Deacon Opens School for Vulnerable Children in Uganda

Children ages 3-7 attend the new Magooli Academy for Children in Lugala, Uganda. United Methodist deacon Joseph Zalambi of Grace United Methodist Church-Magooli opened the preschool to help orphaned and vulnerable children. Photo by Vivian Agaba, UM News.

Nine years ago, 34-year-old James Barasa, a father of four, was diagnosed with Kaposi’s sarcoma. Since then, he’s been in and out of the hospital, leaving his family financially unstable.

He and his wife are small-scale farmers who spend most of their earnings on his treatment, which includes testing every three weeks at the hospital.

Kaposi’s sarcoma is a type of cancer that can form masses in the skin, lymph nodes or other organs. In sub-Saharan Africa, it is the most common HIV-associated cancer in men and the second most common in women.

Barasa, a resident of Namake village in the Namayingo District of eastern Uganda, said the family has been struggling to keep the children in school. However, recently, Magooli Academy for Children, based in the district, enrolled his 5-year-old daughter into preschool.

United Methodist deacon Joseph Zalambi of Grace United Methodist Church-Magooli is the brainchild behind the academy and the director of the Child Crisis Center-Uganda.

“I’m relieved and happy that my daughter is among the lucky children to be selected to study at the academy,” Barasa said. “It has highly qualified and competent teachers, provides fees, scholastic materials, meals for the less-privileged children. My daughter will get a strong education foundation.”

His daughter is one of 86 children studying at the academy, 60 of whom are orphans fully supported by the school. The students range in age from 3 to 7.

Zalambi said he hopes to expand the school beyond preschool classes.

“I have a vision of setting up a fully furnished orphanage school that will be a model school in the entire district. Soon, I will add more classrooms from primary one to primary seven,” he said.

While presiding over the dedication ceremony of the academy in September, Bishop Daniel Wandabula of the East Africa Episcopal Area said this was a memorable occasion for parents, community members, teachers and children, adding that it marked the beginning for future success for all involved.

Wandabula was impressed with what Zalambi and his team have been able to achieve in a short period of time.

“Thank you for obeying to listen to God’s vision of helping orphans and vulnerable children in this community. Continue to pray, plan and work hard. Continue doing the right thing and God will enable this school to grow to what he intends it to be,” Wandabula said.

He encouraged Zalambi not to lose track of his vision and to continue to nurture it, even if it takes time to materialize. The bishop also advised him to take issues of accountability and transparency seriously, adding that they are crucial in building strong institutions.

Wandabula urged parents and guardians not to take advantage of the school.

“Take care of your children at school, contribute to the school’s development, come together as a group and make bricks to build the school, provide labor where you can, or look for money for labor to put up other buildings at the school. Parents need to know that in this world, there is nothing for free,” he said.

Retelling the school’s journey, Zalambi said in 2009, he was teaching in a government primary school in the Bugiri District. He said he noticed that many children were suffering. They were walking long distances to school barefoot, he said, sometimes with no food to eat while at school and no books.

“I said, ‘My God, what I can do to help the children?’ I started praying and fasting, asking God for guidance. In 2015, I got a vision from God directing me to start a community-based organization. In that same year, I set up the Child Crisis Center,” he said.

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Source: United Methodist News