by Dr. Gregory Bartha

April 11, 2018

Through Ronald’s cousin Alan, I learned about the work of the John Charity Foundation. This organization was formed in 2014 by a group of Makerere University students. Their mission has been to identify and support vulnerable children in the Western Uganda district of Kamwenge and to provide health education to vulnerable communities in this area.

The students make regular visits to the children’s homes, provide school fees, and offer food support. They also travel to Mahyoro, a fishing village on Lake George, to do health education. The people in the Lake George fishing communities have a very high rate of HIV infection. The fisherman make good money but spend almost all of it on alcohol and prostitutes. The project is named for Mr. John, father of one of the students. He provides housing and food for the group during their visits and has set aside an office for them. Mr. John owns a large number of dairy cows and rises very early each morning to help with the milking. He is 80 years old and looks at least 20 years younger.

I joined a team of 10 members of the organization in August, 2017. We stayed in the village of Nganiko and made visits to a number of homes and schools. The people are generally quite poor in this area. We visited one home headed by a single mother who is HIV-positive. Her daughter, age 14, is also HIV positive. It is a challenge for this family to get adequate food. The girl is very thin, but she is an excellent student. The group plans to give them regular financial support to improve their situation. About 30 children in the village are receiving financial aid from the project.

We also traveled to the fishing village. In midmorning, the fishermen were coming in with their nighttime catch. We assembled a large group of the fisherman and made presentations on HIV prevention, malaria, family planning and nutrition. Condoms were passed out as well as water guard tablets (chlorine), which disinfect water. Many people have access only to contaminated water supplies. The students put up several posters in the shore area giving information about HIV.

The group has received support from several NGOs, including Baylor–Uganda. Also, they have a piggery project, a dairy cow and a milking machine, all of which generate money for the group.

It was a joy for me to be with the students. They were all committed Christians with a caring and loving spirit and full of energy. I think that one way Uganda will be able to develop is to instill a spirit of service and philanthropy in its young people. The students certainly exhibited these excellent qualities.

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