It is the smiling children and devotion to her faith that inspire Jordan Ellinwood, as she strives to help the people of Uganda.
Ellinwood, a native of Elizabeth City, serves as the international director of A Perfect Injustice, an organization with a mission that according to ugandaarise.org is “to show and teach marginalized people the love and hope of Christ and to secure for them a life off the street.”
Ellinwood, who now lives in Rocky Mount and commutes to Raleigh to the A Perfect Injustice office, is planning her third trip to Uganda in August. She shared her compelling story with The Daily Advance in a recent interview.
The Daily Advance: How did you become involved with A Perfect Injustice, and what is your role with the organization?
Jordan Ellinwood: I came to church at Providence in Raleigh. The founder of A Perfect Injustice spoke, Abby Kakeeto, and I learned about the ministry.
I serve as the international director of A Perfect Injustice. I work with forming partnerships, raising funds and speaking at different events and conferences. I am in charge of the sells of our fair trade jewelry line, Africa Love.
DA: You went on a mission trip with the organization to Uganda. How did your expectations vary from the realities you witnessed?
JE: I think I had heard my entire life that there were starving children in Africa, but not until I saw it did I understand. Really, any expectations were all different. It was a different world.
When we see the commercials on TV we see sad children. I thought all the children would be sad, but even though they are suffering they still have big smiles. They hardly realize they are without.
I worked directly with them, 25 to 100 children, in street programs every day. We host them, and children come and we have sports, games, school lessons and Bible lessons. We feed them a meal. For many of them it is the only meal they are guaranteed. We also do medical care at each of those programs.
DA: Did you experience any life-changing moments during your travels in Africa?
JE: Yes, absolutely. I think every moment in Africa was life changing. I was sitting in our children’s home, Forever Home. One of the younger boys — it was his turn to lead the devotion — he began to read from 1 John Chapter 3, if we love people, we would give to them. The boys began to talk about how they can share with people. They literally had nothing, but they were talking about how they can give to other people. It was a life changing moment for me. How can you love people and not give to them?
DA: A Perfect Injustice works with women in programs like Arise! What types of skills and crafts are taught during the programs?
JE: We teach them finances and business skills. We teach them soap making, book binding, sewing and even agricultural things like how to manage a chicken farm and how to run a restaurant. The first thing we teach every woman is how to make jewelry. We buy from them. Part of it they are mandated to save, part of it they use to sustain their family. At the end of the program they have the money and skills set to start their own business.
Our last program, Hope House, a woman started a chicken farm, another started a restaurant, one became a seamstress and many still sell jewelry.
DA: How are the women able to market and sell their crafts using the skills they have learned, and where do they obtain the resources, equipment and materials to create their products and be successful in their businesses?
JE: While we do still have relationships with the women they are on their own. For women who sell jewelry we buy from them. One woman makes school notebooks we buy them from her for our schools. Resources are different from America. You can buy any material from Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Not every woman has succeeded, but many have been successful. They have been able to hire other employees.
We sell the jewelry in the States at house parties, craft shows and women’s conferences. We use it as funds for the ministry and to raise awareness. It is sold at Shay Leslie Boutique and Honey & Hive Boutique in Elizabeth City.
The majority of the jewelry is paper bead jewelry made from recycled paper. All the other jewelry is made from glass beads. The women use newspapers and magazines. They will dye the papers, and make them into beads.
DA: You communicate about your work on a blog. How has social media and technology been a helpful tool in sharing information about the organization?
JE: Our blog has been huge to be able to tell stories, how God is providing for children. Facebook has also been a blessing. We once posted we needed white boards for our schools and within minutes we had people committed to providing them.
Social media has been a great way to connect people to Uganda. It has made people feel closer. Facebook has created a larger support system in America.
DA: Originally from Elizabeth City, you graduated from Northeastern High School in 2009 and North Carolina State University in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in interpersonal and public communications. Was there any person or event during your youth that has guided you toward your current work with A Perfect Injustice?
JE: I was in many different groups in Elizabeth City, but during high school I was in the Elizabeth City Juniorettes, and I served as the president. During that time I was surrounded by women who cared about serving others. Our advisor was Susan Hoskins, and her involvement in the non-profit world really motivated me to want to serve others in a similar way.
Also, my mom has also been open to the idea that God called me. Her support and acceptance made it easier for me to go to Uganda.
DA: You are planning your third mission trip to Uganda in August. What motivates you to continue your work?
JE: It is absolutely the people there. It is the people there I love, and the people there that have not been loved that motivate me to go back there. I stay in a bungalow in the village and a house in the city. There is no AC and the food is not my favorite. It is not a safe place to be. Public transportation is intimidating. I trust in God. The main source of transportation is a boda boda, with thousands on the streets driving very unsafely. It is the second leading cause of death. Every day I ride one, and I have only fallen off once.
DA: A Perfect Injustice is a faith based organization. How has your own faith been a factor in your decision to work with the organization?
JE: It has everything to do with the reason I worked with the ministry. I prayed very hard, and he made it very clear to me through prayer and other wisdom of people that is where I should be.
I could see God work through the ministry, and I wanted to be a part of it.
DA: What gives you the strength to continue your work?
JE: I think it is not an option. To know that there are still children living on the streets—they are still hungry.
They are still waiting to hear the love and hope they can have in Christ.
Anna Goodwin McCarthy is a correspondent for The Daily Advance.