Don’t Forget The Ones Back Home

Sunday, November 28, 2010
By ugandansabroad

By Arao Ameny

Ugandans Abroad spoke to Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, a Ugandan abroad in Michigan who runs the Nyaka and Kutumba AIDS Orphan Schools in southwestern Uganda .  Yesterday, he shared his experiences of launching the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project, which engages both grandmothers and children in providing a community-oriented education for orphans in his home village.  Today, he talked to Ugandans Abroad about why the diaspora needs to get involved back home, as well as the challenges and rewards he’s encountered in running a nonprofit organization.

Twesigye Jackson Kaguri hopes other Ugandans in the diaspora will join him by serving others back home, especially the most vulnerable.

NEW YORK (Ugandans Abroad)— Jackson Kaguri has a home in Lansing, Michigan, but remains deeply rooted in Uganda through his work with the Nyaka AIDS Orphan Project.  He wants Ugandans living abroad to give back to Uganda by volunteering their time.

Kaguri feels that both Ugandan-born and American-born Ugandans can use volunteering as an opportunity to connect with their heritage.

“First and foremost is to volunteer,” he told Ugandans Abroad.  ”Anybody can volunteer.  Those who are able to go to Uganda should go.  Many of the communtiy members you are talking about may be born here with Ugandan parents, but here is an opportunity to go back to their roots.”

Kaguri would also love it if the Ugandan diaspora would consider financially supporting the Nyaka School and his organization, and also pass along the information to others who might be interested in supporting orphans and their community in Uganda.  When he looks at the list of donations coming in, he can’t help but notice that most of the names are Norwegian or German, and very few are Ugandan, which he thinks needs to change.

“Uganda is at the top when it comes to buying beer,” he said.  ”If we are able to buy beer, we can contribute.  Our relatives need help, and so help somebody in need.”  He would also like to see Ugandans living abroad share their skills to better Uganda, particularly youth back home.

Students at the school in Nyaka, in southwestern Uganda.

“Give your expertise to Uganda,” he said.  ”Anyone in their profession can provide their services! Our call to help is not just Nyaka– lend your expertise to other organizations that are doing good work.”

He hopes that Ugandans in the diaspora will network with each other, share ideas, and talk about their issues and challenges abroad.  Ugandan conventions, for instance, provide ample opportunities to network in the U.S. and around the world.

Challenges & Rewards In Giving Back to Uganda

Kaguri finds the work that he is doing to be very fulfilling, but it still comes with its own set of unique challenges.  Contributors and donors require transparency and accountability for every dollar that goes to the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, so the meticulous work of accounting for each purpose is a necessary task.

“Every dollar needs to be accounted for medication, chalk for the blackboards, and so forth,” he said.  ”We get all the receipts, and we never had a problem with it.”  However, Kaguri often has to tackle people’s expectations of the project.  Since he opened the Nyaka School, as well as the Kutamba School, based in the Rukungiri District’s village of Nyakisheni, people have been asking him if he plans to run for political office.  In Uganda, Kaguri says, people don’t expect something for nothing.

“We have been here for ten years, and I haven’t stepped in politics,” he said.  ”I do not intend to.  I want to help the youth.  People are waiting for the catch, but ten years later, there is no catch.  It is unfortunate that people backc home expect someone to want something for good deeds.”

Students at the Kutamba School.

One hurdle that Ugandans in the diaspora might face whether they starting a charity back home or even a business is managing an organization from abroad.

Kaguri only goes home to Uganda three times a year, and thus has to use other methods of ensuring that projects back home are being completed.  This is necessary for donors.  He uses documentation in video and pictures to keep both up to date on the latest progress, and as an accountability mechanism.

A major triumph for Kaguri is growth.  In 2011-2012, Kaguri will be building a secondary school and a clinic.  Like the Nyaka School and Kutamba School, the new school will offer the same programs and services.  Kaguri wants to build more schools, and support already-existing schools to help students access nutritious meals and a university education down the road.

If you ask him what keeps him going, Kaguri is quick to tell you that it’s his motivation to help AIDS orphans and his deep faith in God.

A glimpse from when Kaguri started in 2001, buying land for the school.

“I am a Christian man, so my faith in God has to do it,” he told Ugandans Abroad.  ”If you have a dream, especially one that will give back to your community or our country, pray about it.  God will guide you to allow you to do the work that will outlive you.”

-Click here to read part one of Kaguri’s story on Ugandans Abroad

-Click here to donate to the Nyaka Aids Orphan Project

-Click here to purchase The Price of Stones, Kaguri’s book about building a school in his village

Arao Ameny is a New York-based journalist for Ugandans Abroad.  She is interested in issues like Ugandan cultural identities, Lango and other Ugandan languages, and women’s rights.

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