College accomplishes goal to help build school in Uganda
BY LAUREN LUKENS AND ELAINE GEROU
EDITOR-IN-CHIEF AND MANAGING EDITOR
In September 2011, the Coins to Change program was created to support the work of Twesigye Jackson Kaguri, author of “The Price of Stones: Building a School for My Village.” Due to ongoing generosity and support from the Schoolcraft College community, President Conway A. Jeffress awarded $25,000 to Kaguri on Tuesday, April 14 in Kehrl Auditorium of the VisTaTech Center.
“It makes you feel great. What he is doing and what he can do for those kids is amazing. I guess the only thing is you wish you could do more, and maybe we can,” said Jeffress. “This is one drive; maybe we can have another. When you look at pictures from these villages where they have been devastated by AIDS and, at least in that moment, having no hope, it is so heartbreaking. To help out in any way, it makes you feel good.”
The money is contributing to the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project, which was started by Kaguri after coming face-to-face with Uganda’s HIV/AIDS pandemic when his brother and sister died, leaving him to care for his family. Knowing he could not stand it any longer, he took the $5,000 he had for a down payment on his own home and built Nyaka’s first school. The organization provides education and extracurricular activities to children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS.
Contributions from Schoolcraft and the surrounding community will help the existing Nakaya Vocational Secondary School expand to aid suffering children in Uganda.
“It has been four years of waiting. To finally have it in hand and being able to go and present it to the children is so exciting. I cannot explain it; it is a beautiful feeling. I am so happy for the students who have collected so many coins to make $25,000,” said Kaguri. “Each coin in Uganda means so much; it stretches way more than it does here in the United States. This is huge for Schoolcraft, but mostly the students in Uganda.”
In the United States, $25,000 is not enough for one to obtain a bachelor’s degree at a university, but it is equivalent to $50 million in Ugandan shillings. Various classrooms will be built, one dedicated to Schoolcraft. Uniforms, beds, pillows, blankets, uniforms, school supplies and more will also be purchased with the generous donation.
Schoolcraft’s Honors Program, various clubs and community volunteers continuously collected donations, which were mostly coins, to reach the goal. Anna Maheshwari, Head of the English Department and full-time faculty member, has partnered with Kaguri since the beginning of the Coins to Change project, and she organized several events and tables at Schoolcraft throughout the years to help reach the goal.
“Anna [Maheshwari] worked hard. She is a determined person, and she has encouraged and inspired so many adults and younger people at this school to take on making a difference in the world,” said Kaguri. “Bridging the gap between Schoolcraft here in Michigan and a school in Uganda is mostly because of the leadership and dedication of Anna [Maheshwari], students and staff here.”
Maheshwari said that the support of Schoolcraft students, faculty members and administrators all made it happen. Also, Novi and Northville High Schools generously contributed.
“It was a team effort; it could not have been does otherwise,” said Maheshwari. “I am very, very excited. This is the day we had been dreaming of for the past couple of years, and we finally made it.”
Kaguri mentioned that the school in Uganda will adopt Schoolcraft’s principles of education.
“I think it just shows the strength and the willpower of our students and staff to support an initiative outside of our small community, and I commend them for their energy,” said Cheryl Hawkins, Dean of Liberal Arts and Science. “It’s not just Schoolcraft; it’s community partners. I’m excited that we are helping build this educational building for them.”
Those who did not get a chance to give to the Coins to Change project can always donate online at www.nyakaschool.org. There are also opportunities on the website to get involved by going on volunteer trips.