THE WHAT: I am once again raising money Uganda; this time for an organization called Children of Uganda (COU). A close friend of mine from Peace Corps, Sarah Cowan, worked for COU throughout her two years in Uganda and continues to volunteer for them from the US. COU is an incredible organization that works to support and empower orphans and vulnerable children by providing them with homes, medical care, and education. While living in Uganda, I had the opportunity to visit the children's home many times and see firsthand the incredible work they are doing.
THE WHY: In order to raise money for the organization and find sponsors for the children, COU does an annual tour in the United States, bringing a dance troupe comprised of children they support to raise awareness and attract new donors. Each performance will raise $5,000 to $10,000 and will generate at least 25 new sponsors. The tour is essential for the continuation of the organization, but this year they are struggling to raise the needed funds.
THE STORY: I am raising money for Immaculate Nakazibwe to join the tour (the girl standing in the middle of the picture with a huge smile!). Sarah knows Immaculate well and it was after hearing her story, that I offered to help fundraise for COU.
Immaculate is 5 years old and this is her first year with COU. Her parents died when she was two years old and her guardians are now her two older brothers, the eldest of whom is only 16. Because COU can only accept one student per family, her brothers chose Immaculate to attend school because they believe she has the most promise for a better future. The first day Deborah, a COU employee, picked up Immaculate, she found her in a torn and dirty dress. When Deborah asked where her other clothes and school supplies were, Immaculate told her that the only things she owned were the dress she was wearing and several notebooks for school that were given to her by her neighbors.
Immaculate's ride to COU was her first time in a vehicle. As it moved, she looked outside and asked Deborah why the trees were walking. Deborah explained to her that the trees were not moving, but they were inside the car, which was moving.
When they arrived at the COU home, she was excited and nervous because there were so many children. Another COU employee bought her a dress to wear and a visitor gave her a donation of shoes, stockings and clothes. Immaculate had never owned more than two dresses so she was so happy to be able to have the extras.
In boarding schools in Uganda, there is a once-a-term visiting day where all the families and guardians can visit their students. It is traditional to prepare a large meal to share with your student after the festivities. When the day arrived, her brother came and his meal to share with her was a small piece of sugar cane and 100 shillings (the equivalent of 4 cents) but Immaculate could not have been happier. Even though she received much less than the other children, she was so happy and proud to have her brothers visit her at school.
Immaculate is now thriving at the COU home. She is making friends with the other students, staff and visitors alike. When Sarah asked Immaculate if she liked COU, she replied with a shout of, “YES!” When Sarah asked her why, she replied, “Kubanga, wano nsoobola kulya buli lunaku. (Because here I can eat food every day.)”
AND FINALLY, THE ASK: So what am I asking from you? Money! I know that many of you have donated to Uganda before so I'll try to limit my appeal to two points: 1) small amounts of money can really go a long way in Uganda (seriously, $20 is a small fortune there!) and 2) All the children from COU have amazing stories; I care about them tremendously and would be ecstatic if we could raise enough money to help them put together the tour that means so much to the organization. My parents have generously offered to match the first $500 in donations so if you give now your money can go twice as far!