Some of the young students at the school funded in part by a HOST Little Things grant. Image: The Future Is Today Foundation.

By Callan Lawrence

After hearing of Aime Kalangwa’s experience in Africa, you might expect he would never go back. Yet that is where he has returned to focus his energies on educating and caring for orphaned refugee children.

Aime’s personal story is harrowing but it’s also the inspiration and motivation behind the refugee camp and school he now raises money for and runs.

At age 14, Aime’s family was caught by rebel soldiers in their home country of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The events that followed, as explained by Aime, were horrific. The teenage Aime witnessed his mother and father murdered and then, over the following days, he saw five brothers and three sisters killed by the soldiers. Aime escaped with one other brother and they fled for Uganda. In Uganda’s city of Kampala, the pair lived homeless, not knowing the language, while battling sickness and starvation.

Aime eventually found UNHCR workers and became an asylum seeker in Kyakall refugee settlement in Uganda until he was resettled in the United States in 2011 by the UNHCR.

Since then, after gaining an education and employment in the U.S, Aime has returned to Uganda to focus his energy on helping children in similar circumstances to those he experienced. Through The Future is Today Foundation, formerly Everyday Hope, that he founded, Aime has built housing and a school for refugee children.

“For the children who roam the streets homeless, the ones fleeing oppression, the ones who are unlucky enough to be born with HIV, the sick, the hungry, the forgotten, or those who can’t even claim a country as their own: my aim and goal was to someday return to Africa to assist refugee children who don’t have a voice or a place to call home, and I did,” Aime told us.

“We provide orphaned, refugee children with access to education, medical and mental health services, independent living skills, and all the tools necessary for success.

“We have built a small school and homes for the children. We also have donors who are donating monthly food, including 400 kilos of rice.”

How a Little Things donation helped build a school

When just AU$5,000 funds the construction and resourcing of a small primary school for orphaned refugee children, and their meals for a month, we should wonder why they go without.

That’s how it is, nonetheless, in the refugee camp and school started by Aime’s foundation in Uganda. In 2017 a grant from HOST International’s Little Things program allowed Aime’s foundation to build classrooms and buy food for the refugee children under his care.

“The $5,000 donated last time was very helpful,” he said, “because we were able to build a small school, from primary classes one to three, and it provided dinner and lunch for all of the kids for a month.”

Student's at The Future Is Today Foundation school fair well a volunteer teacher.
Student’s at The Future Is Today Foundation school fair well a volunteer teacher. Image: The Future Is Today Foundation.

HOST International CEO David Keegan said he was inspired and impressed by Aime when they met and he saw that supporting his foundation could help many people.

“I met Aime a few years ago as a young refugee representative at the international UNHCR NGO consultations in Geneva,” David said. “I was inspired by his personal story and how this led to him wanting to assist other young refugees who had been separated from their family. I knew that Aime had limited funds and was supported mainly by family and friends but doing so much to help orphaned children.

“This was a great fit for Little Things as I knew that the $5,000 would go a long way to assist children who had been orphaned by war and conflict. Our staff got behind this project by voting for it to receive the grant as they could see the direct benefit to the children.”

Aime said he had many goals for the young people in the refugee camp but principal among them was for the students to graduate primary school with a decent education so they could continue in high school and set themselves up for life.

But Aime said the school can currently provide education only for children in years one through to three. The refugee camp has neither classrooms nor resources for children who need to finish the remaining years of their primary education, from years four to seven. For just AU$10,000 Aime says he can finish the school and put the young students at his school on a path to high school.

“This will help kids to have a good education and finish primary school with a good standard,” he said. “We have many students who finished primary level three and they are just sitting because we do not have the last level, which will allow them to go to high school.”

For information on how to make a donation or volunteer at the The Future Is Today refugee school in Uganda, visit the organisation’s website.