Written by Noah Roberts, Chairman of Pros For Africa
Anyone who met Ashley Firmin Harris knew they were talking to someone special. Whether you were fortunate enough to be in her presence just once, or traveled with her to Uganda, or spent an entire lifetime with her … all of us were taken back by her kindness, grace and genuine compassion for others. She left an incredible impression of kindness that wasn’t easily forgotten.
As the volunteer Chairman for Pros For Africa, I’ve come to understand that (most) people make the mistake of thinking that PFA is led by high-profile professional athletes like Ashley’s husband, Tommie Harris. It’s true: A handful of NFL “heroes” like Tommie stepped up several years ago and put their money, time, and talent on the line for the children of northern Uganda while seemingly everyone else was turning their back on the humanitarian crisis caused by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
All of this being said, you should know that more than 95% of all the charitable proceeds, volunteer hours and donated services processed by PFA since 2009 have been provided by all of the OTHER kinds of professionals … pros just like Ashley.
Doctors, nurses, teachers, engineers, attorneys … you-name-it … these professionals are the ones that have made PFA tick and kept the doors open and the school thriving at Saint Monica Girls School.
Ashley was one of the very first individuals to volunteer to travel to Gulu, Uganda, on behalf of PFA in order to respond to the crisis caused by the LRA. At their own expense, she and Tommie not only traveled over twice to Saint Monica to assist more than 300 young women who had been abducted by the LRA, they quietly provided funding to help other volunteers make their way to Uganda.
Next month, the first wave of 60+ medical pros will begin heading to northern Uganda and South Sudan in order to support, train and learn-from local health providers. These volunteers, many of which are medical students at the University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, are traveling at their own expense, giving up their spring break, in order to leave Gulu better than they found it … just like Ashley and Tommie have done since 2009.
This month, we lost an amazing daughter, sister, wife, friend and volunteer. Next month, the girls of Saint Monica in Gulu will erect a memorial monument on campus that reminds them every day of the kind of life they can aspire to. Secondly, The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in neighboring Juba, South Sudan, will dedicate new school buildings being built to Ashley in both Juba and the historic village of Torit where new school buildings and clinics are being built by PFA under the direction of Sisters Rosemary Nyirumbe and Maryjina Ihisa.
In the words of Sister Rosemary, “My heart is in pain for Ashley and Tommie. Our girls remember Ashley well and we will ensure they never forget her or the loving kindness she gave us.”
In addition, we are creating the very first scholarship fund for Saint Monica in Ashley’s honor. For every $400 the Saint Monica Girls Fund receives, one girl will be able to attend Saint Monica — at no cost. This means tuition, room and board, school uniforms, health care, and child care if necessary, will be provided in total on an annual basis.
We will miss you Ashley. You are a hero to so many and we hope to honor your life by continuing to meet the needs of the Sisters and children of Saint Monica. We also want you to know that the PFA family will always be there for Tommie and your two precious children.
You were there for us. Now it’s time for us to be there for you.