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Uganda Farmers Inc Receives Recognition

posted Aug 29, 2010, 9:07 PM by Jim Redden   [ updated Aug 29, 2010, 9:19 PM ]
Below is an article that appeared in the New Haven Register in August 2010 about UFI.

See video interview of Daniel Marecki at
http://www.nhregister.com/articles/2010/08/22/news/milford/doc4c70b01d457e6185473110.txt

By Brian McCready, Milford Bureau Chief
bmccready@newhavenregister.com

MILFORD — Thirteen years ago, Daniel Marecki and his wife, Jane Holler, went on a luxurious vacation to Africa. They stayed at a five-star resort and didn’t see the poverty that engulfs the world’s poorest continent. Then, a visit from a Ugandan priest to their church, St. Gabriel, changed their lives, and the lives of countless Ugandans.

Marecki and Holler started the nonprofit Uganda Farmers Inc. three years ago and have helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for people in Uganda, to buy goats and provide water to one village.

“When you visit Africa and see the poverty and lack of services, it really slaps you in the face,” Marecki said recently. “We have everything we need.”

Now Marecki and Holler are working to raise $24,000 more to provide water to the Rev. Emmanuel Kakaaga Byaruhanga’s home village, Rwesigiire.

Marecki and Holler have planned a walkathon fundraiser for the spring, and Byaruhanga is speaking to civic groups before he returns to Uganda on Sept. 6. Some groups have donated to the effort, Holler said.

“I see (Marecki and Holler’s) efforts as a spiritual passion that is divinely inspired,” Byaruhanga said. “It’s great that we’ve gotten to know these people. It’s rare to find people who are so kind to help people in need.”

Rwesigiire is a village of more than 1,000 families who have no water or electricity. The average family has six members, and villagers have to walk two miles each way to the nearest spring, carrying jugs of water that weigh more than 40 pounds each.

The people of Rwesigiire cultivate crops by hand, and the harvest is sold for so little that the average monthly income is $10 to $15. Homes are built of cow dung and poles, and the average life expectancy is 53 years. Disease is rampant, especially AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

Byaruhanga, 38, recalled as a child waking up at 2 a.m. to tie bags of onions to his bike, and then pedaling up hills to get them to the market. The all-day trip is common for people in his village, he said.

In Uganda, Byaruhanga is rector of a minor seminary, which is the equivalent of a high school.

Byaruhanga, who is staying at the St. Gabriel Church rectory, said there is little piped water in his village. He said the project to buy and install a pump and pipes will make the water safe for the villagers and their animals, which include goats and pigs.

When he recently came to the United States for the first time, Byaruhanga was astonished by the volume of water that is so scarce in his country. He went into a swimming pool, walked through the fountains at Central Park, and said he was amazed to see water running so freely.

At Marecki and Holler’s home he kept asking permission to fill his water bottles, and commented that the clean water is “magical.”

Byaruhanga also is in Milford to assist the Rev. Maurice Maroney, pastor of St. Gabriel’s. Holler said Maroney works hard attending to the needs of the parish, and it was the perfect opportunity for Byaruhanga to help out. St. Gabriel’s has a longtime partnership with east African churches.

Marecki said when he began to learn about the plight of the Ugandan people, he and Holler decided they’d never visit Africa the way they initially did.

“It’s the last time we’ll do that,” Marecki said of staying in a lush resort. “From now on we’ll stay, as we have, in the villages. Staying at the resort was a Disney-like quality. It wasn’t real.

“It’s a lot more rewarding to wash up in a little bowl instead of sitting poolside,” Marecki noted.

Marecki and Holler have visited four times since their initial vacation, and now stay in villages with no electricity. They say they enjoy being with the families, singing at night and praying together, as opposed to watching television or spending time on the computer.

He said the villagers are very caring; often they take in orphans even when they have no money for themselves.

“We’ve been to Africa on safari and found the people to be so genuine,” Holler said. “We just saw the need, the unfairness of material wealth. We wanted to share what we have.”

Initial acts of charity

Three years ago Marecki and Holler, with help of contributions from a donor list of 500 people, purchased 150 goats at $40 each for the village of Kyembogo. The villagers are given goats, and in turn, give the goats’ kids to their neighbors. The goats provide vital milk for the families. They also bought a tractor and land for community agricultural training and development.

In 2009, an organization called KYEFA, a farmer’s association supported by Uganda Farmer’s Inc., paid $20,000 for 40 acres in Uganda. It took an additional $30,000 to dig a well and install a pump and pipes for water.

“To see the gratitude on the faces of the people we met who never had running water, it’s such a special event,” Holler said.

To make a donation to the Uganda water program, visit www.ugandafarmersinc.org, and use the PayPal feature, or send checks to 31 Cherry St., Suite 109, Milford O6460, and specify it’s for the Uganda water program.

Byaruhanga will speak to the Devon Rotary Club at 7:45 a.m. Sept. 1 at Stonebridge Restaurant on Daniel Street and the public is invited to attend. He is also available for additional speaking engagements.
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