January 27, 2014

Former Louisville Laxer Leads Uganda Campaign

by Matt DaSilva | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Former Louisville women's lacrosse player Aimee Dixon knows she's out of her element. As the organizer of an aggressive fundraising initiative that would provide Africa's first national men's lacrosse team the opportunity to compete at the 2014 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) World Championship in Denver, her only compass is her belief in the life-changing power of sports.

Dixon, an associate director for Fields of Growth international and its Dream 2014 campaign, spent six months in Uganda last year creating a development plan for the Uganda Lacrosse Union and a school built and funded by the organization in the village of Kindu. Now she's in the final push of a fundraising frenzy with a call to action for the American lacrosse community.

As of Friday, the Dream 2014 campaign was just $17,000 shy of its goal of $131,000 by Feb. 1.

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» $1 for Uganda
» Fastest Shot Contest

Where do you live currently?

My "official" place of residence is North Andover, Mass. My close friends would beg to differ. I have spent a significant amount of time traveling (couch surfing) between Boston and Washington, D.C., for meetings and events. My car is a close second.

What compelled you to go to Uganda in the first place? How did your mission materialize?

I first discovered the combination of sport and human rights my junior year at Louisville and since then, it has become engrained in my DNA. Sport, unlike any other tool, has unlimited power to affect change. Whether I was working for the U.S. Olympic Committee or as a government affairs consultant, I was always looking for the perfect opportunity to live and work in Africa.

I'm a firm believer in using sport as a tool for development, and as an aid for human rights. To pursue this passion, I wanted a real hands-on, grassroots experience. Shortly after leaving my consulting job in Washington, D.C., I joined Fields of Growth as the associate director. Moving to Uganda to work with Fields of Growth wasn't by chance; it was the perfect next step where I could propagate change through my infinite belief in human endeavor.

What have you learned in your current role with Fields of Growth?

Before I launched the Dream 2014 Campaign, I sat down and asked myself three questions:

One, for someone who has never fundraised more than $500 in my entire life, how do I expect to fundraise $200K in four months with a $0 operating budget? Fields of Growth works primarily with student-athletes; a market of charged and passionate individuals with limited (if any) disposable income. I knew I would need these students by my side, but how exactly?

Two, how do I make fundraising engaging and easy to execute? At this point, I created a packet of 10 simple fundraising ideas that would require zero management hours on my end. I recruited 20 interns from 14 states.

And three, how can we really do one event well that would earn a significant portion of our budget? I thought long and hard about how to engage the college community at-large. I developed the "America's Fastest Shot" Contest; I anticipate to raise approximately $18,000 through this.

After seeing significant progress with our grassroots efforts, I then thought, how can we reach every lacrosse player in the United States to share the inspiring story of Team Uganda? After more research, I learned there are 722,205 lacrosse players in the United States. If 1/10 of this community donated $1, Team Uganda's dream of competing would come true. My next question was, how could I utilize every intern to reach every lacrosse player in the U.S? Our grassroots efforts have defined this campaign.

What I've learned so far in this process:

Aimee Dixon, who graduated from Louisville in 2011, is the associate director of Fields of Growth International, a lacrosse-driven nonprofit organization whose mission is "to harness the passion of the lacrosse community into positive social impact through global leadership development, service and growing the game." (Fields of Growth)

One, every day I fail until I succeed; to truly champion this cause I have to ride the highs and lows, overcome hurdles and obstacles, and generally, find a way to achieve the mission at hand. To succeed we have to utilize every opportunity and create new opportunities when they aren't there.

Two, within the business lens I had to quickly learn fundraising development, sponsorship contracts and decks, and most importantly, the vitality of positioning ourselves as a non-governmental organization.

And three, transparency. You will gain more support and interest when you are open with your business strategies, models, needs, and challenges.

How did your six months in Uganda change you?

I've always considered myself to be a hard worker, but living in Uganda enabled me to discover a whole new level of determination, commitment, productivity and output within myself. Living and working in Uganda was a powerful experience, and once you experience something powerful, you can't go back and undo it. After six months there, I've come away with an unflinching personal resolve and a strong sense of responsibility to transform the work we're doing in Uganda.

What does Dream 2014 mean to you? What should it mean to us?

The Dream 2014 Campaign is not about winning or losing in Denver this summer; it's about competing in life. The story of Team Uganda is unique, inspiring and deeply motivating. Uganda has the opportunity to make history as the first African nation to ever compete at the championships, and that's really special. However, there is more to this team than meets the eye. Our players have found joy, healing, solace and opportunity through lacrosse. It's no secret that Uganda is emerging from a war-torn and impoverished past. Our players come from villages all across Uganda, but regardless of their respective pasts, they have formed a brotherhood with a strong focus on the future.

The success of our work at Fields of Growth is a byproduct of the American lacrosse community, thanks to both high school and college athletes. It shows that when a community comes together, there are no boundaries that can't be overcome.

For the American lacrosse community, the Dream 2014 Campaign is a unique opportunity to help us changes lives and make history in the process. Team Uganda's debut in the world championship this summer will be made possible by the American lacrosse community coming together as one.

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