The Deer Park Vocational Skills Institute
This is an overseas outreach initiative, in the town of Jinja, Uganda.
Years ago, I served as an intern with the Canadian International Development Agency in Jinja,
where I visited an orphange called the Mama Jane’s Children’s Care Centre. The Care Centre
looked after 70 children from the ages of newborn to 17 years, most of whom had lost their
parents to AIDS.
Agnes Nabawanga, the matron and chief administrator of the Care Centre, is constantly raising
funds for the orphanage as it has no permanent patron or government funding. Other than lacking
a permanent source of funding to care for resident children, her main challenge is the settling of
the young adults when they leave the Centre after high school. Some are able to go to university,
but many others return to the orphanage after a short time because they are unable to get a job
and live independently, and have nowhere else to go.
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To support the less academically inclined young adults, Agnes has proposed to build a vocational
skills institute for teaching welding, carpentry and joinery, tailoring and weaving, and
information technology – skills that are in demand in the Ugandan economy. The Skills Institute
would teach the young adults of the orphanage, but it would also generate revenue by admitting
fees-paying students from outside the orphanage. The Skills Institute would help these young
adults find their way to living a productive, dignified, independent life.
The start-up cost to build, furnish, and launch the school has been fully costed as $25,000
(CAD). The Allocation Fund has agreed to cover this cost in full.
What does supporting this project mean for the life of Christ Church Deer Park? First, our
involvement in the improvement of the country of Uganda and in the support of this Care Centre,
and the students that it will affect, will be a sign of life for the parish. Progress reports on the
establishment of this institute will be posted on the Church’s website. The initiative would
contribute to the growth of the parish, as people looking for a living vital parish would read the
reports and see that ‘something is really happening here’ and would want to get involved in the
life of our parish.
Secondly, by building the Vocational Institute, the parish is creating a relationship with the Care
Centre, with Agnes, with the students who will be educated at the institute, and with Uganda.
Members of our congregation will have the opportunity to go visit the Institute or to attend the
official opening in Uganda, as representatives of the parish. Agnes continually hosts volunteers
who help at the orphanage or in any of their other initiatives (nursery, guesthouse, farm, sewing
centre). Young people from the parish could go and stay with Agnes during their summer break.
We could form a group of students that may like to go.
Seeing at first hand the enormous effect the Skills Institute will have on the orphanage, on Agnes
the matron, and on the students will be an overwhelming and humbling experience for the Christ
Church Deer Park visitors. They will return to Toronto encouraged by having spent time among
people whose Christian faith is just about all they have.
On the surface, this initiative looks like a gift to the Mama Jane’s Children’s Care Centre,
however, it is really a gift to us. The more we get involved with this, the more enriched our
lives, our parish, and our faith will be.