LFHS club addresses human rights
Lake Forest parent Allison Neumeister speaks to students about her humanitarian trips to Uganda. The school's Human Rights Club sponsored the talk for International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 21, 2013 6:07AM
LAKE FOREST — When two of her three children went off to college during the past couple of years, Lake Forest mom Allison Neumeister remedied her “empty nest syndrome” by fulfilling a lifelong dream of doing humanitarian work overseas.
Neumeister, who has traveled to Uganda’s Bududa District during several humanitarian missions in recent years, recently shared her experiences with Lake Forest High School students to mark International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10.
A different speaker involved in humanitarian work in some capacity is invited to speak to students each year by the LFHS Human Rights Club, which is a group of about 40 students who work to raise money for humanitarian causes throughout the school year.
Led by club president senior Kelsey Simet, this school year the club is holding bake sales and selling $2 bracelets inscribed with the phrase “Recognize Your Rights” to fellow students during lunchtime in the cafeteria in an effort to reach their goal of raising $1,000 to buy food for impoverished children living in Africa.
During her presentation to students, Neumeister used a series of videos and photo slides depicting her experiences to vividly illustrate the frequent and ongoing abuses of human rights that exist in third-world countries like Uganda and the Congo.
“Especially in the Congo, rape is often considered an entitlement,” Neumeister said. “In Africa a young woman has a higher chance of being raped than she does of learning to read.”
Neumeister is dedicating much of her time and energy to helping the millions of suppressed women living in Third World African countries. She is working on setting up a fund to help send women to universities to become teachers and another charity to fund women entrepreneurs looking to start a small business.
Neumeister, who dreamed of working for the Peace Corps after retirement, spent her career working in corporate communications. She found herself in Uganda several years ago when she visited Africa for a short-term volunteer opportunity.
That experience proved to be life-changing for the 18-year Lake Forest resident, and she has since refocused her life toward improving the lives of women and children living in sub-Saharan Africa by working to increase access to education and health care.
“I worked in a corporate setting for so long, and I felt the time was right to do something more meaningful with my life,” Neumeister said.
During her last mission, Neumeister worked for the Bududa Learning Center, where she oversaw the school and orphan sponsorship. During her next trip to Uganda in January, she plans to return to the Bududa District to work for the International Medical Relief of Children (FIMRC), which provides health care and education for children living in poverty.
She’s also raising money to purchase 2,000 mosquito nets that will protect children from malaria, a leading cause of death for infants.
“I think she (Neumeister) gave a very real depiction of the situation in Uganda,” Simet said after the presentation had ended. “It seemed to have shocked my classmates, and I hope it inspires them to want to help.”
More information on Neumeister’s efforts is available at http://africaoffline.org/.