A chronicle of the humanitarian efforts by a Ugandan native schooled in the West, addressing poverty and the ravages of AIDS in Africa.
Kaguri, now a university administrator at Michigan State University, was one of the lucky ones growing up in the impoverished rural village of Nyakagyezi, where his father owned a banana plantation. By 1991, while the author was pursuing his studies in Kampala and planning to attend Columbia University, 15 percent of Ugandan adults suffered from AIDS (known in the country as “slim”), as well as nearly 30 percent of pregnant women in cities, which left small children like many of his own relatives without parents. When Kaguri brought his American bride to his village in 2001, the two decided it was time to help some of the two million orphans by starting a primary school where they would receive a free education, books, uniforms, meals and health care. While his father, Taata, refused to offer land or help (he believed Kaguri was a “disobedient son”), he eventually became one of the school’s most enthusiastic supporters. With money donated by American church groups and grants, the Nyaka AIDS Orphans School opened Jan. 2, 2003, with its first 67 students. Much of the book focuses on the struggle to find sustainable funding for the school, and meetings and interviews are drawn out for dramatic effect. The author alternates the main narrative with flashbacks of his youth, providing a snapshot of the daily lives of the Ugandan villagers. Poignant moments include interviews between Kaguri, the school director and young students overwhelmed at the chance to be freed of the drudgery of daily chores and attend school, and heartbreaking scenes in which students die of AIDS.
A slowly unfolding, moving journey of turning beliefs into actions.