Fitness For Africa as a Not for Profit Organization with its operations based in New York City and its field work being done in Northern Uganda just outside of Gulu in Lela Obaro. As of February 2013 I am proud to say that Pearl of Hope Nursery and Primary School has opened its doors to 30 youngsters taking their first steps towards living a healthy lifestyle and engaging in community activites and involvement. Truly dreams do come true when you set your mind to them!
My life has been forever changed by the smiles, laughter and experiences that I have in Uganda … Id love to share that with you either through a PenPal project or your following Fitness For Africa on Facebook or Twitter … What ever is good for you … Id love you to join me on my journey.
For those of you who also like to know more about Heather .. the person that is doing all this:
Today : I’m just a girl with a dream and the commitment to make it reality!
I am the founder of Flip2BFit and Fitness For Africa with a mission to bring Healthy Lifestyle Options and Fun to as many people as I possibly can.
I am a Girls Gone Sporty Ambassador …. I keep fit and healthy by eating clean and working out. I am a true believer that you are in control of your own health and well being and that every choice you make creates an action that takes you to the next place in your life. As 2013 begins I find myself on a mission to show that Healthy Fit Lifestyles don’t require being in a gym 2 – 3 hours a day nor do they require giving up everything you love. Follow my journey this year as I embrace making my own choices of health, fitness and nutrition to empower my life with more energy, laughter, friendships and Love.
Here is a bit about me before Flip2BFit and Fitness For Africa and how they came about:
Flip2BFit was born out of my resilience, determination, dedication and desire to live a healthy lifestyle and share that knowledge with kids and their families. At the age of 12, I was competing as a National gymnast when I broke my leg at the growth plate – leaving me with a curvature and discrepancy in the length of my legs. This injury caused me to be teased, bullied, isolated throughout my Junior High and High School experience and eventually led to an eating disorder and almost 18 years of inner-struggle and self evaluation. Through years of determination and belief within myself, I eventually found a doctor that could perform corrective surgeries to allow me to grow new bone to correct the length and curvature of my leg so that I could once again walk with even footing and stand tall on two feet. The surgeries corrected the physical, I then had to do the work on the inner being to overcome my long standing eating disorder. I always found strength within my ability to partake in some kind of fitness activity. Fitness was that one place where I was able to feel ‘NORMAL” as I was still able to participate (and excel) in sporting activities, ultimately becoming a collegiate diver. It was my passion for life, my ability to overcome my physical challenges, and my fond memories of playing board games as a child coupled with my awareness of the growing obesity problem among children in the United States, that lead to the development of Flip2BFit — Fitness In a Box – board games for kids and their families!
As technology has developed and become more and more a part of everyday life, I noticed that our children of today were not outside enjoying themselves like when I was a child. I kept hearing in the news that childhood obesity had become a serious epidemic effecting approximately 20% of our youth under the age of 12 and greater than 50% of our youth up to the age of 18. This thought horrified me and I knew something must be done. Flip2BFit is the brainchild of my childhood memories of board games, family fun night, and being part of competitive sports my entire life. I felt there had to be a way to get children away from their video games and back to the basics of jumping – running – laughing and having fun together and as a family. Flip2BFit, a fun fitness game for kids, is the result and the answer to this situation. One exercise at a time, Flip2BFit gets our children off the couch – out of the house – having fun together and opens their minds to the simple aspects of exercise and living a healthy lifestyle. Here at Fitness For Africa you will see that Flip2BFit has been accepted and used as the means of Organized Fitness Instruction in schools in Uganda and as the main curriculum for Physical Education at Pearl of Hope Nursery and Primary School.
I invite you to sit back, pick up a cup of your favorite coffee or tea and get lost in our stories, our adventures and our people as you read through what Fitness For Africa has developed in to over its first year and where we are going in the months and years to come!
With Love, Smiles and Hope for a better tomorrow.