PIEDMONT -- In western Uganda in view of the beautiful Ruwenzori Mountains, Kitojo Hospital provides health care access to 100,000 rural people.
What once was the dream of Rev. Ezra Musobozi and his wife Marjorie represented by piles of 40,000 hand-made bricks, first became a tiny clinic offering once-monthly HIV testing and has grown into a hospital treating OB/GYN patients as well as general medicine.
The story of how this came to pass is one shared by a local grass-roots organization, the Friends of Ruwenzori Foundation, whose generous support has made this dream come true. With their November fundraiser, the group hopes to further spread the word and garner funds to keep this vital hospital running. Founders Gil and Karen Gleason first met the Musobozis and learned about their charity, the Kitojo Integrated Development Association, KIDA, in 2001. With his community group, Rev. Musobozi used drama, music and song to lead people toward positive living and prevent HIV, since no drugs were then available.
When Karen Gleason returned in 2003, the 40,000 bricks held together with mud now formed a clinic and on July 14, opening day, 200 people showed up for HIV testing and counseling.
"I was quite moved. I realized they didn't have money and could do so much," Gleason said. "Musobozi had so many ideas; he was a visionary, really."
By 2005, the Friends of Ruwenzori, a 501c3, was in business and over the past seven years, it has raised increasing amounts that have sponsored programs and helped to build a hospital with 24-hour care, seven days a week.
"When the hospital opened its doors on August 2, 2011, the government provided extra staff for that day," Gleason said. "It was a free day and 1,600 people showed up."
Since then, the foundation has funded solar panels that provide the only electricity in the area, a van to transport patients and $60,000 to ship a container of medical supplies donated by International Medical Equipment Collaborative.
Through KIDA, Musobozi promotes a holistic program that combines education and economic development with medical care.
"Part of KIDA's mission statement is to enable people to take care of their own lives," Gleason said. This is accomplished through programs that put 100 AIDS orphans through school every year; continue AIDS testing and counseling; support HIV prevention education through drama; and offer vocational training and microfinance grants.
Every couple of years, small groups from the foundation travel to Kitojo for short-term humanitarian missions. There they lend a hand wherever needed and make personal contacts with the people served by Kitojo Hospital. Flo Haedt and her husband Jim still remember their experiences.
"We were introduced to all the programs and participated in clinic days by doing paperwork, counting out pills and bringing computers so they could update their files," Flo Haedt said.
Even more moving was the community response, both grateful and respectful.
"One young man presented us with six eggs, a treasure chest in a poor country that has little protein," she said. "The people here have so little and we can make such a difference in their lives."
This year's Green & Yellow Festival marks the group's main fundraising event, a chance to enjoy a sit-down dinner and live jazz, and participate in a live and silent action. Two speakers will share their experiences, including Chris Frey who spent two years with KIDA as a Peace Corps volunteer and UC Berkeley graduate student Chris Ategeka Helms, a Ugandan orphan who was adopted by Mike and Martha Helms of Montclair and now has his own nonprofit using recycled metal to make bicycles for disabled Ugandan children.
"I am so grateful for all the support from volunteers and those who give money," Gleason said. "Now that the hospital's up and running, our budget just keeps growing."
WHAT: 2012 Green and Yellow Festival
WHEN: 6-10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 3
WHERE: Piedmont Veterans Memorial, 401 Highland Ave., Piedmont
TICKETS: $50 per person; for ticket information, call 510-473-2326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations are tax-deductible and 100 percent of the proceeds go to work in Uganda.
INFORMATION: Friends of Ruwenzori Foundation: www.FriendsOfRuwenzori.org