Hearing from, and travelling to Uganda



“The Uganda 7,” a group from St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Sicklerville, and others pose for a photo while in Uganda in July to witness the ordination of Father David Kumakech, nephew of Father Vincent Orum, who serves at St. Charles. The group will give a presentation on their trip Oct. 20 at the parish.

africa2-webWill Tardio, 23, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who helped co-found Unified for Unifat, speaks to students at Gloucester Catholic High School on Oct. 1. The non-profit group raises money for the education of needy children in northern Uganda.

Photo by James A. McBride

In the past few months, Catholics of all ages throughout the Diocese of Camden have learned about life in the African country of Uganda, either in person, or in the classroom.

On July 4, seven parishioners from St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Sicklerville went with Father Vincent Orum, parochial vicar, to his hometown of Giira, Uganda, for the ordination of his nephew, Father David Kumakech.

This month, students at Gloucester Catholic heard about less joyous experiences in Uganda

On Oct. 1, two men working at a school in Uganda visited Gloucester Catholic High School, as part of “Unified for Unifat,” a non-profit group that raises money for the education of needy children in northern Uganda, at the Unifat (Upper Nile Institute for Appropriate Technology) School there.

Unified for Unifat began in 2005, in response to the documentary “Invisible Children: Rough Cut,” which told of the plight of Ugandan youth who were abducted from their family by the Lord’s Resistance Army in their long-running civil war against the government group, Ugandan People’s Defense Forces, and forced the youth to become child soldiers.

Will Tardio, 23, of Cincinnati, Ohio, who helped co-found Unified for Unifat while a student at Moeller High School, told Gloucester Catholic freshman and junior high students about his passion for helping out Ugandan students.

“Every day I realize how lucky I was to grow up here in the United States, and then I see how very different the living conditions are in Uganda,” he said. “What did these children do to deserve this? The answer is nothing. They should have the same opportunities we have here, and I’m glad Unified for Unifat is helping out.”

Dennis Opiyo, a head mentor for the organization who works directly with the children in Uganda, also spoke to students on the culture and living conditions in the African nation.

“The parents of the kids can’t get work, and something simple like food is really hard to find,” he said. “Most families can’t afford to send their kids to school. Thanks to you, some families now have a chance.”

To help Ugandan youth get an education and a better future, Unified for Unifat was established to raise money to support the youth and their education at the Unifat School. Soon, other colleges and high schools throughout the nation, including Gloucester Catholic, began student-managed and operated chapters.

Last year, Gloucester Catholic student Puja Patel and several friends started a chapter at the Catholic school, and now fundraise at the school to help pay the tuition of two students at Unifat. A fundraiser, Penny Wars, will take place next week.

“When our current senior class graduates, we don’t want to see Unified for Unifat go away,” she said. “We want this organization to remain a tradition here at Gloucester Catholic for many years to come.”

Uganda, with a population of 36 million, is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is a largely Christian country with Catholicism being the largest denomination. More than 40 percent of the population are Catholic.

During their visit to the African country, the Uganda 7 from St. Charles Borromeo Parish, as they were called, stayed with Father Orum’s family, witnessing life in the remote village, enjoying the ethnic fare, learning local traditions, and seeing the ordination ceremony in the town square of Paida, with three days of celebration.

The group also visited St. Luke’s Chapel, being built by Father Orum with the help of the St. Charles Parish community, and went on a safari.

On Saturday, Oct. 20, after 4:30 p.m. Mass, the Uganda 7 will gather at St. Charles Parish, in Borromeo Hall, to share stories about everyday life, culture, the beautiful countryside and the warm hospitality they witnessed in Uganda. All are invited, and the program includes refreshments and a potluck dinner. Call the St. Charles Parish Center Office at 856-629-0411 for reservations.

To find out more about Unified for Unifat, and how to sponsor a student, go to www.unifiedforunifat.com