Let us tell you about one locally based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping impoverished families across the ocean. Kisoro Kids, a program of Aggie’s Arts, partners with families in Uganda — families like this one. And they need our help.
He and his family live in a small, two-room home on one of the many volcanic hills of Kisoro, Uganda. Gakuru’s parents own their home. His mother cooks under a leaky lean-to on the other side of their tiny, back yard. After dinner, Gakuru helps his mother wash dishes—they use the water sparingly because the well is 15 minutes away, and it’s a steep walk up to their home.
Gakuru’s mother tills the ground for other local landowners while his father works as a builder. They also plant beans and corn at their house. It is their main source of food. They have many mouths to feed. Gakuru has an older sister, a younger sister and a twin brother.
He is a confident little guy, and he has dreams. Gakuru wants to become a doctor. He says he wants to inject people, a claim that sparks a chuckle from his parents. Even though his parents barely make ends meet, Gakuru knows his future looks better than most kids he sees around town.
Because Gakuru goes to school.
And he goes and goes—40 minutes each way—to school. And that includes some running and some steep hill climbing. Gakuru attends a school that is both a community school and a Christian school. Private schools are way too expensive for his family. Government schools are free, but it’s hard to learn in a classroom with 149 other children. Community schools charge just a modest fee, have a reasonable number of children in a classroom and have parents and teachers who are significantly more involved.
And because his school is Christian, Gakuru not only learns about God, but he also learns about respecting his parents and how to properly treat girls. Kids at some other schools think abuse by teachers is just part of school life, but since the hiring staff of his community school filters and trains his teachers, Gakuru retains his innocence.
Then, there’s Kisoro Kids , the organization that helped change everything for families like his.
Gakuru’s community helped build their school —and they did a great job—but the people are not wealthy, and there’s only so much they can afford to do. It was rough, in the beginning.
When Gakuru first started attending his school, he sat on a handmade, wooden church pew trying to balance a notebook on his leg. The schoolroom’s dirt floors were full of jiggers, a parasitic insect that burrows into the soft bottom of the foot and lays thousands of eggs there in the fleshy part. Most kids don’t wear shoes to school, so many were infected with jiggers. The school’s roof leaked in the rainy season, and it was a mess. But none of that stopped Gakuru and his classmates from going to school.
But, then, Kisoro Kids bought concrete for his school. His community brought sand, rocks and water, and they concreted the classroom floors. The work wasn’t done by a group of strangers, either. Gakuru got to see his own community do the work, and they are all so proud!
The same thing happened when Kisoro Kids provided iron sheets to stop the leaks in the school roof. They also provided proper desks to replace the church pews, making it so much easier for Gakuru and his classmates to do well in school.
Gakuru’s mother thinks he is so confident because he’s in school; it impacts both his current character and his hope for the future. And with strong support from his parents, teachers, community and some people he may never meet—people like you—his dream to inject people some day just may become a reality.
You may be looking at these pictures, reading this story and wondering if there’s something you can do to help him, his family and other Kisoro families. Well, it turns out there is.
You have the opportunity to engage your family, your coworkers and your friends in an effort to help a little boy across the ocean by contributing toward one of Kisoro Kids’ ongoing projects. All of the projects seek to either help lift students’ families out of poverty in a sustainable way or improve the quality of education at one of five elementary schools like Gakuru’s. You can raise money to help concrete a classroom floor, roof a school building, build toilets for school children or purchase a pig for a needy family.
You’d be surprised how helpful one pig is to a family like Gakuru’s.
We, at the Community Journal, challenge you to consider changing up how you do some of your Christmas gifts this year. Adopt one of these projects in the name of your gift recipient; Kisoro Kids will make sure they know what you’ve done.
“So…you got me a toilet for Christmas?” your teenager might ask.
And you’ll tell them about Gakuru, who lives an ocean away.