This week at The Mary Theotokos Spirituality Center we were very pleased to have a Priest come to stay with us for a week. Father Charles Kawesi took a much needed rest from his whirlwind tour of the east coast working for his mission, Uganda Spirit.
His wonderful sense of humor and contagious smile brought a lot of joy to the center this week. His story and the story of his work in Uganda are even more inspirational.
Father Charles Kawesi is a Roman Catholic priest from Uganda who served as parish administrator of St. Gerard’s Catholic Church, a small rural parish community in Aiken, South Carolina from September 2005 to May 2008. Small in stature, soft-spoken and unassuming by nature, looking more youthful than his years, Father Charles nevertheless quickly reinvigorated the small, diverse parish community. He is an articulate and thoughtful speaker – in every sense of the word, and on every occasion, he is a teacher.
In time, parishioners got to know this quiet man, learning about his home country of Uganda and of his dedicated life of service there. The parishioners of St. Gerard’s learned first-hand of the horrendous combined consequences in Uganda of the 1990’s genocide in neighboring Rwanda, of near-constant warfare in the northern parts of Uganda, of the AIDs epidemic, and of a political and economic infrastructure that has been chronically unable to care for the victims of these horrific events. He spent the first 23 years of his priesthood serving various parish communities - including extremely poor ones - in the Diocese of Kampala, Uganda, where he is responsible for over 50,000 parishioners.
Father Charles lives a life of service to others. He has been actively involved in setting up numerous projects and programs to help primarily women and orphans in Uganda. He has personally taken responsibility for more than 50 orphans (some are now adults, many still under his care.) of his own and continues to add to the number as the need arises. In each case he finds someone willing to take in the child and then he helps to provide for their food, clothing and education often using his own limited means.
Moreover, Father Charles was a leader in the formation and operation of a group in Uganda called Kizito Lifeline Foundation, Ugandans who work together in many ways to help those in need. Kizito Lifeline – now called Uganda Spirit (Uganda) --provides a wealth of services, including career training in food services, electronics, carpentry, agriculture and others – all ways for Ugandans to help themselves.
This mission is truly inspirational. It shows real people, meeting real needs under trying circumstances – and providing services that are truly essential in the absence of any meaningful safety net. On that basis, several St. Gerard’s parishioners and others in the community joined forces to find some way to help. On February 13, 2007 the U.S. Internal Revenue Service formally approved their application for not-for-profit status under part 501.C.3 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service tax code.
And Uganda Spirit was born…
The goal of Uganda Spirit is to help Ugandan women and children in desperate need. It is an ecumenical organization, founded and headquartered in Aiken, South Carolina. It provides financial support along with prayer and encouragement, while working very closely with Uganda Spirit (Uganda), formerly known as Kizito Lifeline Foundation, a companion organization of volunteers in that country who are totally and directly engaged in care, education, training and support of those in need.
In short time, the Uganda Spirit organization has matured and changed from a very informal, grass roots operation to a small but more formal organization. Uganda Spirit president, Peggy DeVine, went to Uganda in 2006 to meet personally with these dedicated volunteers and to learn about their work and the people they care for. This group of over 20 volunteers in five geographic locations in and around Kampala, Uganda, provides day-in/day out support to Ugandans in need. Many serve as guardians of Father Charles’ orphans. They train women and children in various crafts and skills. Over the years, they have been totally committed and largely self-sufficient,
finding ways to care for themselves, their own families,
and the many others who reach out for support.
A prime area of focus in the first two years since founding Uganda Spirit has been education. Many poor children in Uganda have no chance at all for education. Through our Tuition Sponsorship Program Uganda Spirit have arranged for needed tuition support for 18 sponsored children, and also provided a fund for supplemental tuition/educational support for approximately 30 others. Other key activities (seeprojects) have been:
―Purchase of 50 pairs of shoes for children who need them
―Repairs to a Uganda Spirit-Uganda training facility
―Ongoing communications, of “pen-pal” type, between US and Ugandan school children, through our Children’s Information Exchange Program
―Collaboration with parishioners at St. Gerard’s who contributed to purchase and maintenance of a vehicle for Father Charles’ use in Uganda in his ongoing mission
―Sale in the U.S. of greeting cards hand made by Ugandan women and children
The real growth engine behind the board is a growing network of Uganda Spirit members and donors. From the small core group of supporters in early 2007,
We hope you will take time to explore the link above to Uganda Spirit
as well as watch the Youtube video clip.
I am sure you will be moved and inspired as we were and hopefully you will find a way to help Uganda Spirit and Father Charles to empower and truly save lives in desperate need.
It has been an honor to host such a holy man of God at the Mary Theotokos Spirituality Center. It was a visit that changed our lives. Keep an eye out at this blog for many products from Uganda that will be sold at and through our center to help support this mission of saving lives as well as more information about how to join the Uganda children’s pen pal program. Or contact me for more info at firstname.lastname@example.org