HOLMDEL, N. J. — For the fifth year in a row, Sylvia Allen, President and founder of Sylvia’s Children, will return to the African village of Masaka, Uganda and the Mbiriizi Advanced Primary School. As usual, she will return with more than her passport and luggage. She will return with hope.
On July 4, 2008, Allen, of Holmdel, N. J., will depart for Masaka with eight other individuals who look to bring about much-needed relief to the many African children who have been left orphaned as a result of losing their family to the AIDS pandemic. Sylvia’s Children has a dual role in supporting the Mbiriizi Advanced Primary School – they help feed, clothe, house and educate the orphaned children, while also providing support to make desperately needed improvements to the school for the education of all the children there.
“We ended up with nine people, 12 guitars, a complete American five-piece drum set with cymbals, aprons for the teachers, erasers, pencils, chalk and markers,” said Allen, who founded Sylvia’s Children in 2003. “I don’t even know if we can get it all over there, but we’ll try!”
Since launching the 501(c)3 organization in 2003, Allen has succeeded in getting sponsorship levels to the point where over 100 of the 250 orphaned children are now being sponsored annually; has had a well built so that the children have fresh water and do not get sick from dysentery; constructed a library; purchased three acres of land, bought a computer and installed internet service, built a dorm for 80 boys, provided sporting equipment, delivered 17 guitars and lessons, and built two additional double classroom blocks.
Additionally, when the group arrives on July 5, even more work will be done. Allen, who founded the award-winning public relations and event marketing/sponsorship agency Allen Consulting over 30 years ago, plans to teach entrepreneurship courses for an hour each day in order to coach villagers on how to be more self-reliant.
The group has also been invited to visit the homes of several families who have children at the school. In addition to visiting the homes, the group has a number of planned activities around the school. These include taking note of what books need to be ordered for the students and their new library (Allen estimates that she will need to raise in upwards of $10,000 for the books alone.) They will be measuring the children’s feet as
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Samaritan Shoes has agreed to provide them all with shoes during the next Christmas holiday season. And they will work on details for a planned health clinic and chicken farm.
Following most of the group’s departure the following week, Allen and her son, Tony Costa, will stay an extra two days to visit a coffee plantation and to meet with the Ugandan Coffee Authority. She hopes she can work out a lucrative arrangement with the government to export green Ugandan coffee beans to the United States in order to generate a revenue stream for the school. Says Allen, “We were amazed to discover there are no specific Ugandan coffees available on the market, yet they are a major supplier of green coffee beans to neighboring countries. We would like to introduce a Ugandan coffee to America and have the proceeds benefit the school. When we return to the United States we will look to develop a relationship with a “fair trade” coffee roaster.”
But the organization and its sponsors are well aware that there is even more that needs to be accomplished to help this village and others in the future. And they are already preparing to do it.
Allen plans to build a health clinic for the village; purchase sewing machines and construct a building to house them so that the children can learn a trade and widows can be taught to sew in order to derive income for themselves and the school; and to erect a chicken farm that will provide the children with protein and a product that can be sold to the villagers
After all is said and done, she is prepared to build a secondary school so that the children can go through their senior year without having to travel 40 miles to Kampala, and pay triple for their education which most cannot do.
When all is accomplished, the organization believes it will have the proper knowledge and tools to make the school a self-sustainable unit and will have created a prototype that can be put into place for other schools
Allen sums it up as follows, “It is our goal to use the Mbiriizi Advanced Primary School as a model for other schools in Africa.”
Sylvia’s Children was founded in 2003 after Sylvia Allen returned from a humanitarian trip to Uganda, Africa. The children at the Mbiriizi Advanced Primary School “adopted” her as their honorary grandmother. Allen saw the ravages the AIDS pandemic had on the community and was compelled to help her newly acquired grandchildren. She founded Sylvia’s Children to feed, clothe and house orphans in Masaka and provide education for as many children as possible. For more information please visit www.sylviaschildren.org or call (732) 946-2711.