EAST LANSING, MI, July 07, 2012 /24-7PressRelease/ -- CNN Heroes are "Everyday People Changing the World," people who are making extraordinary contributions to those in need. Twesigye Jackson Kaguri has been named a 2012 CNN Hero for his tireless efforts to bring education to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
Kaguri, Founder and Executive Director of The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project (NAOP), started the organization in 2001 in response to the AIDS pandemic in Africa. NAOP, which operates two primary schools in Uganda, is working to end systemic deprivation, poverty, and hunger through a holistic approach to community development, education, and health care. HIV/AIDS has affected one third of the adult population in Uganda; almost two million children have been orphaned, including nieces and nephews of Kaguri.
"The children and grandmothers we serve are the true heroes of Nyaka. Having lost their own children to HIV/AIDS, these elderly women are now raising their grandchildren without any type of child welfare or social security," explains Kaguri. "From day one we realized that without food, clean water, a safe home, and other basic human rights our students could not excel. Building classroom walls wasn't enough. Our holistic approach to breaking the chains of systemic poverty is working. Our students, 96% of whom are double orphans, are graduating at the very highest achievement levels."
Kaguri was born and raised in the remote village of Nyakagyezi. At a very young age, he demonstrated an unquenchable desire to learn, which led him to graduate from Makerere University in Kampala. During this time, he co-founded a human rights organization. In the 1990s, Kaguri was a visiting scholar at Columbia University, where he studied Human Rights Advocacy. Over the years, he has been involved extensively in international community efforts. Since founding NAOP, Kaguri has also become an author. In "A School for My Village," he shares the story of how he came to build Nyaka Primary School. Kaguri has been named a Heifer International Hero, recognized in Time Magazine's 'Power of One' Series, and has addressed the United Nations about his work.
A unique aspect of NAOP is the schools charge no tuition or fees. Children are guaranteed an education through high school from the moment they are enrolled. NAOP is educating 584 children this year, including 60 preschool-aged children. NAOP is also paying for 97 graduates to attend secondary school. NAOP provides two meals daily, uniforms, books, medical care, and supplies to the students.
As a part of the holistic approach to combating pervasive hunger and poverty, NAOP serves 6,500 grandmothers through 91 support groups. Having tragically lost their own children to AIDS, they are now raising their orphaned grandchildren -- 34,525 to date in the area served by NAOP-- without social security, child welfare, or basic housing. Nyaka supports these unsung heroes by training them in practical life skills such as parenting, grief management, gardening, and business development. In addition, NAOP has provided the most destitute grandmothers with over 150 well-built homes, kitchens, and pit latrines, as well as a microfinance program where their hand-crafted goods, such as baskets and jewelry, are sold in the United States.
"Before the new house, whenever it rained we would have to gather our bedding into one corner. I didn't have any income to help thatch my old house. I am old and weak and don't have the strength to work in neighbors' gardens for money," explains grandmother Nzera. "Despite these odds, my grandson Emmy is number one in his class. Without Nyaka I don't know what we would do."
To learn more please visit: http://www.nyakaschool.org
The Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project (NAOP) is working to free orphans from the cycle of poverty by providing a high-quality, free education, both formal and informal, to children who have been orphaned due to HIV/AIDS in order to counteract pervasive hunger, poverty, and systemic deprivation.
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