By Doris Christelis, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Over 6,900 miles away in Africa, an orphan boy in Uganda named Emmanuel (Emma) Kawuki thrives, thanks to his benefactors – children even younger than he who attend the Mill Pond School in Westborough. Thanks to this link between Mill Pond and the Connect-Africa Foundation, Emma not only has a bright future, but a host of young friends in the United States who eagerly await his email updates from Africa.
Emma, now 18, went to live with his grandmother and a handful of his cousins after his parents both died of AIDS in 2004. His grandmother had 14 children and five of them died of AIDS, leaving her to care for many grandchildren with little means to do so.? In 2005, Emma and four cousins started going to the village home of Lynn Auerbach's, co-founder of Connect-Africa, to read books, learn how to use the computer, and for the first time in their lives, have running water and electricity.
Shannon Barca, a sixth-grade teacher of the Fireflies Team at Mill Pond, heard of the Connect-Africa Foundation through Auerbach, who lives in Newton half the year.? Barca's team began sponsoring Emma and other children through Connect-Africa in 2008.
“Education in Uganda is not free and as students progress in school, it becomes more expensive,” Barca explained. “The funds raised by the sixth-grade Fireflies team at Mill Pond's Africa United Day go towards Emma's tuition, uniform, school supplies, and health care.”
Now a student at Kings College, the most prestigious secondary school in Uganda, Emma is able to attend the same school that three out of eight Ugandan presidents have attended because of Mill Pond's sponsorship. This boy who had nothing now dreams of becoming an engineer or doctor, a dream that is realistic given his access to education, and his determination.
Emma keeps in touch with the students at Mill Pond a few times a year via email. In his last email he proudly told them that he had taken his “O level” exams and had scored fifth out of 150 students, and on a more somber note, that many of his classmates, unlike him, could not continue their education further because they did not have the money.
“This year we raised over $2,000 to support Emma and others in Uganda,” Barca said. “We send monetary donations for Emma's needs – tuition, supplies, uniform and healthcare, as well as additional supplies that other students in the foundation may need such as black shoes, twin sheets, backpacks, calculators, clothes and more.”
“Emma and other Ugandans sponsored by Connect-Africa are very lucky to receive an education and help with the necessities of living in a country where the per capita income is less than $500 per year. What I can say is that he would never, never be where he is today if it wasn's for Mill Pond's sponsorship,” explained Auerbach, whose organization takes care of their students from nursery school through university. ???”Ugandans truly carry hope for a better life and sometimes, like in Emma's case, it really happens.”
Individuals or organizations wishing to explore sponsoring a child through Connect-Africa can visit the group's website at www.connect-africa.org.