Need: Problems for refugees in Africa - Malaria, Education, Orphans
In 2006 my daughter, Aimee Heckel, traveled to Uganda to visit a refugee camp as a journalist on assignment. She wrote a series on the life of refugees. My life changed. Education was a problem in the camp so I sponsored Amani Jean-Paul, a 25 year old refugee that had not yet finished high school. His wife gave birth to a baby girl the day after my daughter left Africa. The child was named Aimee, after my daughter. Her Swahili name, Bahati, or “by chance.” She is now three years old.
Aimee had a tough start on life. She had malaria three times that first year and nearly died each time. As a refugee, she was turned away by nationals from the hospital 50 miles away in the town of Hoima, Uganda. The Kyangwali Refugee Camp, where Aimee was born, is in western Uganda isolated near the border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We sent money for a private doctor. This kept her alive and that is when we were inspired to start a nonprofit organization, Think Humanity, a positive change for refugees in Africa.
Due to war and disease there are many orphans in the camp. We built an orphanage school for children under the age of five. The school opened February 2009. As for malaria, we have distributed more than 8,000 mosquito nets to refugees and we have partnered with a clinic in Hoima so that children can get the medical care that they need.
We have a project that provides 65 teenage girls with an education. They are Congolese refugees from North Kivu where more than six million people have been killed in war in the past twelve years. Most of our girls are orphans and saw their families slaughtered, raped and tortured by rebels.
In 2008 we rented a hostel in Hoima where the girls live so they can attend school. In the camp there is no secondary school where they can get an education. We help them with rent, tuition, medical expenses, sanitary products, food, school supplies and transportation. In Africa, girl’s educational rights are abused. In twelve years and 80,000 refugees in the camp no girls had ever completed secondary school. With the dowry the girls are forced into early marriage because the families are poor and desperate. The advancement for women is rare. The way that we combat this discrimination is by providing girls with an education.
Our girls are the best students in their schools even competing with Ugandan nationals. They also do community work such as visiting orphans and people with HIV/AIDS. The girls wash clothing and take them food. They visit hospitals to comfort others. They use drama, debate and acting as a way to teach, train and educate about issues such as HIV/AIDS and the importance of educational roles for women.
Through Think Humanity we are helping towards the advancement of girls; in the fight against malaria; and in the education and care of orphans