Building an inclusive school in the bush of Uganda was a challenge and a learning experience for all of us. We believe that SMILE may be the first school built from funds raised through a series of Bar Crawls and other community events. We could not have completed the school without the support of the Penn Hills Rotary and the work of Betty Wade and Howard Davidson who wrote the grant requests to receive matching funds from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Rotary and who held multiple fundraising events. Students in Penn Hills High School (popcorn sale) and at Carlow University (magic night) also contributed to this project. The people of Opucet are grateful to our family and friends who made it possible to build the first inclusive school in the Teso Region where all children - regardless of ability status - are welcome to come and learn.
The slides below document the progress of building the school. These were taken over 2 years beginning on July 1, 2014 and completed in the fall of 2016.
For more information on how VCAYA worked with the Rotary to bring clean water to the school CLICK HERE
Silver Memorial Inclusive Education Learning Center
Improving the lives of vulnerable children
PHOTO by Maranie Rae: Silver Francis Oonyu
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The school would benefit from the installation of cement floors. Silver and Judith developed a plan that includes parents and community volunteers to help with the preparation for the floors. We are hoping to raise funds for the materials including gravel, sand, cement and masons to oversee the work.
Silver Oonyu contracted measles as a young child resulting in the loss of most of his vision. He persevered through challenges including a raid on his village by Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – surviving only because he was unable to see clearly enough to run with other villagers who were all murdered.
Silver earned a scholarship to study at the University of Pittsburgh earning a Masters in Special Education. His dream was to return to his village and open an inclusive school where all children, regardless of abilities could learn together.
VCAYA held a fundraiser in June 2014 to help supply materials to build the school—the first building in a community resource center that will include dormitories, housing for teachers and a health center. In order for the school to be recognized by the Uganda government, certain regulations must be met—the first of which is access to clean water. The Penn Hills Rotary together with a grant from the Southwestern PA Rotary raised the funds needed for a well which was installed in December 2014.
Over 200 students are currently enrolled in the school even though the building still needs some additions such as blackboards and a veranda to keep the children dry during the rainy season.