Making A Difference in Uganda

Linda Greenberg and the Students at American Heritage

MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN UGANDA

The statistics are alarming. Every 30 seconds in Uganda, a child dies from malaria, and several others die from drinking contaminated water. Many children don’t live beyond the age of 5.

Those who do escape disease often labor long hours in stone quarries for a pittance of $1.25 a day.

It’s an existence that most South Florida youth can’t begin to comprehend. But that hasn’t stopped students at American Heritage School of Boca/Delray from trying to ease the suffering of Ugandan children by providing the service they need most: a hospital.

The independent college preparatory school has embraced the nonprofit 4Uganda, founded by Linda Greenberg.

The Delray Beach resident first visited the landlocked country in central Africa five years ago, fulfilling a childhood dream tosee the silverback gorillas for which Dian Fossey lived and died.

While there, Greenberg developed a mother-son connection with a young boy; she listened daily to his stories and struggles.

“From my relationship with him, I saw the needs of other kids in Uganda,” she says.

A visit to the fishing village of Myende Landing, an island more than seven miles from the nearest health center, sealed Greenberg’s conviction. She returned home intent on raising funds for a hospital in the village that could service 90,000 patients.

But how? Greenberg decided to approach American Heritage-and with good; reason.The Ugandan cause was a perfect fit for the school,which prides itself on a four-pronged philanthropic approach (local,state, national and international).

Neil Rosen, adviser for the school’s Key Club and Honor Society,began to champion Uganda as the flagship international project for years to come, assembling steering committees of students and parents, each sharing equal fundraising weight.

Students from the lower school all the way to graduating seniors embraced the project selflessly. Johanna Sacks’ parents hosted a cocktail party to persuade potential donors. Students Max and Charlie Himmelrich raise funds through their grandfather’s nonprofit foundation. Blake Meredith launched a website (heritage 4uganda.com),using social media to attract other students and their Facebook friends to the organization.

“It’s had not only an emotional impact on the steering committee, but the student body as a whole,”says Jacob Bosses, president of the National Honor Society and a key member of the steering committee.”The students are enthusiastic about participating in this project, because they are able to directly communicate with who they’re helping.”

Jesse Aguilar is a fifth-grade student at American Heritage, and he speaks about the issue like a future philanthropist:

“We’re building a hospital there because they need more help than anybody;’ he says.

“I think it’s not fair that I can buy a TV right now, and they can’t buy a stuffed animal.”

‘The hard work already has paid dividends.

At press time, American Heritage had raised $18,000 for the hospital. Because original plans for the building size have expanded from one school block to three, the overall fundraising goal has been raised to $280,000.

However, the project isn’t just about delivering an initial influx of funds. Just ask science students at the school, who are working on a when U want to know filtration system for the hospital.

Some of the students hope to visit Uganda for the first time in 20l3-the summer of the expected opening of the Myende Landing Koome Island Medical Clinic.

“These kids are an inspiration,” Greenberg says. “Here are young [people who 1 have seen within themselves the power to help other people that have so very little.

Other kids need to see what the power of the young teenagers and younger kids can do if they just get out there and give back.”

“It doesn’t stop when we build three school blocks or the filtration system,” Bosses says. “If we continue to work as hard as we do, younger kids that come up through the grades are going to take over the project and build a lasting relationship with this community.”

John Thomason

How to Help

Visit4Uganda.org to make a donation of any amount; you can designate the funds to go directly to the hospital or to keeping 4Uganda running.
You also can support the organization’s efforts by purchasing locally made gorilla T-shirts, stone quarry bags and paper bead jewelry for $lOto $45 on the website.

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