Kathryn Cushwa, ’04, says she learned the value of community while she was a student at Meredith. Today she feels the same sense of community with a group of people spanning two continents through an organization in Uganda and the United States called Akiki’s Kids.
Cushwa, a preschool teacher at Erwin Road Children’s School in Durham, N.C., met Akiki Yaya and her daughter, Lucy, through family friends while they were visiting the United States. Cushwa learned that in Uganda, Akiki Yaya helped nearly 100 children in her village get an education and regular meals. Twenty of these children lived with her in her home.
“Akiki told me her story,” Cushwa explained. “After that first emotional meeting I knew I had to do something … I realized that the best way to serve Akiki and the children in Uganda would be to start [a nonprofit].”
Cushwa and some others began putting the organization together in May 2008 and received nonprofit status shortly after.
“The goal of Akiki’s Kids was to fund and finish the infrastructure of the dorm so the children would have safe housing,” Cushwa explained. “In addition, we are funding the teachers’ salaries and basic needs of the children.”
Since 2008, the dormitory has been built, and the furniture has arrived. There is more ahead.
“Our long-term plans include building a whole campus that would include another dorm, a kitchen and multipurpose room,” Cushwa said. “There would also be an open courtyard in the middle so the children would have a place to play. We would love to someday have the orphanage open for adoption as well.”
So far Cushwa has done all of her work from Durham.
“I would say distance is the hardest part,” she said. “Not being able to see the day-to-day progress, see the children’s faces and help out with the different projects that are going on [is challenging].”
Despite the challenges, Cushwa also feels greatly rewarded. She says she knows the time she puts into the project makes a difference. Cushwa hopes to see it all firsthand sometime in the next year.
In the meantime, Cushwa is committed to spreading the word about Akiki’s Kids.
She explained, “We have found that the best way to do this is through small house parties where we can come talk to a group about Akiki’s Kids—the work that we are doing and how they can help.”
Date Submitted: 2009-12-17
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