Steamboat Springs Ben Kibumba sat behind the screen of a computer Wednesday, his body unable to stay still, his smile a bright spot amid a gray sky in the background.
- Saturday, September 28, 2013, 6 p.m.
- Thunderhead Restaurant at the Top of the Gondola, 2300 Mount Werner Road, Steamboat Springs
This is Ben’s first time in the United States.
The surroundings are amazing, he said. The roads are unbelievably wide. The people are amazing.
He didn’t much understand the Colorado Rockies game he attended Tuesday, instead transfixed on the lights in the sky, the fans around him and a huge stadium.
Ben's connection with the United States is his unbelievable story with Come, Let’s Dance, an organization that has been helping to bring aid to Uganda for more than seven years.
The organization will celebrate Steamboat Springs' seven years of investment in the Uganda project at 6 p.m. Saturday at the top of the gondola at Steamboat Ski Area. The cost is $50 and includes two drinks, dinner and music. Tickets are available at All That Jazz or by clicking here.
What makes Saturday special is Ben’s presence.
When the organization started seven years ago under the direction of then-Executive Director Shane Gilbert, Ben was 17 and was helping more than 60 children from the slums brush their teeth. Now, Ben has a college degree and is the director of Come, Let’s Dance Uganda.
“I’m proud of that. I’m humbled,” Ben said. “It’s like a dream that has come to pass. I can’t tell you how many lives this has affected.”
Maybe none more so than Ben’s.
He was born in a small, poor village. His father was killed when he was 12. He swept floors to put himself through high school before finally finding Come, Let’s Dance.
The organization's first fundraiser allowed it to buy 20 acres to build a farm. Three years ago, it built a school, which now is regarded as one of the top schools in the area, providing an education to 135 children. It started the Thread of Life program, an initiative where young mothers learn valuable skills with their children. In turn, their children earn sponsorships within the program.
“We’ve stayed small, so you can follow the dollars,” said Julie Howard, the U.S. executive director of Come, Let’s Dance.
That’s what Saturday is for. Without the help of Steamboat, Come, Let’s Dance couldn’t have done what it has in the past seven years, she said.
The celebration will include giant models of the farm, school and Thread of Life to show people where the money has gone.
The key for Howard and her husband, Henry, who serves as the financial director for Come, Let’s Dance, has been understanding foreign aid in Uganda.
They took the approach of communicating and understanding on the ground level to create relationships.
Those relationships helped the people they were intended to — they helped people like Ben.
Without the guidance, Ben would have likely wound up poor, uneducated and in the slums. He might have wound up dead.
Now he’s running an organization. He’s a leader to his people and a symbol of the program.
“It built relationships with me,” he said. “It loved and encouraged me. It knew about me. For us, we first built a relationship. It knew me from A to Z. I want to tell Steamboat, 'thank you.' They’ve supported and believed in us.”
To reach Luke Graham, call 970-871-4229, email lgraham@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @LukeGraham
Join the Yampa Valley VIP email club