We took some time to interview Billy Skiffington, our Country Director in Uganda. He is an advocate for our students at Restore Leadership Academy, and has been a creator of community since joining our team nearly a year ago. We are incredibly grateful for everything that Billy has accomplished!
1. If you could start by introducing yourself to us with your name, where you’re from originally and where you live now/what you do.
Hey! My name is Billy Skiffington, I grew up in Skagit Valley on the coastline overlooking the San Juan Islands in Washington State! Now I live in Northern Uganda with Love Does and work with amazing people to help with education and justice for people living here. I tell people my job is really just to hang out and talk to people. Those people I get to hang out with are the dozens of incredible staff in our school serving everyday, hundreds of amazing students working hard to succeed, inmates in the local prison helping each other achieve their education, brave leaders in safe houses for young girls, and even traditional healers or witch doctors who are working to change through education and help overcome violent practices in their world.
2. How did you end up in Uganda? And how long are you there for?
I was in law school in early 2010 when I met Bob Goff. He talked about rubber band wars and whimsy and I figured that was the kind of lawyer I wanted to be too. So I kept following his adventures through Love Does. When I finished law school I worked for a company doing contracts and organizing operations for a few years. Then one day I saw Love Does looking for a person to get more involved, so I flew to San Diego and we talked. I didn’t exactly leave the office and fly straight to Uganda. I had to go home and get my toothbrush first. But it wasn’t long after and now I’ve been here for almost a year! I’ve gotten to be part of a lot of awesome developments in this last year and while part of me wants to just move here and stay forever, I am working to hand things off well to finish up my time sometime this year!
3. The name of this school is Restore Leadership Academy, how are you seeing restoration here?
So many ways! This was the epicenter of major violence just a decade back, with the Lord's Resistance Army raiding villages, and doing all kinds of evil stuff. We’ve seen so many amazing stories of students and families coming out of the terror and hardship of those times to rebuild and look to a new future through opportunities in education. But it’s more than just education and getting a diploma, it’s about creating space where people can be with each other, know they are loved, be mentored and encouraged and trained in leadership and character to be on the front lines of helping repair their community.
4. How has your life changed since being in Uganda? What does your daily life look like now?
Daily life here is a lot slower in some ways, but also more full in other ways. The weather is beautiful, the food is great and the people are some of the best I’ve ever known, lived and worked with. Again, I mostly get to just hang out and talk to people who are doing amazing things and see how I can help. Mostly I get to encourage people, brainstorm on challenges and issues, explore new opportunities together, help show people what grace looks like when they mess up, dream about the next awesome projects. And then we get to go and do all the things together! So instead of a 9-5 job it’s more like a big family just all working together, all pulling weight together when needed, resting when the work is done. There’s much more of an ebb and flow to life here.
5. What’s your favorite meal there?
Definitely pizza! Who knew you could get pizza in Uganda!
6. How are all the new changes going with their mentors, new schedule etc.. can you see a difference in the kids?
Yes! The change is incredible already. The energy of all the students has improved so much, students are connecting with mentors, feeling more safe and secure and more connected and heard. It’s powerful! It was a tough sell at first as this is really different from how other local schools operate. But then we don’t want to run a just another normal school. We want to create a place for students to thrive, and I think the changes this past year are helping achieve that.
7. Where do you see the future of Restore Leadership Academy heading? In 5 years? 10 years?
I think academically, RLA is on track to be in the top ten schools in the country out of thousands. But also I think RLA will see graduates more and more in positions of leadership in the communities, families, businesses and government. And as we grow and add more students, staff and programs, I think Restore will be a place people look at and say “Wow. Whatever they are doing, we want to do that too.” And I hope it will continue to be a home, a family, of staff and students growing together not just to get a grade or check a box, but to share life together and figure out what it looks like to live out Love and Justice to reshape their world!