Vsiting Uganda, Africa earlier this year fulfilled a lifelong dream for June Reimer, even as it revealed to her firsthand the hardships of life there.
She went in her role as a member of the New Hope Schools Society, a West Shore-based charity which finances a primary school in a small Ugandan village.
Reimer visited the school for three weeks with other society members. The group brought 12 suitcases full of donated items, including soccer balls, T-shirts, school supplies and hundreds of toothbrushes donated by Victoria-area dentists.
“Everyone was so grateful to us. A single mother with all these kids, and she would be on our doorstep the second morning, offering us this chicken because we bought a T-shirt for her 11-year-old son,” Reimer said. “She just had tears in her eyes and was so grateful.”
The trip was life changing in many ways.
On a Friday, one of the group noticed a little girl lying on a bench outside the school, looking quite ill. They discovered she had leukaemia and died on the Sunday. The family knew she had the disease, but could not afford medication or care.
“Her last day of life she was at our school. You continue life until you die and it was somewhere safe to be.”
The society was founded in 2003 to build the school and keep it running. It stemmed from a visit by local residents to Busabaga, Uganda, where they saw the lack of education.
Starting out as a one-room primary school, the school now has 10 rooms and 607 students. Tuition is free and the school provides one meal a day. Many of the children are HIV positive.
“That’s one of the reasons we’re here, because of the explosion, not only in popularity of the school, but success in how the kids are doing,” board member Jim Gauley said. “Kids walk for miles to go to that school, in the heat of the jungle.”
The school has now had two graduating classes. It is a Christian school but is open to students of all denominations.
Operating costs for the school for a year hover around $46,000, which includes a modest salary for the teachers, student meals and medical and school supplies. A few of the children pay a small fee, if their families can afford it. The school is also in need of a new kitchen and a new water tank, at an estimated cost of $3,500 and $4,500, respectively.
The main fundraiser is a gala dinner each October at Olympic View Golf Course, being held this year on Oct. 19. The society also works with businesses and agencies in the West Shore, such as West Shore Rotary and the City of Langford to raise funds and collect items for the project.
The next event for the society is the Charity Golf Tournament on July 6. The nine-hole tournament at Metchosin Golf Course and Country Club will include a dinner, prizes, silent auction and a hole-in-one contest.
Tickets are $40 for members and $50 for non-members. Pre-registration forms are available at the golf course or email Gauley at email@example.com. For more information on the society visit newhopeschools.com.