Action in Africa hosts benefit
Nine years ago, an Aspen High School history teacher showed a documentary about African child soldiers that left two tearful students knocking on his office door.
One of those students, Sarah Nininger, said she couldn’t shake what she saw and knew something had to be done.
Fast-forward nearly a decade, and what began as two high school girls’ inspiration has flourished into a national nonprofit that has improved the lives of thousands of Ugandan people.
On Thursday night, nearly 200 people gathered inside the Aspen Design Center for a fundraiser benefiting the nonprofit, called Action in Africa.
Action in Africa strives to educate, inspire and empower people in Uganda by focusing on education and community development, according to its mission statement.
The organization’s goal is to provide sustained education, allowing individuals to reach their untapped potential and incite economic growth by becoming the next leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs in the country.
Between bake sales and benefits and the support of their local community, Nininger and her Action in Africa co-founder, Haley Kaufman, were able to raise $50,000 toward the cause from 2006 to 2008.
In 2008, the Aspen High School service club Action in Africa partnered with a nonprofit and arranged a service trip to Uganda to help build a library.
Upon arriving to the broken, poverty-struck town, Nininger said she knew it would be way more than a two-week trip.
Today, Nininger lives in Uganda on the compound Action in Africa built with its continued fundraising efforts and communal support over the years.
Nininger works alongside six full-time Ugandan employees to provide people with everything from food, water and educational resources to counseling and health services, like free HIV testing.
The organization also welcomes its Aspen High School visitors, along with groups from graduates’ respective colleges, each year.
Aspen High School science teacher Sarah Benson, who has led school trips to Uganda the past five years, said the experience is as life-changing for her students as the Ugandans.
“I like showing them something outside of this bubble and giving them a different perspective,” Benson said. “It’s so powerful to show kids what happiness really means and to see how other cultures live.”
Aspen High School graduates Harry Ferguson and Dylan Behr shared this experience during their trips to Uganda last summer.
Prior to his trip, Ferguson said he thought subconsciously how Americans have it so much better.
“But then after being there awhile it made me consider, do they have it better than us?” Ferguson said. “Because even though they have so little, they are the most content and happy culture I’ve ever come across.”
Behr agreed with Ferguson, and said the experience “makes you think a lot about what you actually need.”
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Both President Donald Trump and the Republican Party stand to reap quite a windfall after Vice President Mike Pence visits Aspen on Monday for a fundraiser.