Friday, November 12, 2010

"It takes children to raise a village"

A grandmother from Nyaka
Photo: Tinyan Outomagie
Courtesy Stephen Lewis Foundation
I was working on today’s post when I received an e-mail message from the Stephen Lewis Foundation – intended, I think, as moral support for those of us doing A Dare To Remember (which was the impetus for this blog – see "About A Dare to Discover" on the right).

The e-mail message contained a report from Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, the executive director of the Nyaka AIDS Orphan School in Uganda. Nyaka is one of the grassroots projects that the Stephen Lewis Foundation supports. It runs schools for children orphaned by AIDS and support groups for the grandmothers who look after the children.

Twesigye Jackson Kaguri writes:

"I just came back from meeting with the Grandmothers. One of the Gatherings had more than 7,000 grandmothers. I was overtaken by tears watching these women who have worked so hard but never had any breakthroughs in their lives. When they thanked Nyaka for helping them build their houses, I told them about the Foundation. The grannies then took us to see their new homes. It started raining while I was standing in one grass thatched house. A grandmother said to us, ‘Whenever it rains, I go to the toilet.’ It was the toilet that Nyaka had constructed for her. It was the only structure with an iron sheet roof, the only refuge from the rain for her and her grandchildren. I often hear from the grannies that their grandchildren sleep with their shoulders hunched over their school uniforms so they can protect their uniforms from getting dirty and wet from the rain coming in through holes in their roofs. As we come close to finish visiting their homes, we are reminded of those who are still in need. Our hope is to raise more funds so we can continue to build more needed houses for these lovely grannies. Thank you for your love, care, and support. The best is yet to come."

I did a bit more research and discovered that Nyaka has a website. Twesigye Kaguri also has an interesting story. He was a visiting scholar at Columbia University in the U.S., with a promising career ahead of him, when he learned that his brother had died of HIV/AIDS. He returned to Uganda to look after his brother’s children, and then the child of his sister, who died the following year. He and his wife built a school for local AIDS orphans, then realised they also had to provide health care and other services for the community so that the children could stay in school. The Nyaka website quotes Kaguri putting a new twist on a familiar saying: "It takes children to raise a village."

I don’t know the Nyaka project, but I do know that HIV/AIDS is a heavy burden on people in the region. When I was working with a development organisation a few years ago that had projects in Uganda, I watched not one but two colleagues – both university department heads – become ill and pass away. I was at a loss as to how to help their families; but I know it has something to do with strengthening support systems in communities, and improving access to health and social services, not just for people who are ill but for their families and extended families as well.

The Stephen Lewis Foundation’s message to me ends by saying, "the money you raise has a concrete and long-lasting impact on the lives of grandmothers, women, and children orphaned by AIDS. Your money goes directly to these projects that resurrect life and restore hope. Now that is something courageous worth doing!"

I don’t feel too courageous except when I ask that you consider making a donation to the Foundation through my Dare page. Or look through some of the other dares and support someone whose dare appeals to you – or sign up for your own dare! Or at least come back and visit this site again. I’m grateful for any time you can spend here!

And the post I had been working on before I got the Stephen Lewis Foundation’s e-mail message? Well, let’s just say I have a head start on tomorrow’s post.

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