Over 1.1 million children in Uganda have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. Both extended family members and orphanages face enormous obstacles in attempting to care for these children. Orphans in Uganda are often forced to fend for themselves, making them responsible for income generation, food production, and care for sick parents and siblings.
The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project (Nyaka) is actively making headway to change this outcome for many orphans. The Nyaka is working on behalf of HIV/AIDS orphans in rural Uganda to end systemic deprivation, poverty, and hunger through a holistic approach to community development, education, and healthcare.
In 1996, Twesigye “Jackson” Kaguri’s life took an unexpected turn. He was living the American dream. He had an excellent education and was ready to explore opportunities, travel and have fun. Then Jackson came face-to-face with Uganda’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. His brother died of HIV/AIDS, leaving him to care for his nieces and nephews. One year later, his sister died of HIV/AIDS, also leaving behind a son. It was through his own experience this native Ugandan saw the plight of orphans in his village of Nyakagyezi. He knew he had to act. He took the $5,000 he had saved for a down payment on his own home and built the first Nyaka School. Since then the organization and grown and works to help children and families find stability and health.
There are few services available in the country of Uganda but what little there are can only be found in the major cities like Kampala, the capital. The small villages in southwest Uganda were devastated by HIV/AIDS, but there was no one to help. Normally in Uganda, an orphaned child would be able to go to an uncle or aunt to take care of them, but the crisis hit so hard that many children had no one to turn to. Many went to live with their aging grandmothers, some to caring women in their village, and many others were left vulnerable and alone. Nyaka currently provides services to 43,000 HIV/AIDS orphans living in southwest Uganda, but it is thought that the true number of children who have been orphaned is much higher. Nyaka provides primary, secondary and vocational education, nutritional support and grandmothers programs to support those who have taken in children.
Nyaka is hosting a fundraising event on October 5, 2017, from 6:30-8:30 at Studio C in Okemos showcasing a documentary that includes Nyaka’s work. Sherry Jones will emcee the program and all funds raised will support Nyaka programs and students. Jackson Kaguri, founder of the organization, will also be in attendance to answer questions and share his personal experience with the community. Tickets are $25 per person and include popcorn.
To learn more about Nyaka and how you can help, visit nyakaschool.org.
Ami Iceman-Hauter is the Brand Manager at M3 Group in downtown Lansing. Iceman is a graduate of Michigan State University with a bachelors degree in creative advertising.