Friday, December 30, 2011

Update from Uganda

I just received news from the orphanage that I wanted to share.

Since last year when I was there, seven new babies have arrived, bringing the total number of children to 91 (including 25 under age 2).

Two are one-month-old twins that were found abandoned in bushes. Another is Gabriella, just four weeks old now. She was found at the bottom of a latrine, believed to have been thrown down the toilet. But the great news is that a local woman from the village where Gabriella was found has stepped forward to adopt her.

They are going through the process and in the meantime, the orphanage is taking care of the baby, taking her to hospital every day for a very serious gash she has on her head. They didn't think she would survive, but this little girl is proving to be quite the fighter!

More good news is that a local board member on the orphanage board is also going through the process to adopt a young boy called Jeramiah. When I first met Jeramiah, it was believed he may be deaf or even autistic. Turns out he was likely just traumatized. He is doing well and this board member has taken a shining to adopting him.

I'm told that Baby Charles, the only baby who is HIV positive, is doing well and is hardly recognizable from when I met him last year. This time last year, he was frail and ill and it was doubtful he would survive. He has gained a lot of weight and is said to be as healthy as can be.

Samwell is another one whose progress I am happy to hear of. He is a 2-year-old who was brought to the orphanage after his parents tried to sell him to a witch doctor. The witch doctor took the child and brought him to police. Samwell's parents have been released from jail, but they have not tried to come for the boy. He is also doing really well and adjusting to his new family.

Right now the youngest children are on holidays from school and for the first time ever many of them have returned to their home villages to stay with family. In doing this, the founders of the orphanage are helping the children to connect with their birth families, which may include aunts, uncles, grandparents who were unable to take on the responsibility of caring for the children. It truly is a great thing for the kids on so many different levels.

Apparently the only one who has been having difficulty with the situation is a little cutie named Sunday Roger, who is nine. I'm not sure what his reason is, but Sunday Roger keeps leaving the village, possibly trying to find his way back to the orphanage! So, they've brought him home to the orphanage. The rest of the kids will stay with their families for a week or so.

The four girls we are supporting in senior levels high school have finished - and passed - their first year and are back at the orphanage for their holidays. Veronica is writing exams today and will be heading to the orphanage for her break next week as well. Their first year is done!

In 2012, we will also start supporting a young man named Oscar. Oscar has a serious bone degenerating disease and has had a tough time finishing his school because he's been in so much pain or missing classes due to surgery. He finally finished his last year in elementary school and is awaiting his results. If he passes, next year he won't go on to senior levels of school, but we will support him in vocational training. He wants to learn to be a lab technician so he can work at the local hospital. Sounds like a great job!

I'm so happy to share this good news with you. Thinking back on how all of us have done so much to support these kids over the last few years. We really are making a difference in their lives. Thank you all for your support.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Thank you for your tremendous support

*event pictures by Photography By Ardean

Dear friends:

We are thrilled to share with you the good news that with your support we raised $10,500 at the Nzirambi Photo Exhibition Fundraiser.

It was a spectacular night: the photos by Brian Pieters were stunning; the abundance of items donated for our silent auction was amazing; the food, wine and beer were great; and Pikto Gallery was filled to the brim with people, enjoying the fantastic drumming.

As the organizers, we were overwhelmed at the outpouring of support. The children at the orphanage dream big with thoughts of higher education, and with your support we will help get them there.

All of the funds raised at this event will be put toward a scholarship fund that will pay for university tuition, as well as secondary school. Currently, the Nzirambi Education Fund is supporting 4 girls in high school and another in Law School. Next year, the number of children we support will double. As more children grow older, more will need our help to access higher levels of learning.

Your donations will go a long way in ensuring the children of the Nzirambi Orphanage in Uganda have the best chance possible to succeed.

We want to take this opportunity to thank you for your contribution and for helping to fulfill dreams. None of this would have happened without your support.

We hope you will stay connected with us on Facebook at

Thank you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

News Release: Nzirambi Photo Exhibition Fundraiser in Support of Ugandan Orphanage

The “Nzirambi Photo Exhibition,” providing a glimpse into life at a Ugandan orphanage, will be unveiled during a special fundraising event on Oct. 27. Funds raised will go toward the Nzirambi Education Fund which ensures the boys and girls of this orphanage have access to higher levels of education, including senior levels of high school, college and university.

“Most of the children at the Nzirambi Orphanage are there because their mothers died during childbirth or due to AIDS. Some are there because they have been abandoned by their families,” said Karen Snider, co-founder of the Canadian-based Nzirambi Education Fund. “Despite the odds, these children are striving and healthy. We hope the resilience of these children, as captured in this photo exhibition, will inspire others to give so that we can continue to help these children go to school.”

The collection of photos will be on display at Pikto Gallery in Toronto’s Distillery District on Oct. 27. Doors open at 7 p.m. Along with the exhibition, there will be a silent auction and raffle for which local businesses have donated more than $6000 in gifts. There will also be a live African drumming performance. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at

Among the silent auction prizes included are: an iPod Touch with Beats by Dre headphones; $500 dinner for four in your home catered by chef Matt Kantor; a limited edition print valued at $400 from local artist Arto Yuzbasiyan; certificates from Toronto’s top restaurants; and a 1.5 hour social media consulting session with Canada’s leading tech guru Amber Mac. There will also be a $500 Toronto ‘foodie’ raffle prize with gifts, restaurant certificates, Niagara wine tastings, a special Starbucks Reserve coffee tasting and cupcake making class.

Food and drinks at the event will be sponsored by: Caplansky’s Deli, St. Louis, Le Dolci cupcakes, Underdog Wine and Mill Street Brewery.

The Nzirambi Education Fund would like to thank the following organizations for their sponsorship and donations:

Brian Pieters Photography, Pikto Gallery, Underdog Winery, Mill Street, Caplansky’s Deli, St. Louis Bar and Grill, e11even, Acura Sherway, Molson, Arto Yuzbasiyan, Nathalie-Roze, Any Direct Flight, Meditative Arts, Parent Central, Amber Mac, The Mother of All, Le Dolci, Te Aro Coffee, Fuss Hair Studio, Unmarketing, Poetic Art, Bloom Restaurant, Starbucks, Putting Edge, Evoke Hair Salon, Danier Leather, Fair Trade Jewellery, Lou Dawgs, Bootycamp Fitness, Il Fornello, Magic Oven, Nota Bene, Solo Bace Hair Salon, Table 17, Pangaea, Little Kitchen, HoneyFig, Help We’ve Got Kids, Belly Bootcamp, Borden Communications, Chocolachocola, Michele Nidenoff, Art Gallery of Ontario, Yoga Sanctuary, Green Lavender


About the Orphanage

The Nzirambi Orphanage was started by Dorothy Nzirambi more than 20 years ago when she took in an abandoned baby whose mother had died during childbirth. She was living in a grass-thatched home at the time, with little means. However, under Ms. Nzirambi’s care, the child flourished and this was the humble beginnings of the orphanage.

Today at this family-run orphanage there are more than 85 boys and girls, ranging in from newborns to 21-years-old. Many of the children lost their mothers in childbirth and their fathers could not, or would not, care for them. Some are there because their mothers have died of AIDS, or because the children have been abandoned by their families.

About the Nzirambi Education Fund

This Canadian grassroots initiative aims to raise funds to ensure that every boy and girl reaching the levels of higher education can afford to go. Primary education in Uganda is free. However, higher levels of education are especially critical for these children, giving them additional resources to become leaders in their communities and break free of the cycle of poverty they are in. The Fund aims to raise $30,000 in the next three years to pay for nine children who will be in post-secondary school.

For more information, contact:

Karen Snider, Nzirambi Education Fund

416 518-2844 /

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Blog Action Day: Droughts and Matoke

Today is Blog Action Day 2011, a day when bloggers around the world are encouraged to blog about one particular theme. This year’s theme is ‘food.’ I just wrote a post for the Canadian Red Cross blog on the current crisis in the Horn of Africa because of the lack of food, but I wanted to share something on this blog too.

Northern Uganda has indeed been affected by the drought that has impacted at least five countries in the Horn of Africa. Thankfully for the orphanage, the situation has not been as dire in Uganda as it has been in other countries, such as Somalia and Kenya.
The orphanage we support is in southern Uganda, and should the south be affected by droughts, it would indeed, hurt the children.

The orphanage is currently working hard to become self-sufficient through farming. That way they can rely on their own crops and livestock and sell any extras. They currently grow foods, such as matoke (a kind of banana very popular in Uganda), potatoes, carrots, cabbage and other greens. They have a chicken coop as well, so they have a daily supply of fresh eggs. Based on this, you can see why good rainfalls are important.

I’ve often wondered what would happen to the women and children of the orphanage if they did experience a drought. Although they are fortunate to be sponsored by so many of us in Canada and the UK, it would still be an incredible challenge to overcome if the entire country was facing a food shortage.

Imagine going to the grocery store and there was no food on the shelves to purchase. That’s what could happen if a country that relies on agriculture experiences severe long-term drought. Crops don’t grow and therefore there is nothing to consume or purchase.

Thankfully, this is not a challenge we have had to confront.

So, on a much lighter note – and still on the theme of food -- I thought to share with you a recipe for a dish that the House Mothers in Uganda spoil me with when I am there.

It’s a peanut stew that is poured over rice or potatoes. This recipe calls for peanut butter, which they do not have at the orphanage.

Instead, the women grind peanuts using a traditional mortar. It’s hard work too. I tried once and my arms were aching because the mortar is heavy and it takes time to grind the peanuts right down to a paste. It is, however, worth every effort.

Click here for the recipe.

Monday, September 12, 2011

You're Invited!

Please join us for the Nzirambi Photo Exhibition fundraiser, featuring photos by Brian Pieters. The fundraiser will be held Thursday, Oct. 27 at Pikto Gallery in the Distillery District, Toronto.

Earlier this year, Brian travelled to Uganda to photograph the 85 boys and girls of the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre. The result is an inspiring collection of photos that captures the resilience and hope of the women and children

The photo exhibition launch will include a silent auction/raffle, African drumming and a special guest speaker. Local businesses have donated more than $5000 in gifts to be auctioned off at the event.

Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at

All proceeds from the evening will go toward the Nzirambi Education Fund to ensure the children have access to high school and post-secondary education.

Higher levels of education are especially critical for these children, giving them additional resources to become leaders in their communities and break free of the cycle of poverty that has defined their families.

For more information about the Education Fund and the orphanage, check out our blog or join us on Facebook at

Can't make the event? You can still show your support by making a donation with PayPal on our blog.

Gifts to be auctioned include:
• Gift packages for new moms
• Yoga and other fitness classes
• Consulting opportunities with leading marketing and social media gurus
• Tickets for movies, AGO, mini-golf
• Family pass to the movies
• Jewellery and certificates from Toronto fashion boutiques and hair salons
• Certificates to various restaurants in Toronto, as well as a special dinner for four from Secret Pickle
* and much more!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Vero has been accepted to Law School!

When I first visited the orphanage nearly 3 years ago, Veronica was 16 years old with dreams to go to law school.

At the time, she was the third highest scoring student in her district, scoring 98 percent on her report card (her teachers encouraged her to score 100%). Aside from her grades, Vero was naturally curious, outgoing and obviously ambitious. She’s an incredibly bright young woman and there was no doubt in my mind that she would succeed.

The problem, however, was that there was no funding in place for her to afford to go to university.

And so, it was Veronica who inspired Monica and I to create the Nzirambi Education Fund with a promise to not only pay for Vero’s university, but to raise funds to pay for all of the children to have access to higher levels of learning.

We received word this weekend that Veronica has realized her dream! She has been accepted to law school at one of the top universities in Uganda.

Veronica is the first of all of the 85 children at the orphanage to be accepted to university – and in that she naturally becomes a role model to the younger children showing them that if they put their minds to it, they can achieve whatever it is they want.

Vero’s acceptance to university is no small feat. This is a girl who, when she was just one year old, was brought to the orphanage by her brother. Her mother had died of AIDS and the father could no longer look after Vero, the youngest of his children and his only daughter. She has grown up at the orphanage and considers the children there to be her brothers and sisters.

When I was last in Uganda I asked her why she wanted to study law. She told me it’s because she wants to help others – in her country lawyers resolve problems, help businesses do well and also reduce crime. In Uganda, a lawyer doesn’t specialize in one area, so she is prepared to practice criminal law, property law and so forth.

Over the next couple weeks, we’ll be in touch with Vero to determine the fees she will need. We will be looking to cover school fees, books and boarding.

She starts school in September.

Thank you everyone for continuing to support what our fundraising efforts. With your help, we are able to truly make a difference in a child’s life.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Sending Children to School, Despite the Odds

*I wrote this article for HUMNEWS. You can see it published here:

When tragedy strikes, I often hear people describe survivors as resilient. I’ve been thinking about what that means and whether that describes the children at an orphanage in Uganda which I support – are the children really resilient or are they mere survivors?

There are 85 children at the Nzirambi Talent Development Centre in Kasese, Uganda, and it’s not unusual for them to be ill at any given time. Just last month, eight newborns were hospitalized with pneumonia, malaria and/or extreme diarrhoea. One of the star students, Ellen, 16, who is in her first semester at senior school, nearly failed her classes because of pneumonia – without access to a doctor for a month.

The reality is that children die of these illnesses at alarmingly high rates across much of Africa. In fact, the United Nations Children’s Fund states that four million children under age five die every year; of those, 1.5 million are from Eastern or Southern Africa.

The statistics are equally alarming in Uganda, which ranks as the 19th worst country in the world for child mortality where 188,000 children die every year before their fifth birthday. At this orphanage, we’ve lost eight children in the last two years.

With those statistics in mind, it was a relief this week when I got news that all of the newborns who had been hospitalized had recovered and were back home. Ellen is also doing better and has returned to school.

Against all of the odds, these children survived.

But when I think of the older children at the orphanage, including Ellen, I think I
understand more what it means to be resilient.

Currently, through the Nzirambi Education Fund, we are sponsoring five youth in their senior levels of school, each of them having been brought to the orphanage as a vulnerable baby.

Twenty years ago, there was no sponsorship program at the orphanage to provide funds and so the children didn’t always have access to healthcare or nutritious food.

There is no question the children carry emotional scars – this I know as they have shared tears with me telling me about parents lost to AIDS, a parent crippled in a car accident and a polygamous father who would not care for his only daughter after her mother died.

Still, they have thrived and managed to excel in their studies.

Now there are new obstacles for them at school: missing classes due to illness; no extra learning from teachers; overcrowded classes; and they are boarding for the first time away from the orphanage.

When Ellen was ill, I spoke to her by phone. She told me not to worry, that (despite illness so severe she was hallucinating) she will be fine – and more importantly, that she was eager for classes to start again. Before she even finished a round of antibiotics, she was on the bus for the six-hour ride back to school.

To me, that is what resiliency is about.

Time and time again, it’s what we see across Africa and around the world when families are struck with disaster or facing extreme poverty. It’s about surviving the unimaginable and forging ahead -- hopeful, optimistic and eager for future possibilities.

Just last week, the five youth we are currently supporting returned to school for their second semester. To give them a boost to make it through the school year, we

are looking into the possibility of hiring a guidance counsellor who can check in on them to ensure they are healthy and doing well in their classes. That way, if any problems arise – like one of them needing a doctor or extra tutoring – we can address it more quickly.

Thank you to those of you who continue to support the Nzirambi Education Fund. We've recognized the resiliency of the children and now we have an opportunity to truly help make their dreams come true. They so very much deserve the chance.

Want to be involved? Help send one of our children to school. Donate using PayPal on our blog or contact Also, you can join us on Facebook at

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Shout Out for Sponsors

On Thursday, October 27, the Nzirambi Education Fund will be hosting a photo exhibition at Pikto Gallery in The Distillery District, Toronto. More than 150
people are expected to attend this special event to show their support for the 85 boys and girls at the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre in Uganda.

The photo exhibition includes the work of Toronto photographer Brian Pieters who recently travelled to the orphanage. Through his images, we aim to introduce our supporters to the children whose lives they are making a difference in.

In addition to the photo exhibition, there will be a silent auction with 100 per cent of funds raised going to the Nzirambi Education Fund.

I hope you will consider showing your support for Nzirambi Education Fund as well, by offering an in-kind gift.

Your gift now will go a long way towards helping us reach our goal to raise $10,000
in 2011 so that we can ensure the children at the orphanage will be able to attend senior levels school.

Higher levels of education are especially critical for these children, giving them additional resources to become leaders in their communities and break free of the cycle of poverty that has defined their families for far too long. Your support will help these children so that they may be the next generation of smart, productive and well-educated Ugandans contributing to the future of their country.

We are anticipating that approximately 150 people will participate in this event and are asking for your support as a silent auction donor or food and beverage sponsor.

For this year’s silent auction we are looking for items with approximate values between $50 and $300 that would appeal to our event attendees. Examples of appropriate auction items would include: toys, electronics, restaurant certificates, travel vouchers, health and wellness items, art or house wares.

To offset costs and ensure we can raise the maximum amount possible for the children, we are asking for your support in providing food or alcohol for this event.

All sponsors for this event will be recognized through name or logo recognition on our day of event signage.

With your help, we can continue to inspire hope for children of the Nzirambi Orphan Talent Development Centre. For more information about our cause, please contact me at

Karen Snider
Nzirambi Education Fund
416 518 2844

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Rough Start to the School Year

In February four of our girls at the orphanage started their senior levels of high school, which is being paid for by our fund. These girls – Priscilla, Pelucy, Ellen and Patricia – are especially bright.

Priscilla and Patricia are twins and while their marks are similar, they have very different interests when it comes to the subjects they take. Pelucy had the lowest grades among the four, which I always thought was because she’s so chatty and playful – so easily distracted – rather than because of a lack of book smarts. Ellen is the strongest of the group with ambitions to become either a nurse or a TV journalist.

You could imagine how surprised we were to learn that the four girls did not do well in their first semester. On a score of 0 – 6, they were all falling short of passing grades.

Extra Tutoring
Instead of feeling disappointment, Monica and I were concerned of what was behind the low grades. As it turns out, three of the four simply needed extra tutoring andso Auntie Milly, the orphanage manager, hired a tutor so they could continue their studies while on break.

The situation with Ellen was worrying. I received a vague message a few weeks agothat Ellen had been suffering hallucinations and nightmares. She was staying with relatives and we could not get further information. Terrified for the worst, Monica and I reached out to see what supports we could offer and to try and make contact with her.

I finally was able to reach her on the phone. She explained that a month ago she started to become ill and was not able to concentrate on her studies. On a six hour bus ride to the orphanage, she was so sick, that as I understand it, she was left at the side of the road. She eventually made her way to a nearby relative’s home. She was taken to a doctor who diagnosed her with pneumonia and gave her aspirin and cough syrup. Finally, she was able to make her way back to the orphanage where Auntie Milly took her to a proper hospital. Within days of taking the antibiotics prescribed to her she was on the mend.

On the Mend
I spoke to her again on the phone just today and she assures me that she is feeling stronger and is even headed back to the city to get ready for school. It’s been gut- wrenching to know that one of our children has been so sick from an illness that claims the lives of far too many children across Africa.

More Than Just School Fees
It has been a sharp reminder that the scholarship fund we have created for these children is meant to be a beacon of hope for them – hope that they can become successful and find meaningful work. But the reality is that the odds continue to be stacked so high against them.

From time to time, our support will be needed for more than just school fees because if all of the other issues are not addressed, they won’t succeed in school and our efforts will have been in vain. In this way, we can provide support to ensure they have access to medications when needed, tutors for extra lessons and whatever else may rise.

Friday, April 22, 2011

World Malaria Day: April 25

**World Malaria Day,instituted by the World Health Assembly in May 2007, is a day for recognizing the global effort to provide effective control of malaria

I remember this time last year writing with such desperation about the problem with malaria at the orphanage. The children had recently moved into a new home on a large plot of rural land. Malaria, however, was rampant at their new location.

So many house mothers and children were suffering from it when I visited the
orphanage in January 2010. Three of the children died that year because of malaria – one boy was ten, the other two were just babies.

The deaths were a shock to the orphanage – never before had they lost so many children at once.

On 33 acres of rural land neighbouring a national game reserve, you can imagine how bad the mosquitoes were. The children were getting bit while playing soccer at dusk, or sitting on the stoop of their houses after the sun went down.

The real problem, however, was that mosquitoes were breeding in the latrines. It was discovered that the House Mothers – possibly in an attempt to be frugal- were not pouring into the latrines enough of a special fluid that kills off the mosquitoes.

Once this problem was resolved, the situation did improve. While there continues to be some cases of malaria, it has not been nearly as bad. This year when I visited the orphanage, not one person was suffering from malaria (although the flu was making the rounds).

The situation at the orphanage is just a sample of what goes on across the country.

Malaria will always be a part of life in Uganda.

The Malaria Control Programme of Uganda states that: “malaria is responsible for more illness and death than any other single disease in Uganda. Those with low immunity, such as pregnant women, children under five years and people living with HIV/AIDS- are particularly

Malaria kills about one million people every year mainly, children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda has the third highest rates of infection in Africa.

The experts are trying to do something about it.

Just this past week, it was reported that Uganda is testing three new vaccines that may help to prevent malaria. The vaccine is expected to prevent malaria in at least 50% of cases.

When it comes to treating malaria, the World Health Organization is recommending a new form of treatment that is safer to use than that which is normally used (quinine). I guess it’s not unusual though that the problem is that the new treatment (artesunate) costs up to three times more.

It’s frustrating, I know.

But, the one thing I’ve learned from being involved in the orphanage is that we can make a difference. By supporting charities that focus on malaria in Africa, you are helping to find a cure, test vaccines, ensure everyone has a bed net to sleep under and access to medications when they need it.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Helping our children succeed in school

During my recent trip to Uganda I learned that some of the orphanage’s older girls are struggling in school. Their grades are low and there is a real threat that at least one of them may not pass.

In Uganda, school is especially challenging because there are simply too many students and not enough teachers. I visited their school – dark classrooms with concrete walls and rows of tables to accommodate up to 100 students for every class with one teacher. There are no opportunities for extra help from the teacher or tutoring.

We want all of the children at the orphanage to do as well as they can in school. And so, our team has created a special program to have one of the older children, Veronica, tutor the others.

Veronica has completed her final years of senior school and is applying to university, aiming for a fall acceptance. In the meantime, she is taking a computer class, as this will be critical for university. In the evenings, she will be tutoring the other students to help them pull up their grades. She plans to spend 1.5hours every evening with one student.

This tutoring program began April 1.

In return for her efforts, we will be paying Veronica a ‘salary’. I have spent considerable time talking to Veronica about her day-to-day expenses and we have agreed on a salary of $55/month. This will cover her transportation fees back and forth to school, toiletries, internet access and other personal items. She has also agreed to put $15 of that money aside every month to save for university.

I’m excited about this program because it’s a win-win for everyone involved. Veronica will have her first work experience, and learn to budget money for university. The girls who are struggling with their studies will, for the first time ever, have someone who can spend time with them and help them succeed.

Our funding is making all of this possible – we’re helping all of these children grow and do well in their studies.

Thank you, as always, for your continued support.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A letter from Ellen

*During my recent visit to Uganda, I was able to tell the older children that in Canada, we will be funding their education. They were excited and encouraged by the news - and each of them promised to work hard in school. In Uganda, internet is not common and, in fact, most children at the orphanage don't even know what email is. But, they do love to write letters. So, in a small attempt to connect all of you who have helped make the scholarship program possible to the children you are helping, I asked some of them to write letters that I could share with you. Here is one from 16-year-old, Ellen. That's her in the photo, wearing a fine African dress that was generously donated by Chrisa Hoicka.

To my friends in Canada,

It's me, Ellen, from NOTDEC Uganda. I am really happy for you people living in Canada because you have good, caring hearts for us children living at the Nzirambi Orphanage.

We are very happy that you have given a hand to support our education.

I want to tell you that we enjoyed our Christmas and New Year. Here in my country, Uganda, people burn old jerry cans, old motor tires and other useless things as a way of welcoming the New Year. I hope you enjoyed yours as ours.

As per now, me and my sisters, Patricia, Priscilla, Pelucy and Veronica are waiting our results, but Veronica is ahead of us, so she is waiting for her Senior 6 results that will determine her going to university. The rest of us are waiting for the Senior 4 results that will tell which school we are accepted to for Senior 5, which is an advanced level in Uganda.

I have written this letter with a lot of happiness. We have enjoyed our stay home with Karen, plus her aunt Lynn.

During Karen's stay, we have made some craft of making stars with different types of beads. We really loved that.

I love you all. From, Ellen Kabugho

**Just to update you, Ellen and the three other girls were accepted into their senior levels of school just this week. Our funding will be used to pay for their education. In 2 years, they will be eligible to apply for university.
***The beaded stars Ellen refers to will be used at Christmas to help raise funds.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sweet Jane

On my last night at the orphanage, I went to visit House Mother Jesca and the babies in House #5. To my surprise, when I walked in, one of the little girls – about 2.5 years old – was running around the house and then vaulting onto a mat laying on the floor. She’d roll over in giggles and then a second toddler, Aaron, would run and jump on top of her. The two would then scramble back onto their feet and repeat the routine, squealing with laughter.

I said this was a surprise because the little girl was Baby Jane. Truth is, in the days I was there, I didn’t see Jane so much as smile, let alone laugh or play. She observes the others with such a serious face – her eyebrows creased and lips pursed tightly together. Even last year, I remember that she was such a stoic baby.
She’s really quite sullen!
I even asked House Mother Jesca if the child every smiled. She told me: “She has her moments.” And, on my last night there, she was clearly having one of those moments.

It was a wonder to watch the change in her, if only for an evening.

Baby Jane was brought to the orphanage on Feb. 12, 2009 by a probation officer and her uncle. Her parents had died, and the uncle was trying to care for her, but did not have the means. The child was brought to the orphanage naked and starving. She was so frail, the House Mothers couldn’t exactly determine her age, but assumed she was about 15 months old at the time. She had four teeth and was not even crawling.

She’s so plump and healthy today that it’s impossible to imagine her in the skeletal state that she arrived in.
Baby Jane is a reminder of the scope of what the orphanage does. They accept children who have been abandoned or left behind. Some of their parents die from many of the causes that continue to plague much of the continent – AIDS, malaria, maternal mortality. Some parents are killed or injured in car accidents because the roads are just so unsafe.
Too many are there because their families couldn’t care for the children properly and the children are malnourished and ill. And there are even more sad cases of children who were simply abandoned on the streets or at garbage dumps by their families. These stories are indicative of just how desperate the plight of some families can be.
The women at the orphanage love the children as if they are their own, helping them to cope with the trauma they’ve experienced at such young ages. They are raised to think of their House Mothers and the other 85 children at the orphanage as their own mothers, brothers and sisters.
The orphanage gives hope to these children who otherwise may not have stood a chance at surviving. And now the kids aren’t only surviving – they are flourishing.
*Photo by Brian Pieters

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A day's work at the orphanage

On this latest trip to the orphanage, I brought with me my aunt, Lynn Hebner, and friend, Bernard Petersen.

From about 7 a.m., my aunt would go to the house where the 11 babies stay. She folded laundry, helped bathe and dress the babies. While there are several House Mothers in that house, my aunt was able to fill a gap because one of the House Mothers was away and another had a flu that was making the rounds with the children.

When the babies were ready for the morning, my aunt would head to the laundry basins out back. In fact, all three of us, found ourselves at various points scrubbing children’s clothes. Every day, this was my aunt’s routine and she was commended by so many people at the home. They told me she works so hard and because of her they were able to be more efficient in their chores.

Bernard spent a lot of his time teaching Veronica how to use a computer that had been donated to the home. She’s planning to take a computer course next month and so those introductory tutorials will surely give her a head start in the class. He also got her online and showed her how to set up an email account. I left her some pocket money so that when she is in town, she can use the internet cafĂ© and send us messages. She is a sponge for knowledge and was excited about learning, for the first time, about computers and the internet.

For me, I tried to spend as much time as possible with the students whom we will be sponsoring their education. I was able to interview each of them and learn more about their aspirations, families and likes/dislikes. For example, Veronica aspires to study overseas, Patricia is moved to tears when she talks about her mom who died of AIDS and Pelucy has a fun-loving spirit and especially loves listening to Top 40 music, such as Rhianna and Jay-Z.

I also brought a craft project for the girls, buying most of the materials from the community. We spent hours making beaded stars, which will be sold at Christmas for a fundraiser. It was amazing to watch their teamwork and creativity shine.

At the end of our stay, Auntie Milly, told me how encouraging it is to have visitors to the orphanage. It was also encouraging for us, and I think each of us came home resolved to continue supporting the orphanage in whatever way we can.

Volunteers are always welcome!

Friday, January 28, 2011

How much can change in a year?

When I first arrived to the orphanage just a few weeks ago, the first thing I noticed was how much their situation had changed. Last year in December, they had just recently moved into their new homes – there were four small houses with approximately 20 children per house. Today there are 5 houses and a sixth is being built. There are also more House Mothers, but there are also more children.

The water situation last year was dire. The children would go to the river in the morning and load jerry cans of water for the day. Now they have a truck outfitted with a device that pumps the water into a vat and hosed into a tank behind their home. From the tank, the water moves through hoses into each house. There is enough water for taps to run and toilets to flush, but the truck has to make four trips per day to keep up with the needs of the orphanage..

The children overall appear more healthy then they were a year ago, but still the babies have stubborn colds and fevers. They are so vulnerable, and four died this year due to illness. However, most are thriving.

One of the new babies is Brenda, two months old. She came when she was two weeks old and weighing just two pounds. Today, she is still so incredibly tiny – the size of an average newborn. Baby Charles is another new arrival. His parents died of AIDS and he is HIV positive. Another toddler, Samwel, arrived just two weeks before I got there. His parents had attempted to sell him to a witch doctor for sacrifice, but the doctor turned the child over to police. They are in jail and Samwel is now at the orphanage, likely to stay for many years to come.

One of the most obvious signs of change is children playing. When the children first moved into this home a little over a year ago, there was so much work to be done and little time for playing. Today, with so much progress having been made, the children are finished their chores by noon and playing in the afternoon. (Right now they are on school holidays.) The local Rotary Club donated a playground, and the kids flock to it. Sometimes the boys like to make their own “band,” marching up and down the walkway singing and drumming.

I have more blogs to post in the coming days! I had an incredible stay at the orphanage, and I am excited to share these updates with you.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

We did it!

Dear Friends:

We did it.

We set a goal to raise $10,000 in 2010 so that we could send the older boys and girls of the Nzirambi Orphans Talent Development Centre to school. We did it! Not only did we reach our goal, but we surpassed it.

Already, some of our funds have been used to enrol four youth - Patricia, Priscilla, Pelucy and Ellen- into their final years of high school. And, if her application is successful Veronica, one of the eldest children at the orphanage, will be attending university in the fall.

By paying for their education, we are helping to give these children a future with opportunities they never imagined.

We are also helping to relieve the overall stress of the orphanage – that means all other funds can go to provide 85 orphaned children with a sturdy roof over their head, a bed to sleep in, nutritious food and medicine when they need it. It means the newest arrivals – the tiny newborns who arrive, often abandoned by their families, will have a fighting chance to survive.

This year, our team – Monica Kahindo, Aynsley Morris, Cecile Peterkin and Tanya Elliott -- got to see so many of you rally behind this cause. You did what you could to support us. Some people used fitness classes to raise funds, others held garage sales. Others shared amazing hand-crafted work and many of you helped us sell Mother’s Day cards and bookmarks. Many more of you bought bookmarks and cards, and shared them with friends and family.

All of you have made a difference. Every single contribution mattered; you helped us develop the Nzirambi Orphans Fund and reach the goals set for our inaugural year.

Thank you for your support and encouragement, and for inspiring Monica and I to keep this fundraising going. It would be impossible for us to stop now; we’ve only just begun.

Please keep in touch with us. You can follow what’s happening on the blog or on Facebook at We’re really excited about some new events we’ll be having in 2011.

Karen Snider