School resumed in February 2023

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


​In July 2023 we will be completing the following projects:

Improvements in accessibility:

- construct eco-friendly latrines that are handicap accessible and sanitary

- install gutters and a holding tank for a water collection system


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 had to be met—the first of which was 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 and the roof was completed in 2016.

Primary schools in Uganda were closed for two years due to the global pandemic. SMILE reopened in February 2022 with an enrollment of 40 children, many have disabilities.

Thanks to Andy Wolfinger and all our supports who attended our Suds for Sanctuary evernt, during our December 2021 and July 2022 visits to the school we were able to oversee the completion of ramps for accessibility, the installation of windows and doors for security, the installation of solar panels and wiring for electricity and a hand washing station for hygiene. 

Our project goals for this year include new latrines for better sanitation and gutters and a holding tank for a water collection system.