FEATURED FAST FACTS
What Sets Him Apart:
Christopher is a visionary servant leader with experience beyond his years.
Full Integration Featured Clients
This is the first in a new occasional series of blog posts in which I will be highlighting a coaching client who has agreed to allow me to take a more in-depth look at their unique life story, as well as their coaching journey with me so far. I hope you enjoy the series and I invite you to join the discussion in the comments section below.
Have you ever met someone who was so passionate that it inspired you to become a better person just for knowing them? I have, and his name is Christopher Odongo. A warm-hearted and good natured person to the core, Christopher is also relentlessly committed to his faith, to his family, and to his vision of creating a brighter future for the people of Uganda, Africa.
I first learned about Christopher from my sister's description of him following one of three mission trips she took to Uganda a few years ago. The way that she described his passion and ability to inspire others was something I immediately felt from our very first Skype session. Christopher has an infectious optimism that he freely shares with everyone he meets, and you can't help but be moved by his big love and even bigger ideas.
But it wasn't always this way. Christopher had the kind of childhood that most of us couldn't imagine in our worst nightmares. The violence of Uganda's 20 year war was raging through the country during Christopher's early years, and it found its way into his village. When he was just 6 years old, Christopher's father was brutally killed in front of his eyes as he and his mother looked on in horror. Together they managed to flee their village shortly after, as their homes were burned to the ground behind them. They were chased to another village, only to have the same thing happen again. Finally, they managed to escape to the bush, eating what they could find until they could travel safely again. Christopher and his mother settled in the city of Lira, Uganda where Chris was later forced to live on the street and was beaten regularly by locals due to his unpopular decision to become a Christian.
Christopher has gone on to not only survive unimaginable hardships, but he has seized numerous opportunities over the years to receive extensive leadership training and is currently completing his graduate school studies to earn a Masters of Divinity degree. He has served several NGO's at the local, community, and national levels and has provided training for nearly 1,500 leaders weekly in remote villages of northern Uganda. And, as you can see from the picture below, he loves his precious family with all his heart. Not pictured is the newest addition, Charles Odongo, and the four children of his relatives and friends that they care for full time as well.
A New Dream
Within minutes of our first Skype coaching session, I knew that Christopher was an exceptional person. He inspired me, challenged me, and gave me a completely different view of the world from a very personal level. He was highly motivated and I could tell he had that something special. And, he revealed to me his remarkable new dream for his people.
"People in my country have forgotten how to smile. But now I have found my smile again, and I want to give my people a reason to smile again too."
After I posted Mission 2016: 10 Steps for Goal Setting Success, Christopher told me how much it had meant to him in understanding the ways he had been holding himself back. He described how a majority of Ugandans have so many fears and so much trauma that they end up living in the past, instead of looking to the future. They don't set new goals because they have simply given up hope. Hope for a better future. Hope for a happy life. Hope for a peaceful nation. Hope for clean drinking water. It often seems easier to just give up hope altogether rather than to have their hopes crushed again. And when there's no reason to hope, then there's no reason to smile. But Christopher began to see beyond this pervasive hopeless mindset. And although he had experienced profound hopelessness firsthand, he had found a way to remember how to smile again. Why shouldn't his people? He shared with me, "People in my country have forgotten how to smile. But now I have found my smile again, and I want to give my people a reason to smile again too." This was a massive breakthrough and new living waters were beginning to flow.
Christopher had begun to ask himself an enormous question in between our sessions: "How can I begin to think for my people?" That one question sent shivers down my spine when I heard him say it, and it's happening again now. I have never met a person who has asked a question that big and with such power, love and humility. People like Christopher change the world and make it the kind of place we all would like to live in.
Shelter of Smiles
Chris has a vision that is both large in scale and specific in scope. He calls it Shelter of Smiles. Essentially he wants to create small community shelters, starting in northern Uganda, where a variety of essential services are provided to those in need. As a result of attending to the basic needs of the people, the goal is to then genuinely give his people something to smile about again. Shelter of Smiles aims to help provide: education for orphans and vulnerable youth, housing for homeless orphans, psychological and behavioral support, access to clean drinking water, fair housing for vulnerable widows and elders, nutritional food for malnourished children, livelihoods programs, and programs which aim to reduce the rate of domestic and gender based violence.
The first project on the list for Shelter of Smiles was a clean water program in Christopher's village of Barapwo Te Dam. Clean, safe drinking water was not always available there and there was no pump of any kind. The water used to be collected from a local spring through a single pipe when supply was good, and was collected from other less sanitary sources when the supply was low. The nearest source of safe drinking water for the village is nearly half a mile away, and villagers from surrounding areas walk several miles to reach this same source. The pictures below show the village water source before and after the well improvement project .
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