PIEDMONT -- For more than 10 years, a Piedmont-based nonprofit organization has raised money to serve a rural community in western Uganda.
Its funds have helped to support HIV prevention, set up an AIDS clinic, build Kitojo Hospital, establish orphan care and develop counseling, vocational education, training in the trades and a microfinance program. Without a doubt, the people of the Ruteete Subcounty's rural communities have greatly benefited from the efforts of the Friends of Ruwenzori Foundation.
Each year, the money raised has allowed KIDA (Kitojo Integrated Development Association), under the direction of the Rev. Ezra Musobozi and his wife, Marjorie, to operate the hospital and sustain the programs, but each year brings the need for further funds, to maintain what is already in place and to provide the people of the area with additional services.
With this need in view, the Friends of Ruwenzori are hosting their annual Green and Yellow Festival on Saturday at Piedmont's Veterans Hall. They're offering a fun-filled night that includes Moroccan cuisine; a spirited live auction and multi-itemed silent auction; jazz music provided by Debbie Cox and her ensemble "In Time" and strolling violin music by Gil Gleason; and an inspiring guest speaker, Dr. Edith Nyangoma.
Along with an enjoyable evening, Friends of Ruwenzori wants guests to understand the importance of the work being funded and to this end have asked Nyangoma to speak. Now an epidemic intelligence fellow with the federal Centers for Disease Control, Nyangoma originally came from Ruteete.
"She grew up in the KIDA area and knows Reverend Musobozi and his wife," said Karen Gleason, co-founder and trustee. "We asked her to be the speaker because she can speak very credibly about KIDA, and what she shares about her life will be inspiring."
Nyangoma was born in 1991 into a family of 15 siblings. Her father, an agricultural economist, was well educated and wanted the same for his children. As a result, Nyangoma attended boarding school from the age of 6 years, returning to the village for holidays. During that time, the nearest health facility was 16 kilometers away and only provided basic care.
"I remember we drank a lot of the traditional herbal medicines to cure coughs and malaria," she said. "I don't remember getting any vaccinations."
On one occasion, her mother received blood not tested for HIV and on another Nyangoma, ill with severe cerebral malaria, was rushed 30 kilometers to the hospital on her father's motorbike, the only one in the village. These remain important memories.
"Thinking back, I realize our lives are miracles," Nyangoma said. "You couldn't just call 911; you can imagine how many kids died."
Becoming a doctor seemed the right choice, given that Nyangoma's father subtly guided his children toward public service.
"My dad was a very vocal person, and I realize he had a lot of influence," she
said. "My twin sister is a human rights lawyer and my brother works toward civil rights."
Since studying in Berkeley for her master's degree in public health and becoming acquainted with the people behind Friends of Ruwenzori, Nyangoma returned home, began a tree-planting project and saw the huge difference Kitojo Hospital made in people's lives.
"I didn't know the magnitude of the hospital, they have a birthing place, an outpatient facility and have an HIV clinic running," she said. "It's really unbelievable to see that."
Nyangoma plans to share her story on Saturday night, to explain all that has been done, to say thank you on behalf of her relatives and the people and to explain what is needed to keep the dream alive. While funding is necessary to maintain current programs, she also sees a vision for the future for her people.
"We would like to move forward not to just be a therapeutic center but to provide preventive services and empower people; to increase family planning and get nutritional advice," Nyangoma said. "These things will go a longer way."
The funds for this year's pledge are already earmarked for more hospital space for a children's ward and maternity ward, but mainly for keeping KIDA's operation going, paying salaries and buying supplies. Taking part at the Green and Yellow Festival is like a two-for-one offer -- having a memorable experience and knowing that others will benefit at the same time.
"When I met the Friends of Ruwenzori, I was really humbled," Nyangoma said. "I saw these are regular folks who are paying mortgages and for children in college," Nyangoma said. "Seeing all the effort and time that goes into raising money -- that really blessed my heart completely."
What: Green and Yellow Festival
When: 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Veterans Hall, 401 Highland Ave. in Piedmont
Cost: Tickets are $65. Donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to work in Uganda.
Information: Karen Gleason at 510-600-3432, email@example.com, www.FriendsofRuwenzori.org.