Author Jackson Kaguri to speak at Avon library
August 22, 2010
You cannot do everything, but you can do one thing. “The Price of Stones” is the story of Jackson Kaguri’s one thing.
Kaguri built the Nyaka School in his home village for Ugandan AIDS orphans. OK, Kaguri didn’t build the whole school by himself. He made people in his village believe it was possible, and so it became a reality.
“Many people think the issues are so overwhelming that they cannot do anything about it,” Kaguri says.
He’s right. You cannot do everything; you can do one thing.
Jackson was four and a half years old when he started sneaking out of the house to follow his sisters 7-1/2 miles to school. The lessons took root.
In 2001 he left Uganda for New York City’s Columbia University and its visiting scholars program.
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But life and death would not wait.
When he returned for a visit with his wife Beronda, they saw thousands of children orphaned by AIDS and shunned by villagers who feared contamination.
About the time Kaguri was in Columbia, his brother died of AIDS, leaving behind three young children. His sister died a year later, 1997. She left a son.
Kaguri was suddenly responsible for raising and loving four children.
It’s all too common in Africa.
There are 1.7 million AIDS orphans just in Uganda. HIV/AIDS has devastated almost a third of Uganda’s adult population.
“Each time I pulled into the village, there were always thousands of AIDS orphans who did not have an uncle to help take care of them,” Kaguri says.
The children are left to aunts, uncles, grandparents – themselves.
Something has to change. Something is.
Kaguri and Beronda vowed that their one thing was to open the first tuition-free school for these orphans.
Their one thing led to thousands of other things, and soon tens of thousands of people were helping themselves by helping each other.
Villagers baked bricks and donated them to their school. Then they lay one brick on top of another until they’d built hope and a school.
The school became a reality one room at a time. They figured they could always make it bigger if they needed to. Turns out they soon did.
Nyaka School provides education, meals, healthcare and often homes to 407 students. In 2008, the Nyaka School’s first graduating class was 437 students. They all achieved a B+ or better in Uganda’s nationwide testing.
“In Uganda, many schools do not do what we do. They teach and go,” Kaguri says.
As part of the Nyaka school, they’ve created gravity-fed water systems to provide clean water for the school and the town. A Grannies program helps grandmothers left to raise their grandchildren. There’s a vocational training program and a farm to feed the schoolchildren and their sponsor families.
There’s now a second school, Kutamba, in a nearby district.
Kaguri raises money to sponsor graduates to attend expensive secondary schools in Uganda.
They’re building a library at the Nyaka school that will serve the area’s 330,000 residents.
The whole thing is solar powered.
Supporters in America, Canada and Uganda helped. So did Kaguri’s and Beronda’s religious conviction.
“The Price of Stones” tells this story, weaving together life-changing moments in Kaguri’s youth with the seemingly insurmountable challenges he and Beronda faced to build the school – getting school supplies to rural Uganda, the corruption of local officials …
The list is endless, and now so is the hope generated by their one thing.