Improving the lives of vulnerable children
VCAYA is a registered non-profit organization focusing on improving the lives of vulnerable children throughout the world. Vulnerable children, in this context, are defined as:
1) children whose ability status is atypical
(sensory impairments, behavioral
disorders, intellectual and/or physical
2) youth whose support system is
3) those who have experienced trauma.
Therefore our efforts focus on:
1) training teachers to accept all children in their
2) improve access to education for vulnerable
3) offering support to parents of children with
4) developing curriculum that are functional and
supportive of all children regardless of ability.
VCAYA embraces a philosophy of cooperation and collaboration. We partner with individuals and organizations who share a common vision or purpose to improve the lives of vulnerable children. We recognize that these organizations who provide services around the world have more experience and are more knowledgeable in areas that impact our work. For this reason, we look for partners and invite ideas of collaboration.
October 2012 - Pauline Greenlick and Lou Piccard introduce Victoria Nalongo Namusisi to Susan O'Rourke during a visit to Pittsburgh. She explains the need for teacher training in special needs education.
June 2013 – Susan O'Rourke and Mary Burke travel to Uganda to determine methods for developing understanding of educating children with disabilities.
January 2014– Susan O'Rourke, Mary Burke and 3 doctoral candidates provided professional development sessions for teachers and caregivers working with children with disabilities. Additional assessments were conducted to identify needs within various communities.
June/July 2014 – A team of 7 professionals designed and implemented a variety of professional development sessions for teachers and caregivers, engaged children in an inclusive Arts Day which included painting murals, learning magic tricks, face painting and puppetry, visited several schools and entertaining students with Arts activities, helped to build the foundation for an inclusive school in the rural village of Opucet and adapted keyboards at the St. Francis School for the Blind.
September 2014 - VCAYA is incorporated in Pennsylvania by the founding members; Sean O'Rourke, Kevin Spencer and Susan O'Rourke.
October 2014 - The Penn Hills Rotary under the leadership of Betty Wade and Howard Davidson commit to raising funds to bring clean water to Opucet so that the school can receive government accrceditdation.
December 2014 - VCAYA delivers the funds raised by the Penn Hills Rotary and observes the drilling of a deep, clean water well in the village of Opucet. Susan O'Rourke and Mary Burke provided training to SOS Villages and engaged children at the Bright Kids Children Home in holiday activities. Susan delivers the garden curriculum created by graduate students at Carlow University along with some educational materials needed to implement the newly designed lessons.
June/July 2015 - VCAYA together with Michele Upval, Nursing faculty at Central Florida University and Beth Sinteff, SLT & Carlow University faculty assess the healthcare needs of the children of the ACD and Bright Kids Children's Home, conduct clinics and training for parents, develop a plan for completing SMILE in Opucet, pre-service teacher training at Kisubi Brothers University College, adapt keyboards at the St. Francis School for the Blind, conduct assessment of Gardening Curriculum Pilot Program, distribute Garden Curriculum to schools, plant orange trees, develop a plan for clean water to a community garden outside of Bukedea, meet with local officials and school administrators to listen to their concerns and needs for new curriculum in their schools, visit 9 schools and 3 orphanages.
July/August 2016 - VCAYA distributed more than 50 pairs of corrective lenses to children of the Batwa Tribe living in the Simuliki Forest & students at St. Francis School for the Blind in Soroti. The roof on Silver's Memorial Inclusive Learning & Education (SMILE) Center was completed. A clean water well was drilled for the village of Kodiata. We adapted computer keyboards for braille, assessed children and distributed communication books, adaptive feeding equipment and learning materials. We visited 11 schools and several agencies including Kisubi Brothers University to work on improving the lives of children with disabilities. We met with Rotarians, educators, government officials, parents and community organizers to determine needs in an effort to set goals for VCAYA's future.
February 2017 - VCAYA & Carlow University sign an MOU with United Methodist University in Monrovia, Liberia to develop plans for training teachers in special needs education.
March 2017 - VCAYA & Carlow University Study Abroad Program repair the wells in two schools in Nicarargua, provide educational lessons to children in rural schools and meet with parents and children with disabilities for the inaugural opening of the Roberto Clemente Clinic III in Nicaragua.
July/August 2017 - VCAYA leads a 12 person team to Uganda for three weeks to oversee the drilling of 3 wells in the Teso and Amuria regions of Uganda, assess needs for clean water in Matata, distributes over 200 pairs of glasses, builds 8 raised garden beds, purchases 7 sewing machines for in-home businesses for acid attack victims and mothers of children with disabilities, purchases school materials, mattresses and food for Bright Kids Uganda, visits 4 schools and organizes the signing of an MOU between Kisubi University and Carlow University to develop a graduate program in training teachers in special needs education.
March 2018 - VCAYA & Carlow University Study Abroad Program visit five schools in Nicarargua, provide educational lessons to children, & meet with parents and children with disabilities for the inaugural opening of the Roberto Clemente Clinic III. A Fides Grant provided funds to purchase a defibrillator for the clinic and we collaborated with Global Links to provide consumable medical equipment for the clinic.
July/August 2018 -Training of faculty at Kisubi University in preparation of their Special Education Teacher Prep program, eye glass distribution, drilling 2 wells - one successful and the other will be completed in 2019, visited schools and met with teachers to develop plans for the Watotos Got Talent competition to address GBV in rural regions of Uganda.
February 2019 - Received the President's Excellence in Research Award to support the Watotos Got Talent initiative!
March 2019 - VCAYA & Carlow University Study Abroad Program to Belize visit 2 schools with arts-based activities, feed 150 in Hope Haven soup kitchen in San Pedro, visit a local health clinic and clean up the environment to save the reef - an essential feature of their local economy.
April 2019 - Visit Saffire Kidz in Malaysia to help teachers develop their practices for working with children with special needs. Our ongoing work there will include specialized teacher and parent training in effective approaches for skill development of children who learn differently.
July 2019 - IASE conference in Tanzania, clean water well drilling in Osanyuk Village - part of the Matata community, Watotos Got Talent competition to combat gender-based violence, eye glass distribution, installing cement floors in SMILE, delivering over 50 gowns for the survivors of acid attacks' rental business, visiting schools and communities in rural Uganda.
May 2020 - Signed MOU with ProjectEDUCATE to collaborate on projects of shared interest including improving access to education, healthcare and basic needs. Projects diverted to virtual as a result of restrictions due to COVID-19.
Learn more about our current initiatives and projects
Founding members embrace a cooperative leadership model and value the input from the VCAYA Advisory Board of Directors
Vision: Vulnerable children and young adults have the supporting infrastructure in place to achieve their potential, including preventive measures to avoid additional compromise.