FAYETTEVILLE, Arkansas — Global African Village (GAV) is a nonprofit with a dedication to reducing the severe hardship that impacts children, the elderly and the sick every day. GAV’s core goal is to support the Bagishu community of eastern Uganda via four key initiatives including education, health care, infrastructure enhancement and small-business development. GAV business costs are minimal because it has no paid personnel or office. Approximately 95% of the funding each year goes specifically to their humanitarian operations in Uganda.
Suffering in Uganda
Poverty in Uganda has resulted in unrelenting hardship. In Uganda, men have a life expectancy of 50 years, and women have a life expectancy of 52 years. Men have a literacy rate of 79.5%, while women have a rate of 60.4%.
The Bugisu reside in steep terrain on the tall Mount Elgon mountains. It is a vast and rich region ideal for cultivating a diverse group of crops. Arabica coffee is the most profitable product and the region also cultivates green bananas, beans, maize, cabbage and onions. The Bagishu people speak Lumasaba, commonly known as Lugisu. The community is around 30,000 people. The Bagishu people have an annual income of $40 with an average lifespan of 41 years.
The children struggle physically, psychologically and financially and many die early as a result of malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition. There are hardly any medical resources to help save their lives. Residents do not have transportation and roadways are often in bad condition and inaccessible. Approximately 45% of Bagishu are between 16 and 45 in age. Schooling is substandard for the Bagishu people with just 20% of students graduating from high school. With 67 deaths per 1,000 live births, the infant mortality rate is significant. Poverty in Uganda has rendered even the most basic necessities out of reach for the Bagishu people.
Global African Village Founders
Uganda native Sebastian Wanzama-Piro launched the GAV organization as president before moving to Canada. GAV co-founder Sharon Green stated in an interview with The Borgen Project that “for many years, he would travel from his home in Toronto, Canada, to Uganda and use some of his personal savings to help his people, the Bagishu tribe.”
Green has many positions within the group, including public relations director, corresponding secretary and newsletter editor. She became involved after offering to aid to Wanzama-Piro by organizing a nonprofit in Ontario.
She also stated that “our aim was to support Sebastian’s individual efforts in a more formal way, in order to raise more money and fund larger projects than he was able to do on his own. We named our small, all-volunteer nonprofit Global African Village.”
Education, health care, infrastructure enhancement and small-business growth are four focal categories of Global African Village. Its efforts in each area are to mitigate poverty.
As Green sees education as a key to alleviating poverty, she explained that “Before we formed Global African Village in 2007, Sebastian had turned his childhood home, a simple hut in rural Uganda, into a very modest childcare center, staffed by his sister and several volunteers.”
The Joseph Community School was named after Sebastian’s late father, Joseph Wanzama. The school now has around 300 students enrolled and has operated through a pure volunteer staff. Each year, instructors are given a small stipend in recognition for their devotion and diligent efforts.
Health Care and Infrastructure Improvements
Bagishu residents have limited access to health care. As a result, as one of its humanitarian operations in Uganda, every year, GAV invests some raised funds to purchase over-the-counter medicines for the Bagishu people, such as aspirin, ointments and bandages.
Infrastructure improvements have included initiatives including the construction of basic bridges for shorter resident commutes.
Green explained that “few Bagishu people have access to cars and there is no system of public transportation that reaches the villages where they reside.”
With no water available in communities, children must trek every day to fill canisters of water for their families and the children may miss school in the process. When feasible, infrastructure includes drilling wells to trap freshwater so that children do not have to travel as far every day for water and may alternatively attend classes.
A student club at Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, provided the organization a $1,000 grant for small business development several years back. The donation underwent proportionate distribution among five beneficiaries.
Green explained that one beneficiary “was a woman who wanted to raise a second cow, so she could eventually sell the meat and earn some money for her family.”
The Harry Rosinski Carpentry School
Recently, GAV acquired a donor who contributes money annually to educate Bagishu youth in carpentry. The Harry Rosinski Carpentry School emerged, named after the donor’s late brother. The successful initiative offers young people carpentry capabilities and equips students with a toolbox that can prepare them for their first job.
The Inception of a Fishpond for Protein
GAV has also had several successes since its inception including a fishpond, which has protected many of the Bagishu people. “We are especially proud of our fishpond. Many Bagishu people lack sufficient protein in their diets. There are no grocery stores in their rural areas – just simple local markets. However, not everyone has the money to buy meat at these markets, nor do they have money to buy and raise a cow or pig,” Green said.
Wanzama-Piro meets with village leaders annually to discuss dilemmas and recommend initiatives that will benefit the villages the most. The Village leaders required monetary support to purchase PVC pipe, wire fence and fish from a local hatchery for the fishpond. The locals excavated the fishpond by hand and hand-dug a new fish pond in 2022 with GAV assistance.
The Amazing Grace Campaign
The organization initiated the Amazing Grace Campaign as one of its humanitarian operations in Uganda, with the goal of raising enough funds to construct a basic medical outpost and send in traveling nurses regularly to give essential medical treatment to the destitute Bagishu people of rural Uganda. Regrettably, the effort has not progressed because there is an insufficient number of volunteers to market and execute the initiative.
The Bagishu people have found their pillar of hope through Global African Village’s humanitarian operations in Uganda. Poverty in Uganda is a tremendous obstacle to resolve and GAV provides the support required to keep fighting.
– Tiffany Lewallyn