Founder of AIDS Orphans Project Speaks at Alma
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, founder of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project and author of The Price of Stones, visits Alma College to meet with students and share his experiences as a nonprofit organizer.
Kaguri’s talk, “It Takes Children to Raise a Village,” takes place at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10 in Swanson Academic Center Room 113. Kaguri also speaks at the Alma Public Library at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 10. A book sale and signing follow each presentation, and all proceeds support the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. Admission is free and open to the public.
The mission of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans project is, “To provide a high-quality, free education, both formal and informal, to children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS in order to counteract pervasive hunger, poverty and systemic deprivation.”
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri
More than 2.2 million children in Uganda have lost one or both parents to the AIDS pandemic. While Kaguri’s parents never suffered from the disease, several of his nieces and nephews became AIDS orphans when his brother passed away from the disease in 1996.
“Then, to make matters worse, my sister died the following year in 1997,” says Kaguri.
Instead of using their savings for a down payment on a house, Kaguri and his wife spent $5,000 to construct a school in his home village of Nyakagyezi. Children in the village who were poor or had lost a parent to AIDS could then receive a free education. The school officially opened in 2003.
“We built it brick by brick,” says Kaguri. “People on the ground are donors themselves. They donated trees. They donated stones. Even now we don’t pay porters. We still have people come and work.”
Since the construction of the first school, the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project has funded the construction and maintenance of a second primary school, a public library, and a small farm. Community health outreach is available through the school, as well as clean water and meal programs. In addition, the nonprofit provides for the Grannies Project, an educational program that supports nearly 7,000 grandmothers raising their orphaned grandchildren.
Megan McCullen, visiting sociology and anthropology instructor at Alma College, organized Kaguri’s visit to the campus. She explains that while Uganda offers free, public schooling, there are other expenses to be considered.
“Free public schooling doesn’t cover the costs of uniforms, transportation or school equipment,” she says. “This is especially difficult for people living in rural villages, and even more challenging for children without parents.”
McCullen praises Kaguri’s efforts at compensating for these costs and notes the exceptional graduation rates of students at the Nyaka School.
“The passing rates of students at the Nyaka School on national exams is 98 percent,” she says. “Compare that to the national average, which is only about 20 percent. The program is clearly working.”
Kaguri’s talk will be useful to students and community members who are interested in non-profit work or volunteering in either Michigan or Uganda, says McCullen.
“There are so many different things I like about this event, it’s hard to emphasize what’s best,” she says. “Kaguri definitely embodies the service aspect of Alma College’s mission. Here’s an example of someone who started from scratch and was successful. Hearing what worked and didn’t work will be very insightful.”
Posted: Mon, November 1st, 2010 at 9:15AM