By Karla Peterson, San Diego Union Tribune | January 21, 2014
During her first humanitarian trip to Africa, Vivian Glyck met a man who told her about a small Ugandan clinic that was fighting for the lives of its people and losing ground every day. It was a desperate story from a land of many desperate stories, and it should have scared her off. But where other people might have heard a warning, Glyck heard a call.
“He said there are people dying left and right. There is no doctor. There is no nothing,” Glyck remembered. “And I said, ‘That sounds like the right place for me.’”
And so it was. Nine years later, it still is.
In 2006, Glyck made her first visit to the Bishop Asili Hospital in Luwero. When she returned, she started the Just Like My Child Foundation. The group quickly raised $30,000 to buy the hospital a much-needed generator. Then came a doctor, a sterile room and surgical tools. Since then, Glyck has made 15 more trips to Uganda. Her calling struck a chord that keeps on resonating, and Just Like My Child has made a world of difference everywhere it goes.
The foundation has worked with local educators, parents and community leaders to build six schools, helped more than 300 families struggling with HIV to start self-sustaining farming businesses, and held life-skills and mentoring workshops for more than 1,300 adolescent girls in 12 villages.
As for that dark and dank clinic, it is now a fully equipped teaching hospital. In 2007, Just Like My Child received a grant from the Clinton Foundation to provide HIV pediatric testing through Bishop Asili. The hospital also provides everything from lifesaving operations and AIDS treatment to prenatal care and malaria prevention to more than 76 villages.
“Vivian is a force of nature. I have watched her go from having just the seed of an idea to making magic happen with amazing speed and dexterity and thoughtfulness and creativity,” said Arielle Ford, a longtime friend and a founding member of the Just Like My Child board. “People know that when they donate to Just Like My Child, she will squeeze something out of every penny. She is not flying first class to Uganda. She is on the ground getting her hands dirty and doing whatever it takes to fulfill this mission.”
This was never what Glyck thought she would be doing. But it is exactly what life prepared her to do.
The youngest of three children, Glyck grew up in New York City’s Spanish Harlem, where her family struggled with poverty, domestic violence and sexual abuse. She escaped early, heading to the University of Rochester at 16 and later into a career in health care and media relations. She worked at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston and with Deepak Chopra. She wrote books, including “12 Lessons I Learned from My Garden: Spiritual Guidance from the Vegetable Patch” and “The Tao of Poop: Keeping Your Sanity (And Your Soul) While Raising a Baby.”
Glyck married author and entrepreneur Mike Koenigs, and the couple moved to San Diego in 2001. Their son Zak was born one year later. Glyck felt blessed and happy, which made it the perfect time to throw herself a major life curveball.
“I knew I was really good at telling a story and finding ways to connect with people, and I became on fire with the idea of helping kids around the world,” Glyck said during an interview in the family’s La Jolla Shores home office. “I was so in love with my little boy, I thought, ‘How could children just like him be perishing?’ One night, I woke up with the sound of children crying in my head, and I thought, ‘OK, I have to go to Africa.’”
This year, Glyck and the foundation are focusing on the group’s Girl Power Project. The goal is to use workshops, mentoring and leadership camps to give adolescent girls in the developing world the emotional, psychological and educational tools they need to stay in school, avoid early pregnancies and build independent, self-sustaining lives.
If 100,000 girls take this new knowledge back to their villages, and each girl mentors 100 girls, Glyck can see a world that looks much different from the one we have now. That is one part of the dream. The other part is that the Just Like My Child boys and girls can claim this better future as their own. Because it will be.
“When I was in Uganda last time, I was talking to one of our legal volunteers, and she said, ‘I just wanted to thank you for giving us knowledge, not just giving us money.’ That is what I’m most proud of,” Glyck said. “When I go to one of the (Girl Power) conferences, they have no idea who I am. They take care of each other. It’s just them.”
Read the full article here: Answering a Call to Help the Children of Uganda
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