ST. PAUL, Minnesota — More than 2.4 million children in Uganda are orphans as a result of extreme poverty, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and years of conflict within the nation, according to the Masaka Kids Africana website. In fact, according to the World Bank, more than 20% of Ugandans lived under the national poverty line in 2019. As such, Masaka Kids Africana commits to assisting and empowering impoverished children in Uganda by providing “safe shelter, food, clothing, education and medical care.” With a special focus on education, the organization utilizes “dance and song” to empower children.
History and Mission
In an interview with The Borgen Project, Suuna Hassan, the founder and CEO of Masaka Kids Africana, explains that the nonprofit is “a community-based organization” supporting Ugandan children, many of whom have “lost one or both parents through the devastation of war and famine.”
“We named it Masaka Kids Africana because it is the village where we grew up. We want to inspire as many young generations as possible and teach them to be proud of their origins,” Hassan told The Borgen Project.
Masaka Kids Africana provides resources and services to meet the children’s foundational needs. The children within the organization’s care are aged two and older and have usually endured trauma, poverty and hardship. The organization provides the support these children need to secure a brighter future.
Hassan expressed that he himself grew up as a “street kid,” and can, therefore, relate to the experiences of other disadvantaged children. From his personal experience, he drew inspiration to create Masaka Kids Africana to uplift and empower children in Uganda.
The organization’s website states that its mission is to “rescue and save children in Uganda who are starving or in need” with the aim of providing “a loving and safe environment where they can grow physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”
In Africa, dance and song are forms of communication and form part of key celebrations and ceremonies. The African drum, also referred to fondly as the “heart of the community,” is the most crucial instrument as it “reflects people’s moods and emotions.” The children of Masaka Kids Africana dance to songs with lyrics that tell the story of “their lives, where they have come from and where they are now,” Hassan says.
Children in Masaka Kids express their emotions through original songs that the team in the organization chooses for them to sing and dance to. The children touch the audience with their contagious smiles and vibrant dance moves, and with every performance, the children receive a standing ovation.
The Short and Long-term Impact
Masaka Kids Africana cares for more than 25 children within the organization but also provides aid to children around and outside of the village. This aid takes the form of “food, school fees, clothes and other school materials,” Hassan says.
One of the organization’s long-term goals is to own a large home and help a greater number of children. Masaka is a family structure that believes that when orphaned, mistreated children are placed in a loving environment, they will flourish and eventually be able to give back to their community and the world at large. Education is critical to Masaka Kids Africana and the organization hopes that in the future education becomes something that every child can receive regardless of their location and background.
Empowering Children to Help Others
The organization hopes that the support children receive will one day inspire them to extend the same kind of support to others and empower the children to take up positions of leadership in their communities, as Hassan has done. Through education, children can rise out of poverty and help Uganda as a whole to thrive economically.
With a religious foundation, the organization aims to instill faith in the children that can serve as a source of hope for the future. The children themselves engage in humanitarian work, for instance, going out and helping the homeless.
The nonprofit relies on donations and the work of volunteers to support children in Uganda. People can donate to pay for school fees and food and support children with other basic needs like medical care and clothing. What makes Masaka Kids Africana stands out is its use of dance and song as a means of empowerment. The organization also puts in place vocational activities so that children can learn valuable, income-generating skills that will help them to one day secure jobs and start small businesses.
Masaka Kids Africana hopes to continue impacting these children’s lives by supporting them and helping them overcome their struggles. By providing for their basic needs, giving them access to education and uplifting them through dance and song, Masaka Kids Africana hopes to help Ugandan children break the cycle of poverty.
– Alexis King