A word from our Founder...
Welcome! Thank you so much for visiting the site and wanting to learn about this very special project!!! Building this school for the children of Uganda is my dream! I know with the help of kind people out there, it will happen!
I believe it is our duty as human beings to help one another, give without wanting or expecting anything in return, to share what we have and do our part to make this world a better place.
For me, I had always been drawn to Uganda. And when things aligned and I had the opportunity to travel out to Uganda in 2012, I jumped at the chance. I am so thankful that I followed my heart. That decision right there changed my life forever. From the very first moment I stepped off the plane, I felt deep within my soul that I was exactly where I was meant to be.
I fell in love with Uganda. It is one of the most beautiful places on earth! The stunning landscape, incredible wildlife, vibrant colors, exciting energy, beautiful culture, and most of all, the AMAZING people just blew me away. Ugandans are so kind, warm and generous. So polite and hard working. I immediately felt welcomed and at home. Right away I felt such an intense connection to the people, and just fell in love with the children. LOVE! There is
something so special about Ugandan children, anyone who has traveled there will tell you the same. They are so sweet, friendly and loving, and despite most of their circumstances being very difficult, they are so happy and grateful for the most simple things. Something about them reaches in and grabs you by the heart, and never lets go.
After my first trip, I began traveling back and forth helping families however I could - with living expenses, medical care, and helping to put some children through school. I'm certainly not rich, but I gladly picked up extra work and made sacrifices in order to send money over and to continue helping. I saw how much the majority of people struggled, and just wanted to do whatever I could to make life better for them. Seeing the impact I was making felt good. Often when you donate to a charity, you wonder where your money goes. In many cases, it goes back into the organization itself and just a small amount actually goes to THE PEOPLE they claim to help. I really enjoyed being on the ground, putting in the effort, and getting to know personally the people I was helping. I desired to do more, and soon after I developed my program "Filmanthropy" which introduced acting, creative writing and filmmaking to children of Uganda. I began taking trips to run the program with my wonderful friend Mike DiGiacinto, and it truly transformed not only the lives of our students, but both of ours. The incredible children we worked with changed our lives forever, in the most beautiful way. They have touched my heart profoundly, and everything I do for them fills it with love and inexplicable joy. I honestly look at life so differently because of them. They have given my life new meaning, and because of them, I have found my purpose.
I grew so attached to my students, that I couldn't bear to live my life without them. I made the decision to move to Uganda and work as a full-time volunteer teacher in 2016. And it has been the most amazing, rewarding experience of my life. I love my students more than anything! We have grown so, so close. We do everything together - learn, cook, dance, sing, play games, sports, laugh, watch films... laugh some more. We have become family. Many of my students call me "Mum". And I feel so humbled by the love and gratitude they have given me in return. Sometimes I just sit back and marvel over how incredible they are. To give some insight into their character; the kids went home for school break back in April, and when they returned, some had brought gifts for me. One young boy presented me with a beaded bracelet with my name inscribed, which he had spent his OWN money on. Another presented me with a beautiful floor mat which her mum had crafted to thank me for helping her child... I was just blown away by these heartfelt gestures. The generosity. The thoughtfulness. I was not there to seek anything in return, and they have so little... yet they spent what little they had on ME!? That kind of beautiful example of humanity and selflessness truly touches my heart, and even reflecting on it now brings tears to my eyes.
My students are all so bright, so special, so full of potential. Each and every one of them has the capacity to do amazing things. I can see that in all Ugandan children. There is just a lack of opportunity. So many children cannot afford to go to school. Their potential is hindered before they even get a chance to explore it. I want to see them educated, thriving, reaching for their dreams, and creating better lives for themselves and their families. I don't want them limited by their circumstances. I believe we can change that.
I want to be able to help create a better life and brighter future for every Ugandan child, because they truly deserve it. And through my experience working on the ground here, I can see that by far the most powerful way to do that, is to provide children with an education.
Living with my students every single day, and accompanying some to their villages to spend time with their families , I've seen firsthand the struggles they go through, and the problems their families face on a daily basis. I was helping one of my classes write personal essays and asked them to write about a challenge they've had to overcome, or a significant moment/event in their life that has shaped who they are. I knew they had all suffered to varying degrees, having experienced different traumas, losses and hurdles. But what blew me away, was that every single child wrote about a time when they were forced to drop out of school because their families couldn't afford the fees.
EVERY. SINGLE. ONE.
Though the stories varied, at one point every one of them went through a difficult time which prevented them from going to school - whether it was a parent losing their job, having an illness, passing away, or the child themselves being forced to work in order to help their family survive, or at the tender age of 10, 11, 12 years old being the sole provider for their family, they all had experienced it. The stories were all different, but heartbreaking just the same. I knew they all knew struggle, but some of the stories really floored me. Almost any child you encounter in Uganda, with the exception of those from very wealthy families, has gone through the struggle of being "chased from school" as they call it (being sent away until they can return with the fees necessary). Children here don't beg for clothes or toys, the thing they will tell you that they want is an education. They understand the importance of having one. And unfortunately, there are many children all over Uganda that are sitting home RIGHT NOW, praying for the chance to go to school. And in 2019, I think that is unacceptable! With all of the strides and progress we've made as human beings, the fact that there are children sitting home unable to afford an education is a tragedy. I don't believe an education is a luxury, it is a basic human right!
Many people have asked me, "Why Uganda? Why not help children home who need it?" Yes, there are absolutely people struggling with poverty and a multitude of other problems in the U.S., but if you have traveled to a developing country, you know the problems there are very different, and often extremely dire. Luckily, in the U.S., there are many wonderful programs in place to help people in need. It's not nearly as common to find a twelve year old not in school, or a family that has no access to clean water (minus Flint, don't get me started!) or medical care. There are problems everywhere in the world, but there are places like Uganda where there are even fewer solutions, programs in place or people on the ground putting in the work every day to make those changes. I am willing to do that. I WANT to do that. I LOVE it. It is my passion and what I am committed to giving my life to. I believe as human beings we need to have a global mentality. We must see beyond our own problems, our own countries... we shouldn't say "Why worry about that place, I don't live there.", because a problem or injustice for a child living across the globe, should be considered a problem for mankind. We should want this world to be a better place for ALL, not just our own communities or the people we personally know. And we have the power to do something about it! We have the power to make this a better world for all of us!
In Uganda, children often drop out of school, or never even begin, due to their families not being able to afford school fees. The average Ugandan HOUSEHOLD makes $33 a WEEK. Most people who live in Kampala (the Capital), and other cities make up that number, but those who live in villages, usually make significantly less. With the average number of children per family being 5-6, this makes life extremely difficult for most. It is a constant struggle to provide the necessities: food, shelter and medical care. In the villages, life is all the more difficult, where some walk miles a day just to fetch clean water. Education is something that in the U.S. we often take for granted, but unfortunately, in Uganda, almost all schools charge fees, and more often than not, those fees far exceed a family's spending ability. And so, you find many children simply unable to attend. Often times, families try their best to send their children, but just cannot make ends meet and the children are forced to drop out, or begin working themselves at such young ages in order to save up money to hopefully continue their education one day. Many are trapped in this existence trying to help their families with necessities, and never end up returning.
The children that are fortunate enough to go to school often experience harsh conditions. The education system is not monitored as strictly as in the U.S., and many schools have poor, unsanitary facilities, overcrowded classrooms, and teachers that are often not qualified. And still, they are charged fees which their families can barely afford in order to enroll at such institutions. The common practice in these schools is for children to be lectured to and often discouraged from raising their hands, speaking up, or having an active role in their own education. The practice of caning (striking the child for disobedience) is also common. Because of this, many children are emotionally beaten down, lack self-confidence and lose interest in their education. We can do better! They deserve better!
This is our chance to make a REAL DIFFERENCE for these deserving children! I believe that giving children the opportunity to receive an education is the most powerful way to positively impact not only their lives, but the lives of their families and communities. Children in Uganda are just incredible. So eager, full of potential and so grateful for even the smallest things most of us would take for granted. They understand the value of opportunities and make the most of them. They deserve better, and I am going to build this school and be there every step of the way to ensure it runs exactly how I envision it! I want to give these children more than just a regular school, I want to give them a first-rate FREE education, a clean, safe place to live, healthy food on their plates, access to the arts and sports, opportunities to find their passions, and most importantly, a loving and supportive community. I want to give these children and their families peace of mind that they will never have to worry about school fees again!
I believe this school can change the lives of its students forever and be an integral stepping stone for a better future for thousands of children. Students will be empowered, uplifted, respected, encouraged and be given all the necessary tools and support they need to succeed in life. C.R.E.A.T.E. ACADEMY will be a non-profit institution, where students will never worry of being exploited, charged tuition fees or putting a parent in a position to have to choose between their next meal/seeking medical attention and their child going to school. This innovative and sustainable school will be the first of it's kind for underprivileged children in Uganda, offering the kind of progressive education that few children in the country would ever gain access to. They will not be seen as a number or a name, but as human beings. We will educate, foster creativity, equip them with the tools necessary to progress in life, address their specific needs and help them to find their passions. C.R.E.A.T.E. will be instrumental in giving the children of Uganda the opportunity to achieve their dreams and a better life for all.
I hope you will join us in making it happen!!!
Jennifer Kirabo, Founder