A Visit to Uganda
I’ve recently returned from Uganda after a four-year hiatus. It was wonderful to reconnect with the 52 Kids and our many friends. Our “kids” are now young adults. Most have completed their schooling and are eager to find good work and to get going and “do.”
I traveled with my colleague from 52 Kids, Colleen Brady, and Frank Woitera, our Ugandan director. We gathered in Kampala, Jinja, and our hometown of Kamuli. Most of our kids are working or in school in these communities, and we wanted to hear and see what they were doing.
GATHERING IN KAMPALA
We rented a house with a yard in Kampala, and nearly 25 kids joined us for a celebration dinner and catch-up. It was an emotional evening. We spoke in detail about jobs, marriage, parenting, and many other things that adult life brings.
Gerald Isibyre was with us. He’s close to finishing a degree in electrical engineering at Buganda Royal College, and his serious demeanor carries through to his educational work.
Marion Mbwali, a passionate student, is completing her fourth year of architectural school. She hopes to secure an internship with a good African firm or work in Vermont with TruexCullins.
Amidst all the catching up, we discussed changes that will transform the Foundation into a community loan fund directed by the kids we’ve been helping to educate. The fund will help support business startups, advanced education, emergencies, and support for the upcoming generation. The original 52 Kids are wise, mature, and ready to lead.
NORTH TO KAMULI
Traveling north to Kamuli, we settled into the TIG Hotel for an extravagant $14 per night room charge—including hot water! We like this hotel—it’s close to “downtown” and is home to our good friend, Chef Ronald. Colleen brought two lovely dresses for Ronald’s young daughters. They were delightfully shy but gave profuse thanks.
We had little reason to rouse our kids in the area—the word was out. On a weekday evening, we hosted a lively group at the TIG for an evening of food and chatter. Former dorm mom Julie, school counselor Kaiso, and director Frank joined in, and, much as we’d done in Kampala, we socialized and caught up with everyone. As before, we conveyed the 52 Kids Loan Fund details and responded to questions and comments amid many life details.
Among our local tours, we visited with Jessca and her class of eager young learners. Colleen, a recently retired Charlotte school teacher, joined in—thrilling! The student becomes the teacher, very satisfying.
Our film professional Aminsi Waiswa has set up shop and is the Kamuli “town photographer.” He chronicles life events with creativity and vigor. He built himself a small house and planted 400 young trees on his plot of land. He hosted several kids and us for Easter dinner.
Winnie Muykala was there too. She’s had a hard time of it with two young kids and a non-supportive father. We arranged for her to begin studies at a cosmetology school and hope that further training will launch her into a viable career.
Seven full days in Kamuli—the highlights were a visit to a clothing, basket, and shoe fabrication cooperative organized by our friend Prossy of the Children’s Legacy Fund and Betty Dhizaala of our partner Kapida Foundation.
Other uplifting efforts have come to Kamuli—Vermonter John Giebink (Edfund) completed a major renovation at a local School; Zena teaches local women about entrepreneurship; Iowa State has created a campus abroad that advances progressive farming techniques. These initiatives offer potential remedies to the inequalities we find in our world.
FINAL STOP: JINJA
Our visit ended in Jinja, a small city at the confluence of Lake Victoria and the beginnings of the Nile. From our bluff edge lodging, we saw the majestic Nile, coursing north to Egypt and the Mediterranean.
Over a meal of barbecued goat and fries, we chatted with Mike Kisige, Esther Namwase, and Daniel Kalista. Daniel is an electrical engineer. Esther is studying for an advanced degree in midwifery. Mike has a young family. He’s 150 dollars short of a valued trucking license, and that’s but the spare amount needed for a viable career. We’re seeing if we can help. The 52 Kids Loan Fund will hopefully help these too common situations.
MEETING A GOAL
So, on the road home. In two years, we’ll have fulfilled an original promise—to see all 52 kids complete their education. In 2025 we’ll be celebrating in Kamuli, Uganda. It promises to be a “not to be missed” event. 52 Kids supporters will be most welcome and heartily appreciated.
The work that follows will be directed locally by some of the original 52 Kids. In its future iteration, it will continue to support Ugandan youth.
By Rolf Kielman