Closings & Delays across the Tennessee Valley

Human rights advocate drives over 2,200 miles bringing school supplies for kids in Uganda

HUTSVILLE, Ala. -- A United Nations agreement between 168 countries, sees education as a right. But for far too many, it is a privilege. They must rely on the kindness of people continents away. Multiple groups here in Huntsville are giving supplies and their hearts to children in Uganda.

Dzene (Jenny) Juceviciute is fighting for a basic right. "I have 32 children who call me mom there."

'There,' is Uganda; and like any parent, she wants them and others to get a good education, and will move mountains to give it.

Jenny journeyed over 2,200 miles from Reno, Nev. picking up school supplies and personal items to add to a treasure trove of supplies at a Huntsville warehouse 20-months in the making.

"They want to learn. It's the school system and the teachers that are holding them back," says Rodger Qualls, founder of the Walter National school in Uganda and African Children's Education, a non-government organization.

In a partnership forged in goodwill, Juceviciute's organization Blossomwood Foundation (based in Huntsville), Quall's school and organization, and the Rotary Club of Greater Huntsville are sending over their sixth shipment.

"The most important thing is we give a little bit of hope," says Qualls.

The typical student to teacher ratio in most Ugandan schools is over one-hundred to one. Two-thirds of the shipment will go to Walter National and Sam Owori Memorial School where teachers are about to be more hands-on at twenty-five to one. The remaining third will go to the Munani displaced person's camp.

"There are about 35,000 pounds of books and probably another 5,000 of furniture and accessories," said Qualls.

Juceviciute and Qualls will be meeting the shipment in October when it is set to arrive to make sure it is not mismanaged. "We're going to make sure it's going where it's supposed to be going because when I've done disaster relief, I've learned...you cannot just leave stuff you have to be there until the last drop is distributed."

Blossomwood Foundation's Uganda school project, 'In 4 Ten,' is looking for specific supplies and donations before the containers ship. A tax-deductible donation of $10 provides a box of essential school supplies. According to the website, donations must be received by July 30.

The connections made go beyond the material. Qualls recalled a little girl named Bridgette. "Two years ago...her mother shows up and says 'here, will you raise my child? We know you all do a good job.' The little girl was deathly sick of malaria and I held her for three days and we treated her and now she is one of the top girls in her class."

Juceviciute also tries to find sponsors for these children, something she says costs only $395 a year, but could change their lives. "Just to see that they are safe. For instance, this child is not going to starve to death anymore. And that's it, If this child is safe, he's alive, she's alive then everything is good. Now it's all good."

They see education as a way forward, so children like Bridgette can reach for the stars, and be somebody.

The organizations say they've provided books to over 380 schools. They say all of this has been made possible thanks to Huntsville City Schools, other rotary clubs, charities and giving individuals. They encourage everyone to help.

To get involved you can find contact information on the Rotary's website or Blossomwood's website.