The Nyaka School
Jackson Kaguri was chosen as a CNN Hero for 2012. Even though he did not make the Top 10 category we still choose to highlight the wonderful work he is doing in Uganda. The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project is working on behalf of HIV/AIDS orphans in rural Uganda to end systemic deprivation, poverty and hunger through a holistic approach to community development, education, and healthcare.
In 1996, Twesigye “Jackson” Kaguri’s life took an unexpected turn. He was living the American dream. He had an excellent education and was ready to explore opportunities, travel, and have fun. Then Jackson came face-to-face with Uganda’s HIV/AIDS pandemic. His brother died of HIV/AIDS, leaving him to care for his three children. One year later, his sister died of HIV/AIDS, also leaving behind a son. It was through his own personal experience this native Ugandan saw the plight of orphans in his village of Nyakagyezi. He knew he had to act. He took the $5,000 he had saved for a down payment on his own home and built the first Nyaka School.
The HIV/AIDS Pandemic in Uganda
- Over 2.2 million children have lost one or both parents.
- Extended families and orphanages face enormous obstacles in attempting to care for these children.
- Orphans and vulnerable children go without many basic human needs: food, shelter, clothing, health care, and education.
- Orphans are often forced to be responsible for income generation, food production, and the care of sick parents and/or siblings.
- They may be the first to be denied education when extended families cannot afford to educate all the children of the household.
Operating Philosophy and Guiding Principles
- We believe we are all one human family created by God, born equally, and have a duty to help one another.
- We believe all people have the right to education, food, shelter, basic health care, respect and love.
- We believe all people have a right to a voice that is heard and respected.
- We believe a high-quality education is the key to empowering people to transform their lives.
- We believe that sustainable, ethical, community-based solutions are the best way to address needs in rural Uganda.
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri was born and raised in Uganda in the small village of Nyakagyezi. At a very young age he demonstrated an unquenchable desire to learn, which led him to study at and graduate from Makerere University in Kampala. During this time he co-founded the human rights organization, Human Rights Concerns, to help victims of human rights violations in Uganda and to educate the public about their rights. In the 90s he became a visiting scholar at Columbia
University where he studied Human Rights Advocacy. Over the years he has been involved extensively in international community efforts as a human rights advocate, fundraiser, and inspirational speaker.
In 2001, Kaguri founded The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project in response to the devastating effects of AIDS in his hometown. The organization, which recently celebrated its tenth anniversary, provides free education to children who have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS. In addition to two schools, it also operates a library, desire farm and nutrition program, medical clinic, clean water system, and a support program for the grandmothers who care for up to 14 children at a time.
Since founding the project, Kaguri has also become an author. In “A School for My Village” he shares how he came to build the first school and the struggles he faced during the first few years. In 2010, he resigned as Interim Senior Director of Development in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at Michigan State University to focus full-time on The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. Kaguri has been named a Heifer International Hero, recognized in Time Magazine’s ‘Power of One’ Series, and spoken to the UN about his work. When not visiting the schools in Uganda or working at his office in Okemos, MI, Kaguri travels the country to speak with students and supporters about the organization.
Courtesy of nyakaschool.org