Unity in a time of division
Durango natives launch international nonprofit

Riley King and Matt Peters, the founders of Unite Our World, pose with the teachers at Mweurka Junior School shortly after construction’s completion last summer./Courtesy photo

by Adam Curran

Who said you couldn’t make a world of difference from a small town? Whomever it was, Riley King didn’t listen. This 24-year-old Durango native is on a mission. In 2009, King and fellow Durangoan Matt Peters formed Uniteourworld.org, a nonprofit with an international focus created to help those in need. For King and those closely connected with the organization, this has meant easing suffering and injustice while sowing the seeds of positive change.

Shortly after graduating high school, King and Peters joined a band, bought a van-trailer combo and toured the U.S. starting up small, seasonal businesses to pay for travels abroad. One clear blue afternoon, King called Peters and asked him to meet for lunch at Carver Brewing Co. The two tossed around ideas of starting a nonprofit someday that would help poor children across the world further their education. Naturally, as with many new ideas, it sat idle for a while. However, one day in the summer of 2009, King scored an opportunity to visit Uganda and a school started by a native Ugandan named Solomon Mutebi. The rest, you could say, was history, and Unite Our World was born. King and Peters committed to working on the nonprofit paperwork at least an hour each night and in two weeks, it was complete.

King is a rare breed, a person who sees a need and acts upon it. And with the condition of current affairs, there’s certainly no shortage of human need. According to King, those living in the U.S. are in a unique position of prosperity to make a real difference.

As a whole however, King hasn’t seen many people uniting to lend a hand. “It seems that people are becoming more self centered, consuming more and unfortunately giving less to those who need it,” he said. “What I know is right for me personally, is to give a part of myself toward this cause, and children are the most innocent part of our world.”

Helping children around the world by building schools, supporting educational programs and providing medical assistance has been the charity’s M.O. Unite Our World is made up of young people who work and advocate for other young people who have less. Comprised of six members, the organization includes a board of directors with King sitting as president and Peters serving as V.P. They’ve stayed true to their passion for art, and one of their primary goals is providing access to art and music in all of their forms to needy children.

Currently, Unite Our World is also involved in combating the Aids epidemic in Uganda and is contributing to the Unite Lebanon Youth Project. King and Peters arrived in Mweruka, Uganda, last year not really sure what their first project was going to be, but after speaking with a few locals they decided on building a permanent structure. However, it was initially very difficult operating in a country like Uganda because of the enormous culture gap.“We feel it’s very important to do everything we do with the highest respect for different cultures and beliefs,” Peters said.

A Ugandan child lends a hand during the construction of the new building at the Mweurka Junior School last summer. The school was one of the most significant accomplishments of Unite Our World, a Durango-based nonprofit, to date./Courtesy photo

Later last summer, King and Unite Our World began a special project at an HIV/Aids home in Uganda. Following the departure of a major aid organization that had recently stopped funding the home, the children who lived there were left without proper care or medication. King and his team stepped in and began a plea for emergency aid to try and pick up where others had left off. With generous support from donors, the charity succeeded and was able to supply all 50 children with food, doctor’s visits and medications over the following year.

“I can’t justify the fact that I live in the richest nation in the world, but these children will die due to a lack of nutrition and medication,” King said. “I have the ability to start nonprofits, have fund-raisers and ultimately help them live happier. From my standpoint, this is my personal responsibility.”

Unite Our World plans to continue adding classrooms to the Mweruka Junior School and help start small businesses to aid graduating students in becoming self sufficient.

“We’re also going to bring more musical instruments to our students, as well as recording software to record their drum playing and children’s choir,” King added. In addition to this, Unite Our World is planning a coffee project in which they intend to teach children farming techniques. As luck would have it, coffee is an excellent cash crop in Uganda. Income derived from this will play a huge part in helping the Mweurka School become self-sustaining while making it easier to pay for supplies and teacher salaries.

Both King and Peters are extremely grateful for the support Durango has shown them. Unite Our World is operating today because of generous support from likeminded people everywhere. Although financial support is critical, they strongly believe that a personal connection is irreplaceable and offer volunteer opportunities for anyone wanting to help.

Meanwhile, King and Peters the musicians are finishing an EP album and will begin playing shows soon to raise funds for the charity. King went on to mention plans at some point to focus efforts on a local level as well. “Even though we haven’t yet affected a particular part of Durango, we have drawn people from all religions, political views, and ages to help a small corner of our world,” he said. “I would also really like to gear our local efforts toward giving young people more access to music and art.” •

More information on Unite Our World can be found online at www.uniteourworld.org, by calling 769-4172 or by emailing info@uniteourworld.org.



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