September 16, 2010

connection: molly milroy with invisible children

Periodically, as a way to connect with some of the great work and wanderings of folks I admire, I will be posting interviews here. I ask interviewees to view their lives, or a particular experience, through the four realms of restoration, reflection, creation, and connection.

To kick this process off, here is an interview with my beloved little sister Molly Milroy.

r & g: What is your name and your role at Invisible Children?

Molly Milroy, Communications Assistant Intern at Invisible Children.

r&g: What is the mission of the organization?

Invisible Children’s focus is developing a new generation of leaders in northern Uganda (see map above to locate Gulu). This is accomplished through the provision of educational scholarships, mentorship, the rebuilding of secondary academic institutions and other projects. The hope is that, by focusing partially on immediate relief in northern Uganda as well as long-term change in the region, they can have the most positive effect with the resources provided.

r&g: Please describe a typical day in your life there.

I wake up every morning at 6:43 am to the clanging of a bell SOMEWHERE near our compound paired with the crowing of roosters. I usually crawl out of bed around 7, get dressed for the day, and head to the main house for breakfast with the 6 other international IC staff. We drink coffee, eat and talk for about 20 minutes and then leave the compound for the day. We catch “bodas” or motorcycle taxis to work and arrive at the IC office around 8 every morning. In Uganda, it is customary to greet every staff member in every department, so we walk around the office the first 10 minutes of work, peeking out heads in different departments and saying good morning, greeted with beautiful Ugandan smiles and friendly waves.

The work: My first couple weeks were spent working on the Annual Report for IC, doing layout and design. Recently, have been working alongside the “Schools 4 Schools” team, working to photograph every building at the 11 of our partner school’s in Uganda for the new Schools for Schools website, which will be launching soon. It’s a huge project, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far because I get to be out in the field, stomping around with the engineers and seeing projects IC works on.

If I am not out in the field during lunch, myself and the other IC staff typically frequent the Ethiopian Restaurant, Abyssinia, which is next door to the IC office. For $2 you can get a huge plate of ingeera with 6 different vegetable dishes. Amazing! I have become good friends with the folks who run Abyssinia and I am hoping they will teach me the secret of cooking Ethiopian food before I leave. It has been really interesting and devastating to talk to them after the recent bombings that happened in Kampala, as they were targeted at Ethiopians. They expressed to me that this has been very hard for their families and friends, as people now fear going to their businesses.

We head back to the office around 2 pm and the day finishes up around 5. After work, I go for a walk or run around the outskirts of Gulu, chat with our guard (who was in the LRA for many years and has intense stories), and hang out with roommates. Dinner is usually around 7. We are spoiled and have a cook at the house, Doreen, who makes delicious food. It’s been hard, because I love and miss cooking, but it’s nice not to have to worry about buying food and also know that we are providing someone with a good job. Evenings are pretty uneventful. The power is off many nights, so we sit around in candlelight and talk, watch movies on laptops, and usually head to bed pretty early.

r&g: Looking through the four lenses of restoration, reflection, creation, and connection, can you give examples of the work being done by Invisible Children or experiences you have had with the organization?

restoration: IC has helped to restore balance to many people in Uganda. Whether it be through providing school fees and a mentor to beneficiaries, providing a job at the MEND center, a handbag making facility, or teaching microenterprise solutions, IC is creating restoration through programs and interactions.

reflection: This is a hard one. I think reflection is a hard undertaking for many people here. Every person in Northern Uganda has been heavily affected by the conflict and the vibe I have experienced is that many people want to forget about that part of their lives. I was recently talking with someone who was abducted by the LRA when he was 10; I realized that he does not WANT to reflect. It may not be the healthiest way to deal with the situation, but in many ways, it makes sense. He is embarrassed and ashamed about the things he was forced to do and want to extinguish that life from his memories.

To assist with dealing with this trauma, IC provides mentors who help adolescents work through these emotions. They recently implemented a program called KOBS, Knowledge of Behavior and Self. This program addresses the emotional complications students face as a result of trauma. KOBS is a two-year, fifty-class curriculum that aims to help students at our partner schools become more emotionally literate. Because KOBS touches on high-value issues relating to emotional intelligence—all students benefit from being able to read their emotions—it satisfies a compulsory component of the Ministry of Education’s guidance and counseling curricula. A pilot initiative, KOBS could be adopted at secondary schools across the region if it proves to be transformative for students. The class targets students in grades S1 and S2. Over the course of two years, a leading educational psychologist with a teaching background worked on creating the KOBS’ content. As of now, no similar curriculum for secondary students exists in Uganda.

creation: The Invisible Children MEND program is a great example of creation. MEND is an IC program that employs women who are ex-abductees. MEND teaches how to create high-quality handbags and is an opportunity for these women to learn a sustainable skill and earn a steady income for themselves and their families. Started almost three years ago, MEND currently employees 13 women and has provided them with the knowledge and resources necessary to become successful seamstresses. I recently got a change to visit the MEND center, and it was amazing. To be able to witness these women creating beautiful purses, laughing, and connecting with each other was a joy to behold. I couldn’t help but wonder where they would be if it was not for this program. Currently, IC is working to build a new MEND center, that will be able to hold 50-100 seamstresses.

connection: One of IC’s strongest driving forces is the roadie tour, groups of young volunteers who raise awareness about IC by driving around in vans all over the US, showing screenings of the IC movie and answering questions about IC. The tour this year (which is probably coming to a town near you! Check the IC site for details) is called the Face-to-Face tour and features Ugandan advocates telling their stories. The IC website, Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media are huge reasons why there is such a strong turnout at many of the events.

About the Face to Face Tour: “When Jolly Okot (Invisible Children’s Country Director in Uganda) pitched us the idea of being her own advocate and going on tour with the Roadies, The Legacy Tour was born. It became a tour of unparalleled authenticity – allowing the people of northern Uganda to tell their stories face-to-face at screenings across North America.And now, in the Fall of 2010, The Face-to-Face Tour is the next stage of her dream to have Ugandans advocating for themselves.The top students from our Legacy Scholarship Program are embarking on 11 different tours across North America with our Roadie teams. They will be sharing how Invisible Children’s programs are rebuilding education for a region recovering from over 20 years of war.These students have overcome all odds. They are night commuters, child mothers, displaced persons, orphans by war. They refuse to be defined by their past, pushing forward to define their own futures.Now, you can attend a screening, watch our films and hear directly from those who have overcome unimaginable odds to represent peace, justice and hope for the people of northern Uganda.Book a screening. And meet the Advocates Face-to-Face.”

r&g: Final question, please tell us about an instance or experience in which you felt grateful to be where you are.

I feel like the past few years, since college, I have been running full force forward, working at a PR firm, learning about the corporate world, and not giving myself time to breath. Since moving here, aside from work, I have allowed myself to relish in the pleasure of reading books, exploring, writing letters, and just being alone. Many times since I have been here, I have revisited the quote: “never forget, that once, in an unguarded moment, you considered yourself a friend.” That has been my saving grace while in Gulu.

Another instance comes to mind that I recently described on my blog. Not long ago I was on a jog in the outskirts of Gulu. On the final stretch home, it seemed that everyone I passed greeted me with the most genuine smile and wave, or even words of support, in their beautiful accents: “You have completed your exercise, well done!” or “Congratulations my friend! You have won the race! Good Evening!” There are times when I have felt out of place here, wondered what I am doing here, but that day reaffirmed why I am here. I am surrounded by incredible human beings, beings who have all survived an awful war, who have experienced more death, hurt, sacrifice and sadness than any of us will ever experience, beings who sustain the will to continue after such destruction, and they are the most welcoming, caring people I have ever been around. That jog made me feel truly grateful to be where I am."

to keep up with Molly's adventures in Uganda and learn about ways you can help support her work you can go to her blog at:

you can also learn more about invisible children at:


  1. I love hearing about Molly's experience and travels. I really love what she said about her recent experiences about being grateful. I'm going to borrow her quote “never forget, that once, in an unguarded moment, you considered yourself a friend.” Powerful.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this! What amazing adventures Molly is experiencing!

  3. Amazing...Molly's spirit continues to inspire me! Thanks for sharing this wonderful interview, Annie.