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Ripon group assists AIDS orphans in Uganda
UgandaASK 0056a
Ripon’s Assist International leaders Tim Reynolds and Ray Schmidt introduced Sam Tushabe of Africa to Ripon Rotarians to tell of the team work they have established to help his impoverished community of Jinja in Uganda. - photo by GLENN KAHL
RIPON — A leader from Jinja in Uganda, Eastern Africa – dedicating his life to helping the countless AIDS orphans – brought grim reality to life recently for the members of the Ripon Rotary Club.

Sam Tushabe was hosted by the staff of Assist International that operates in Ripon and serves the Third World country’s needs that reach beyond the 200,000 population of Jinja extending into the 32 million in all of Uganda.  Assist’s expenditures were in excess of $1 million where they also funded the infrastructure supplying power and water utilities.

Tushabe told Rotarians meeting at the Barnwood Restaurant that he has been at the helm of (AOET) for the past 15 years.  AEOT is better known as the “Action of Empowerment, ” designed to bring aid to an impoverished county.   He holds a bachelor’s degree from Uganda and a master’s from American University in Washington, D.C.

Tim Reynolds and Ray Schmidt of Assist International said while their non-profit firm serves as the bricks and mortar for the AIDS’ Orphans Education Trust, Tushabe is the heart, the founder and operator of all the projects.

Assist International routinely sends teams into the country in support of a “Children’s Center” they helped to establish, building 15 of 17 homes of concrete block and stucco facades.   Tim Reynolds, executive vice president, spent six weeks in the country last summer with his family of four children.      The firm also aided in the establishment of another village for children in Lira in northern Uganda – eight houses of brick and tin roofs built in two circles.  Those houses were built for single widowed women willing to adopt up to eight children.

“AOET Uganda centers on the child – the whole child.  And in an environment of poverty, disease and vulnerability, education is one of the most important predictor of a child’s growth and future economic certainty,” is its established profile.

Tushabe told the Rotarians that when the movement was launched, it had only 100 volunteers and it has now grown into five countries.  He noted his concern about the millions of orphans in Uganda who have grown up without parents because they were caught in the AIDS epidemic.
One tenth of world
AIDS cases in Uganda
He couldn’t over emphasize the need for basic education that teaches about HIV and AIDS in a proactive way in an attempt to guarantee the future of those countries.  There are some 33 million people worldwide with HIV, he said, and 22 million of those are in Africa.  There are 3.2 million with AIDS in Uganda alone, he added, where the life expectancy is only 43.

Assist International workers through their corporate sponsors completed a kindergarten through eighth grade elementary school and built a state of the art high school complete with a computer center.
Reynolds, executive vice president for Assist, said his company also created small business enterprises that are now owned by the village and provide job opportunities for the people of the community. They also created independent home-styled enterprises that are owned by individuals, giving them an opportunity at creating their own income.

Schools in his homeland are on a pay/no pay basis.  The families of the healthy children are charged a tuition reflecting 25 percent of the student body.  Orphan children make up the balance of the school population, with 75 percent of them having no parents.

Tushabe said that for many of the children their school lunch is their only meal of the day where they are given their basic diet – most of the support coming from Assist International in Ripon.

He pointed out that the most beautiful high school is in Uganda where the “privileged” have to pay their way making up 60 percent of the students.  The remaining 40 percent of the students are orphans who have lost their parents mostly to disease.

The East African leader said that families in his community are always ready to take homeless orphans into their folds; however the shortage of living space prevents that from happening.

Assist International
develops “Children’s Village”
That lack of living space for the children without parents prompted Assist International into developing the “Children’s Village” that is offered to families who volunteer to take in orphaned children.  They are allowed to live in the newly constructed homes for four years until they can get on their feet and can buy a home of their own – continuing to keep the orphans as their own for life.

“We give them three kids,” Tushabe said.

Once they are living in the Children’s Village, they are urged to save their income and they are given skills that are designed to help them find a job, he added.  “The Children’s Village has become a hub.”

Because of the numbers of children in Africa that can’t be educated, Tushabe said the next 40 years will see millions of adults who never went to school.  Many are HIV positive but that fact has never been established because many are never tested, he said.

“The next 30 years promises a big crisis with the effects of AIDS,” he predicted. “Education is the big thing right now with the training of community-based workers.”

Tushabe told of child sponsorship programs that can give the children of his country a renewed hope for the future in being able to attend schools and ultimately a university.  Sponsorships aid in teaching carpentry, crocheting and machine knitting.  As children and families are helped it can create a better environment for kids to grow, he said.

The child sponsorship funding sends more than 500 students from Jinja and the region to school on a regular basis.  Aside from the fact that Uganda recently adopted a policy for universal primary education, government schools are reportedly overcrowded, understaffed and having charge fees for teachers, lunches and uniforms.

Many children remain unable to afford the luxury of going to school, but through the AOET sponsorship program, children have their school fees and supplies paid – allowing them to attend school throughout the year.

During the past year AOET has sponsored over 800 children, 300 of whom are in Northern Uganda.

The fundraising for 2003 was $101,120 escalating to $210,500 in 2009, however last year’s budget need was estimated at $470,000.  For those wanting more information on AOET and its humanitarian work in Africa, go to on the internet.  Tushabe is on a three-month tour that is taking him across the United States.  His wife routinely comes to America with a children’s choir in a further attempt to raise funds for their orphan population.