Ugandan education non-profit event to be held on campus

Alessia Girardin

Father Julius had a dream. Although he was raised in a small village in Uganda that had dirt paths for roads, no electricity, and no water, he dreamed of one day helping today’s children in Uganda. He dreamed of building a school that would help Ugandans break the cycle of generational poverty.  Turyatoranwa’s story has inspired an on-campus event at IWU to raise awareness among Titans. 

An info-session for Building Hope in Kids— Uganda (BHIK-U) will be held at Illinois Wesleyan from 6-7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 1 in State Farm Hall, Room 102. Faculty, staff, students, and non-IWU students are invited to attend. Pizza and soda will be served at no cost, and attendees also will be given the opportunity to write letters to current students at St. Patrick Nursery and Primary School in Uganda.

Turyatoranwa’s dream began to take shape after he earned a doctorate from Illinois State University and found broad community support for his project through the nonprofit Building Hope in Kids—Uganda (BHIK-U). The final product was St. Patrick Nursery and Primary School— Day and Boarding in Isingiro District. 

  All along, St. Patrick’ s founder Father Julius Turyatoranwa was driven by his humble beginnings in Uganda, where he walked everywhere, barefoot. 

Turyatoranwa was 13 years old the first time he saw a light bulb and didn’t wear shoes until he reached high school. According to Turyatoranwa, he  had to walk around the village carrying a mattress and belongings over his shoulders every day because the walk home took six hours.

Turyatoranwa’s dream has been to give back, to enable Ugandan children of similar backgrounds to become inventors and innovators by providing them a quality education.

As an educational administration doctoral student at Illinois State University, he worked on obtaining land to be the site of a premier boarding school in Uganda.  The school site (6.2 acres) is located in the Isingiro District, six miles outside of the city of Mbarara. 

Construction began in late 2017 with the school site being cleared. It is dedicated to building and supporting St. Patrick Nursery Primary School— Day Boarding in Uganda.

The school was hoping for 200 students the first year and opened in February 2019 with 318 students. At the beginning of 2020, 528 students were enrolled. 150 of the 273 boarding students are sponsored by people throughout the U.S.

According to board president John Grillot, Turyatoranwa’s enthusiasm for the project is contagious.

Grillot met in 2014 and went on a trip to Uganda with him to dedicate this church for his home village in 2015. They spent two weeks together, day and night, and they bonded over their shared passion for the project.

“As the school developed, I became a strong confidant,” Grillot said. 

 Grillot said that what makes St. Patrick Nursery and Primary School— Day and Boarding different from other private schools in Uganda is that the school’s mission is giving children hope for better lives. 

The funds had to be sufficient enough so that water could be halled, firewood could be cut, and harvesting could be done. Students had to be able to work from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. without worrying about the lack of resources. 

Although resources remain a challenge, it helps a great deal that the school provides

clothing, food, beds, a roof over their heads, water, and electricity. The students are sent away

from their families for three months at a time to attend this boarding school, which is designed so that teachers and students could live in the same proximity. 

Letter writing to Ugandan students from St. Patrick’s will be available at the IWU event to allow college students and other attendees to offer some words of encouragement.  

The organization hopes that students can tailor their letters to the value of receiving an education. At the event, people can expect to learn about present day Uganda, and more about Building Hopein Kids— Uganda and the board members involved. 

“We are happy to be able to tell our story, if more people hear our story and understand all the great things that are happening the more they will be able to participate down the road or spread the word,” said Grillot.