by Ronald Asiimwe
November 9, 2016
Recently, when I was back home in Uganda for the summer holidays, I visited different places and met with different people whom I had taken a long time without seeing. Key among the people I had the opportunity to meet with, was Jaz Karim the founder of the Uganda Children’s’ Trust Fund (UCTF) – a non-government organization that helps to support vulnerable children in Uganda with education and sport. I am one among the many hundreds that passed through this program under the help of Jaz all way through to my first degree in college. When Jaz started the charity, it only had 1 child. When I joined it in 2006, the highest level of education was up to senior six and there were no scholarships for college studies. I was the first student to make it through to the UCTF college scholarship scheme in 2009; together with other two colleagues. All of us have now moved on with Andrew living in China where he is pursuing his masters in computer science, Monday who is a certified accountant in Kampala and myself currently, at Oklahoma Baptist University in the USA pursuing a master in marriage and family therapy. Currently, the organization supports 200 children in primary schools, high school and college.
Jaz is an Asian who was born in Mbale eastern Uganda in the early 1950s. His parents were successful business people in Uganda. In 1974, Jaz and his family were forced to migrate to the United Kingdom by the then president of Uganda the late Idd Amini Dada who declared an ultimatum for all Asians to vacate Uganda claiming that God had given him a vision. Since them, Jaz has been living in London UK. He works as squash coach at the All England club on top of his charity work.
On August 9th 2016, Jaz flew into Uganda with a group of friends from England to see the work of the charity. Jaz got to learn that I was in the country for the holidays and he organized a dinner for a few select alumni of the organization. Only 12 people were invited for this dinner. The dinner took place at the Lawns restaurant near Uganda Golf Club in Kampala Uganda. The purpose of this dinner was to catch up on the progress of college graduates of the charity, and discussing the future of UCTF without Jaz (sustainability).
WHERE IT ALL STARTED
During the dinner, Jaz with his great sense of humour gave us a history of what propelled him to start the charity here in Uganda and not do it elsewhere. After spending over 34 years in exile in England, Jaz told us that he had longed for an opportunity to make a return to his home country Uganda. In the summer of 2003, that opportunity showed up he took it up. Jaz came to Uganda and met with his old time cricket and lawn tennis friend the late. Eric Ofuyuru. Jaz told us that one day, they went to a nearby food joint to have a meal with Eric. While the meal was being served and were ready to start eating, two “shabbily dressed” boys showed up. Jaz said that the boys looked malnourished. It was a school day and these boys were expected to be in school at that time. Jaz wondered why these boys were moving around during school time. His friend Eric happened to know the background story of these boys back home and he told it to Jaz. Immediately, Jaz and Eric left the food and called the boys to come and eat.
Jaz says, “”the boys crushed the heavy meal like they had never had a meal in the past 2 weeks”. From there, Jaz’s heart was moved with compassion and he remembered that these two boys just represent a few section of vulnerable children in Uganda. Jaz immediately discussed with his friend Eric about how they could help these boys. He (Jaz) agreed that he was going to go back to England and try to look for money to support these boys. As we speak, one of those boys is a high school graduate preparing to join university. He is currently on cricket internship training in London England. Additionally, he is also on the under 20 Uganda national cricket team. His name is Simon.
On why he decided to do a charity in Uganda, Jaz had this to say, “The goal of having a charity is not to win, but to help other people”. People don’t do charity because it looks fancy and nice on their resumes or curriculum vitae. Charity stems from the heart! A heart that desires to build and share what you know and have with others especially the underprivileged.
GIVING BACK TO COMMUNITY
Jaz stressed the importance of giving back to our communities once we have the opportunity to. He said this, “You have received from charity, in future, if you ever get the opportunity and the inclination to support, do it for others”. He challenged us to put off what he called the “African pride” and its culture of “I don’t want to look like a beggar” saying that, if begging is all one can do in a moment to help someone else, it’s worth doing. He said it’s better to beg and help than to stay idle and useless to the world. If you are to make a difference in people, you have to be ready to put off the pride, get on your knees and beg, Jaz added.
Jaz encouraged us not to be limited and confined in our geographical boarders alone. On top of this, the greatest thing is to always come back home and make a difference. “Go out and get exposed, but always remember to come back home and make a difference in your own community” Jaz said. Jaz encouraged us to do all we can to help one or two children back in our communities. He said that it’s not fair enough to close our eyes off the underprivileged children after we have been helped by other people to reach where we are. There are many children out there that still need a helping hand, and we are there to help them also reach where we are or even, do greater than us.
I shared my vision of starting a charity in western Uganda reaching out to poor and underprivileged children with school fees and psychosocial support. Jaz promised he would be ready to support me in this and see it grow. The dinner ended at 11:00pm.