Meet the People

From One Village

This film features three young people and their parents as well as AAH’s Founder John Wanda and Headmaster Kisolo Kitandwe Thomas.

RojusMutsaka Rojus is the oldest son of Herbert and Lois, and a young man who remains committed to education despite his own difficulties in the Ugandan public schools. He attended an overcrowded, understaffed village school where the students were never sure if their teacher was going to show up. At times, scarcity of food at home made him so hungry he could not concentrate. When the time came for Rojus to take the Primary Leaving Exam, he failed, and gave up his dream of becoming a teacher or medical worker in order to tend to the family plot of land.

Although Rojus is considered an adult in Ugandan terms, he would jump at the opportunity to go back to primary school and learn how to read and write. He has seen the benefits of a solid education through the work of AAH in the village, and values it greatly. He hopes one day to be able to send his own children to AAH and help them have the life that he missed out on.

Wandeba Brian Weanga is well respected by his teachers and peers in Bumwalukani. A voracious reader, he devoured the Harry Potter series in a matter of weeks, often reading well into the night by candlelight.

Brian’s home is with his mother in the village of Bunamubi, an hour’s walk from AAH. He found a second home, however, in the classrooms and library of AAH, and Brian’s love for learning often saw him walking the dusty village roads in darkness on his commute to and from school. Brian’s dedication and intellect earned him the top score at AAH on his Primary Leaving Exam, and he is currently studying at one of the premier secondary schools in Uganda on a full scholarship from AAH. There he maintains the reputation for excellence he developed at AAH and works hard at his goal of becoming a doctor. Those who observe Brian in action have little doubt that he will attain whatever he sets his sights on.

RachelNabulo Rachel was one of the original children in the scholarship program that John and Joyce Wanda started in 1996. Rachel and her four siblings were raised by her mother, Sarah. Inspired by her mother’s determination to see her succeed, Rachel made the difficult decision to drop from P7 in a village school back to P5 at AAH the year it opened. She passionately wanted to avoid the common village fate of early marriage and motherhood and did not let the golden opportunity of AAH pass her by.

AAH nurtured Rachel into a vivacious and confident all-around student. She was a top academic performer in her graduating P7 class and one of the school’s lead singers. She received an AAH scholarship to continue her schooling and chose to attend Makerere High School – Migadde, a secondary boarding school near Kampala. She is currently in her sixth year of study. There, Rachel remains close to her AAH peers and joins them in the long hours of study hall and library time necessary to keep afloat in the demanding Ugandan secondary system and realize her dream of becoming a lawyer. When she returns to her home during term breaks she runs eagerly to engulf AAH staff members in tight hugs and is rarely seen without a wide smile on her face.

JohnJohn Wanda was born and raised in Bumwalukani. Both of his parents still live in the village, a short walk from the Arlington Academy of Hope. His father is considered the honorary ‘papa’ of AAH and is still a vibrant presence on the school campus. As he grew up John’s parents worked tirelessly to ensure that he received a quality education and a chance to attend university in South Africa. After gaining a green card in a lottery in 1995, John and his wife Joyce, then pregnant with their second child, landed at Dulles Airport. A clerk at an information desk suggested they spend the night at a hotel in Arlington. From there John and Joyce gained employment and put down strong roots, becoming integral members of their church and school communities.

As John struggled to reconcile his childhood memories of school in Uganda with the caliber of public education he saw his children receiving at Arlington Traditional School, the idea of the Arlington Academy of Hope was born. John’s indefatigable commitment and charisma soon mobilized a community of supporters in the Arlington area. In addition to working full time and raising four children, John has donated countless hours of his life to planning, fundraising, advocating and constantly refining his vision for a model primary school and community organization in his native village. Equally comfortable spending an afternoon loading boxes onto a shipping container as he is mingling with ambassadors at USAID functions, John is both the beating heart and tireless engine of AAH in the United States. He has become the ultimate role model for the children of Bumwalukani and an inspiration to all who encounter him.

ThomasKitandwe Kisolo Thomas has been the headmaster of Arlington Academy of Hope since 2005. As a former Department Head at the celebrated City Parents Secondary School in Kampala, and long-time family friend of the Wandas, Thomas was the natural choice to lead the school through its inaugural years. Growing up an orphan during the reign of Idi Amin, Thomas had to work and care for his siblings as well as pursue his own education. Moved by the mission and vision of AAH, Thomas sacrificed the comforts of the capital city to don gum boots and help create a model education community in one of the most rural corners of Uganda. Thomas brings intense purpose and vision to his work at AAH. He set standards for teaching and learning that have revolutionized the community and he inspires his staff through his own diligence. In 2009 Thomas received his Bachelor’s Degree in Education from the Uganda Christian University (UCU) at Mukono. He wore his graduation gown to an AAH school assembly as a concrete example of the power of education. Thomas has been one of the key levers in the early success of AAH. The community and student body are grateful for his energetic and passionate involvement.

herbert & lois

Wekoye Herbert and Wekoye Lois live the hard working existence of a Ugandan village family. Their story is common, but filled with tragedies. They had eight children, but lost three to preventable diseases. Another of their children is seriously ill, and they sold most of their land to pay his medical expenses. Besi, their oldest daughter, has made it to P7—the last year of primary school—but failed the Primary Leaving Exam twice.

Through all their difficulties they have retained a positive and hopeful spirit. They eagerly welcome visitors to their home, and Herbert is active in village politics. But mostly, Herbert and Lois’ daylight hours are filled with digging, planting and weeding as they attempt to eke out a life from a small patchwork of land on the hillside. Their land is too small to divide among all the young ones, and they want to free them from a lifetime of hard labor. Herbert and Lois understand that education is the only hope for their children.

FlorenceNandutu Florence is a single mother, raising and providing for Brian as best she can. Single women in Uganda face huge challenges, and Florence has had to work hard to keep Brian fed and clothed.

She is fiercely committed to her son’s education. As a young child Brian lived with his grandparents. When Brian had reached P3 in a local village school Florence visited his class and tried to speak to him about what he was learning. He could not read the alphabet or answer simple questions like “What is your name?” Dismayed at the conditions, Florence immediately moved him to another public school, and then fought to get him a place at AAH when it opened. Florence can finally reap the rewards of her single-minded determination on her son’s behalf. Brian is one of the top scholars that AAH has produced; he scored the highest grade of all AAH students on his Primary Leaving Exam.

SarahBwaya Sarah. Despite the sometimes overwhelming challenges that Rachel’s mom faced as a single parent in this rural, poverty-stricken community, Sarah fought to keep her family together and to see her daughter achieve her potential. Sarah was one of the most active parents at AAH. She volunteered there to cook, clean and play music even after Rachel had graduated.  Sadly, she passed away last year.  Her loss is keenly felt by Rachel, her family and the community.

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