Sir Winston Churchill dubbed Uganda the “Pearl of Africa” during a visit in 1907, and no name could be more fitting. The country boasts a luxurious mountainous landscape as well as Lake Victoria, the fabled source of the Nile. The tropical climate and lush rainforests paint a picture of paradise. To be sure, Uganda is one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
In stark contrast to its abundant natural beauty, Uganda harbors some ugly truths. It is here that the longest-running armed conflict in Africa has raged since 1987 and over half of the population lives below the international poverty line. Less than 65% of the rural population has access to an improved water source compared to the 95% in the US that does. The HIV rate is one of the highest in Africa and over 1 million Ugandan children are AIDS orphans. While a heartbreaking amount of suffering can be found here, there also resides an abundant amount of hope.
In January of 2001 the Kyengeza Catholic Parish was established in Mityana, Uganda in response to the needs of the citizens there. A California priest, Father David Costello, traveled to the fledgling parish to be of service to its members and was able to communicate to his colleagues back home all that that the parishioners went without. The decision of one such colleague to ask the local community to lend aid was a fateful one: he visited the classroom in which Steve Tomkovicz was teaching and proposed that the kids throw a fundraiser to provide water tanks. The fundraiser was held and, what’s more, WaterHope was born. (To read the story of our founding, visit our Foundation Page.)
To date, WaterHope has provided the Kyengeza Parish with over 30 water wells and collection systems and continues to be the primary financial supporter of clean water efforts in that region. The updates we receive from the ground in Uganda tell of the changes in health and quality of life due to the access of potable water. The Kyengeza Parish is the site of WaterHope’s largest investment, yet we are indebted to them: their appeal for aid is what gave impetus to our ongoing efforts. It was the voice of this Ugandan community that first told us of the water crisis, and it is through the lives of these people that we continue to have hope.