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November 16, 2011
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Work locally, love globally

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado - You help a guy who helps a guy, and pretty soon you've put five African AIDS orphans in school for a year.

That's networking, and there's so much more needed.

Jackson Kaguri is the guy. Emma Lathrop and Sydney Idzikowski are two young local women who helped him and then convinced others to help him, too.

They were Battle Mountain High School students when they jumped in.

Kaguri founded the Nyaka AIDS Orphans project in Uganda, helping give that country's 2.2 million AIDS orphans a chance at an education.

"It's another international cause our National Honor Society could be part of," Idzikowski said.

She graduated last year and is now at Warren Wilson College in North Carolina.

Lathrop heard Kaguri speak at the Vail library a year and a half ago and decided not just to talk about it but to be about it.

She and Idzikowski brought Kaguri to BMHS in April, with lots of help from National Honor Society members - which is good.

They got Kaguri in front of the Vail Rotary Club and the Boulder Kiwanis club, and the three events raised $2,500, enough to send five girls to high school for five years - which is better.

"Battle Mountain really got into it when he was here last spring. People wanted to help," Idzikowski said. "You can also go to Uganda to help at the school, and that helped generate some interest."

Emma and Sydney's original goal was to raise enough money to send two girls to school.

They're establishing a Vail Valley "Friends of Nyaka" group, one of several around the country, to raise money and awareness.

"It is good for others (especially young people) to see how one or two people can really change others' lives," said Sue Lathrop, Emma's mom.

The Nyaka schools educate girls, which goes a long way with Idzikowski.

"Educating women is one of the ways to change the face of humanity," she said. "If women are in school, they're getting better jobs, having smaller families and helping provide for them better and fewer people are living in poverty."

Lathrop is a senior at Battle Mountain. A family friend died from AIDS, and when she heard Kaguri speak at Battle Mountain, that was all it took.

She wanted to run off to Uganda and save the world or that part of it. Her mom suggested that while she could love globally, she and her friends should work locally.

"I decided to stay here and do something that would impact their lives," Emma said.

"We want to keep the support going from our community," Lathrop said.

Uganda is home to 2.2 million AIDS orphans, Jackson said.

"No one wakes them up. No one takes them to school. No one says, 'I love you,'" Kaguri said.

Jackson talks about Nyaka students doing homework by candlelight, about children doing chores such as raising goats, cattle and chickens - because their parents asked them to and need them to - that is, when they have parents.

Kaguri launched Nyaka School in 2003 and Kutamba School in 2007.

"We've helped hundreds, but there are millions more," he said.

They provide education for around 400 of Uganda's 2.2 million AIDS orphans.

He's tireless and gently relentless as he crisscrosses the country raising awareness and support.

The schools include school-based health care, anti-AIDS clubs and a solid education.

Education in places such as Uganda is rare, not required.

Students must buy their own uniforms, and they cannot wear anything else.

They have to pass tests to advance - scoring around 80 percent in both math and reading, Jackson said. So far, every Nyaka student has passed the national advancement exams.

Their parents must pay for them to go to school.

If any of these things don't happen, their education is over.

And no one loses a pencil.

A pencil costs 2 cents in Uganda, and students have to bring their own to school.

Students who show up without one are sent home.

But most don't go home because their families don't have 2 cents, and they can't attend school without one. So, for the lack of 2 cents for a pencil, their education is effectively over, Jackson said.

His family was just as impoverished. Jackson is one of five children, so his father broke one pencil into five pieces.

Jackson was 41⁄2 years old, watching his older brother and sisters leave for school each morning, wishing he could go, too. One day, he did, following them those 71⁄2 miles.

He stood outside the window, peeking in when the teacher wasn't looking. Suddenly, from behind him, he heard his father sharply call his name.

Jackson begged to go to school and his father finally relented but told him if he failed one test he'd have to quit. The Columbia University graduate never did.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.


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The VailDaily Updated Nov 16, 2011 05:17PM Published Nov 16, 2011 12:34AM Copyright 2011 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.