STORY
The Power of Just One

December 3, 2019  


Just One 

By Laurie DeJong

The concept of “just one” has always felt very powerful to me. Just one hour, Just one day, Just one year, Just one wish, Just one chance, Most of all, just one person. 

This notion of one person can be interpreted in so many ways in the professional path I’ve chosen by opening an event agency, LDJ Productions and then starting a foundation, The Paper Fig. 

Over the past year especially, I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on the power of one person. One person, when empowered, can affect the population of the community in profound ways. 

I often equate growing a non-profit to pushing a boulder up a hill – just when you think you’re gaining ground, you lose your footing and it runs you over again. That’s the learning process, and there’s something refreshing about constantly being reminded how much you have to learn. 

What makes this work sustainable, even in the face of ever-shifting terrain, is the concept of Just One. Our work is about making an impact, but that starts with impacting just one person. The way you interact, learn from and inspire that one person will affect others until, like the flap of a butterfly’s wings, the world is changed. 

Our foundation has been fortunate enough to have found that one person who is an example of someone strong enough to use her platform as Area Supervisor of our Kasese Projects. Her name is Edith Muhindo. 

When her predecessor began to pursue a political career and needed to step away from the Foundation, he expressed that there was no one more qualified than Edith. But I think she expected us to hire a man as a replacement. Women in that region do not typically have a platform like this. On top of that, by assuming the role of Area Supervisor, Edith would have men reporting to her which is very unusual if our community. That meant it took Edith even more courage to take on this role, and she did so with grace and power. 

From one small space on the outskirts of town, the Paper Fig Skills Training Institute has moved to a central building with two rooms, one for our students and a separate for our many invested alumni. Between our school, our annex, in a remote neighborhood focused on students who cannot make it into town and our vested Alumni association, we have trained over 1,000 students. The skills they learn empower them to support themselves and their children through job placements, community projects and a brand new sales strategy that partners our students with local lodges. 

The Paper Fig Foundation has committed itself to empowering communities, not just economically through skills training and microlending, but also holistically. That’s why we built a health center in a region where thousands of people couldn’t not access healthcare of any kind. Since it was built in 2013, the health center has treated 9,000 people. Rates of malaria have dropped by half, and more than 1,000 people have been vaccinated against 6 killer diseases. 

What makes all this work sustainable, even in the face of ever-shifting terrain, is the concept of Just One. Our work is about making an impact, but that starts with impacting just one person. 

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by life, I think about Edith Muhindo. Edith’s role as Area Supervisor impacts thousands of people, not just the hundreds who have passed through the Skills Training Institute or the thousands that have accessed the health center. Edith also serves as an important role model to the whole community. She is part of that community, and she is an example for a lot of young people who need to see more women in positions of power. 

The Paper Fig Foundation is as much about changing the narrative as anything else. It starts with the way we are raising our children, both girls and boys. For the boys to see a woman in a position of power succeeding, it changes the dialogue. I look at Edith’s son Jacob when we have an event, and I ask him, “Are you proud of your mom?” He is. Women are raising boys to look up to their moms. And girls to see themselves in positions of power. 

Placing Edith at the helm is more than just rewarding one person for her extraordinary work. It impacts thousands. Never underestimate the power that one person can have. 

It just takes one. 

~ Laurie DeJong