Dreams Coming True in Uganda
By Sue Spirit
An adventurous stint in Uganda changed the lives of Marian Peters and Tina Groover. Marian, a physician assistant, is director for the free Community Care Clinic she established in Boone, and Tina is an Appalachian State University professor. They fell in love with the little village of Bulumagi in central Uganda, East Africa, and never looked back.
During their three-week Global Volunteers assignment, Marian and Tina held a makeshift medical clinic and spent time getting to know the village women and children. Before they knew it, on their own, they had established Partnership Uganda, helping the women realize some of their dreams: school scholarships for children and youth, a children’s library, micro-businesses, and a small community center.
When I met Tina and Marian, their eyes sparkled as they spoke about that little town in Uganda. Their enthusiasm was contagious. I began aiding their work financially, started a support group, wrote stories about their work, and even visited Bulumagi.
“If one person can change the world, why don’t more people do it?” declared Greg Mortenson, founder of hundreds of girls’ schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. These women are truly changing things.
Building a future
Partnership Uganda’s work centers around three areas: educational opportunities, economic opportunities and health care.
The organization sponsors 48 children and youth to attend school. Children’s parents must pay for uniforms and supplies, but they are mostly poor subsistence farmers who can’t afford to educate their children. Most of the children have been sponsored for eight to 10 years: Sarah is now studying at university in Kampala; Zawedde is in nursing school; another youth has graduated from lab tech school; two others are studying auto mechanics; another has graduated in hospitality management.
The community building and study center, enabled by Tina and Marian, houses a children’s library that holds more than 1,000 volumes, games and art supplies. After school, the older children help the younger ones with their school work.
Partnership Uganda has also financed 150 micro-loans for the women of Bulumagi. A self-sustaining program operated by village women centers around a weekly banking day, with women withdrawing or adding to their savings accounts. Some of the businesses are raising pigs, chickens and other livestock; selling used clothing; and making baskets and jewelry. There is a 95 percent repayment rate on the loans.
Providing needed healthcare
Traveling to Uganda every other year for a month’s stay, Tina and Marian continue the on-the-spot medical clinics, and have begun working with the village midwife. They are especially concerned about malaria, AIDS and other infectious diseases.
Tina and Marian have a dream for the future: a permanent medical clinic for the village. “We need to identify a partner organization that can work with us to create a clinic that will provide primary and preventive care, widespread health education, and ongoing training of healthcare personnel,” Marian says.
The Bulumagi support group has recently been established to help fund the partnership. The group gathers often to review the Bulumagi success stories and find out how to provide more assistance to the village in Uganda.
“Yesterday we received year-end letters from each of the sponsored kids,” Tina excitedly reported at a recent meeting. “They wrote of their studies, drama and music programs, soccer competitions, and helping their parents with harvesting food and gathering firewood. They always express their gratitude and that of their families, who greatly value their children’s education.”
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About the AuthorSue Spirit, a Blue Ridge Energy member, lives in Boone.
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