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How did it start?
In 2003, Sylvia Allen went with a non-profit organization on a humanitarian trip to Uganda, Africa. While she was there, she was asked by Geofrey Kawuma, head of the Mbiriizi Primary School, to be the school’s Grandmother. With 805 children in the school, of which 216 were orphans due to the AIDS crisis, she was honored to accept the responsibility. Out of this Sylvia’s Children was born, Inc., a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to improving the lives of her ‘grandchildren'; to give the children a fighting chance.
In Uganda, if a child slips through the cracks, there are no safety nets, there is no one to catch them. They are out on the streets, on their own, to fend for themselves. The teachers and staff at the Mbiriizi Primary School know this and, because of this, there is a level of dedication there that you do not find here in America. They know what these children are up against because it is where they came from and they know if they don't help the children, no one will.
The teachers and staff are completely open and honest with the children, to prepare them for the tough life ahead. Classes held in the school are not only reading, writing and arithmetic but anti-drug classes, non-smoking classes and classes about abstinence and AIDS. There are no taboo subjects, they do not mince words nor do they sugarcoat them. Why should they? Most of the children walk five miles to school with no shoes…..literally. Harsh reality is a part of daily life.
Here’s the good news….what we are getting done:
The Vicky Tuccillo Mbiriizi Library was dedicated;
- The desperately needed new well was dedicated with the children singing the words of Rudyard Kipling’s poem “IF”;
- We measured the feet of all 907 children and staff so Samaritan Shoes can fit them with new shoes the first week in November (does anybody want to donate 2,000 pairs of socks to go with the shoes?);
- We inventoried all 267 orphans which meant taking an up-to-date picture, getting their accurate age and determining if there were any health issues (only 100 are sponsored so we still need sponsors for 167);
- Thanks to Joe Corpina, who came with us, we had soccer balls and basketballs for the kids to play with;
- Vicky Tuccillo had even brought hula hoops (some of us remember them) and you should see how fast the children caught on to the way to do it;
- We did a complete inventory of books needed by the children and teachers (currently the children learn by rote and have no books) and found out that $20,000 would supply books (on a two children per book basis) for a full year;
- Lastly, Michele sent an American flag and a Ugandan flag. It was so wonderful to see those two flags flying, side by side, in the breeze.
We need to build a six unit building to house six teachers who would live at the school. The estimated price for that is $18,000. Tony Costa, my son, had a great idea which was to house the teachers, temporarily, in the library (which has two bathrooms and a shower) until we have completed the fundraising for the books. However, that is temporary. Tony, Michele and I would be devastated to see this badly needed initiative fail. Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated.
Lastly, Tony and I stayed two extra days to explore a coffee plantation and the feasibility of exporting Ugandan Arabica coffee to the U.S. Currently Uganda sells their coffee beans to Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia but do not have a U.S. distribution. We want to change that and have the profits go to the school. Anybody have any coffee contacts? Any and all suggestions gratefully accepted!
Finally, just a note on upcoming trips:
June 26-July 6/7, 2009
Annual work trip to the school and safari to Murchisson Falls (to see Giraffes and other wonderful wildlife!)
Sylvia’s Children is a family-run charity with Sylvia Allen, founder, as President and her two children, Michele and Tony Costa, serving as trustees. No administration charges are taken out of your donations. 100% of the money goes to the school and 100% of your donation is tax deductible.