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Passport to Opportunity: Uganda

By Erin Doherty

“An opportunity can change a life forever. I’ve seen it happen countless times with my own eyes. Now I want you to see it too.”–Alice Lajwa, host of the Virtual Insight Trip to Uganda

On September 25, Opportunity International embarked on our second annual virtual Insight Trip—this time to Uganda. Our tour guide, Alice Lajwa, who works directly with those we serve, took us on a journey to better understand the challenges our neighbors around the world face and how we can help create opportunities for them to rise out of poverty.

An estimated 700 million people live in extreme poverty around the globe. Many go to sleep each night on empty stomachs and others may walk for hours to find clean water. We had been making progress on moving people out of extreme poverty until 2020, when the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic thrust 100 million people back into these conditions.

In Uganda alone, 41% of people live in poverty and almost half the population is under the age of 15. These are children, fighting every day just to survive.

Opportunity client and farmer Elijah (below), like any parent, works tirelessly to create a better life for his children.

But the challenges he battles are much greater. As a farmer in rural Uganda, he regularly faced droughts and small harvest, making it hard to sell enough maize to feed his family, let alone send his children to school. Determined to give them a good education, he even negotiated a deal with one of the school proprietors—crops in exchange for his daughter’s school fees. But this was not sustainable.

On the other side of Uganda, Damalie Ngobi (above) founded Hilton Junior School to provide affordable education and a better learning environment for students in her community. The school has faced significant challenges. First, they couldn’t expand to house and teach all the students in the community who so desperately wanted an education. Then, there was no clean water source nearby. Finally, the school closed for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Considering many students rely on the school for their one meal a day, or they go hungry, an experience no child should ever know.

One of the most powerful moments of the visit was hearing from two of them firsthand: Mwesigwa, who aspires to be a heart surgeon, and Isiko, who dreams of becoming a gynecologist to save the lives of mothers who too often die in childbirth.

Janet Najjuko’s (above) story highlighted what happens when youth finish their schooling but don’t have the training to get a satisfactory job. Janet couldn’t earn enough as a farmer to get by, and she couldn’t access formal banking services alone. She served as a treasurer for her local community’s savings group, which meant she was responsible for protecting their savings. She kept the cash in a box, which finally amounted to so much that she did not leave her house for two years because she feared the box would be stolen by thieves.

On this journey to Uganda, we witnessed how a single opportunity could change the entire trajectory of someone’s life, and the incredible ripple effect it can have on their families, communities, and future generations.

Tune in to learn how Opportunity helped Elijah, Damalie, and Janet transform their lives and futures.  And if you are inspired by this experience, we encourage you to share it with your friends and family.

"To whom much has been given, more is required," as the proverb goes. It is our responsibility to care for our neighbors in need, so if you were moved by what you saw and wish to make a gift to support Opportunity’s critical work, please visit opportunity.org/VITdonate to empower more.

To learn more about upcoming events, please visit opportunity.org/events or contact [email protected].

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