Uganda or bust: The Williams family, from left, Mark, Seth, Jodie, Sarah and Megan. (Submitted)

Uganda or bust: The Williams family, from left, Mark, Seth, Jodie, Sarah and Megan. (Submitted)

Sarah Simpson column: Locusts inspiring Duncan family to fundraise

Bottle drive, Tuesday, March 3, 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Island Return-It Centre on Norcross Road

The Williams family is gearing up to head to a third world country currently being plagued by locusts and they couldn’t be more excited.

Mark and Sarah Williams lived in Uganda while Mark was the principal of the African Children’s Choir boarding school just outside Kampala.

“It’s a boarding school for needy kids, most of whom were orphans or whose only parent had HIV or were otherwise in difficult circumstances,” said Mark. “They would create choirs and train these kids and they’d tour in the west…and we had a school set up for them when they return to teach them life skills and catch them up with their academics and really focus on creating leaders, within Uganda, within Africa.”

Seven years and three kids later, in December of 2012 the Williams Five returned home and settled back into life, first in Abbotsford, then in Duncan in 2016. But as the years passed, the couple’s eldest child, Seth, began talking about wanting to return to the country he’d once called home.

“This has been two years in process,” explained Mark. “My oldest, he’s 12 now. We came back home from Africa when he was about five. He was like ‘Dad, for my 11th birthday, I don’t want anything I just want to go back to Africa with you and see things and see people and help out.'”

Mark explained the kids, though young, had tagged along with him to work quite often, playing soccer with the school children and even accompanying their dad on home visits, where they saw the realities of life in Uganda.

“They’d get to see the conditions these kids lived in…bathroom sized houses, tin roofs, three or four kids on a foamy,” Mark said.

Those kinds of things you don’t soon forget, even if you’re young.

True to sibling stereotype, if big brother Seth wanted to go back to Uganda, there’s no way his sister Jodie was staying home.

“My daughter is a year younger than her brother,” Mark said. “She said was going to save her money and go too.”

Anything the big kids do, you bet their little sister wanted in on, too. The youngest, Megan, was going too whether her siblings wanted her to or not!

So, for the last two years or so, the family has been quietly scraping together an extra $500 a month any way they can.

“We’ve worked our tails off raising chickens and selling eggs, having bottle drives, selling toys, making things to sell, odd jobs (weeds and gardens) and that’s how things got rolling,” said Mark.

Thus far they’ve raised $12,000 but it won’t go far.

“It takes over $8,000 to get there and over $1,000 for shots,” he admitted.

Now, with the a locust plague invading Uganda through Kenya and on the verge of becoming a national humanitarian crisis, the Williams family is hoping Cowichan will help them raise even more money so they can help even more once they get there.

“We had no idea when we planned this that that’d be coming as we arrived,” Mark said.

It hasn’t dampened their spirits, only strengthened their resolve to touch base with former students and help where they can.

“We’ll be there 10-12 days over spring break to do our best to help some of these kids who are now in high school or university, some with their own companies, married, kids, some are still struggling…we’re going to do our best to help out where we can,” he said.

To that end, the family is having a bottle drive on Tuesday, March 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Island Return-It Centre on Norcross Road. The goal is to bolster their funds so they can buy food and basic household supplies for Ugandans affected by both poverty and by the locust plague.

“Obviously our little town of Duncan cannot swing millions of dollars but we thought with a little more awareness and an opportunity Duncan could show Uganda some love and support,” Sarah said.

Those who can’t get to the bottle drive are welcome to contact Sarah at or Mark at

Cowichan Valley Citizen