St. Paul AIDS activists visit Uganda to support orphanage


James Garubanda and Patricia Owen, board members of Hope Multipurpose Incorporated (HMI), returned August 3 from visiting the Blue House Orphanage in Uganda. The orphanage is HMI’s project to provide a safe and loving home for AIDS orphans in Kazo Parish in southwestern Uganda.

There are currently an estimated 1.7 million AIDS-related orphans in Uganda, out of a total population estimated at nearly 28.2 million. Uganda has the largest number of AIDS-related orphans in the world.

The Blue House was begun by James’ wife, Beatrice Garubanda, who died in September 2005. The Garubandas came to the United States from Uganda as refugees in 1997.

When they returned in 2003 and 2004, Beatrice and James were shocked by the number of homeless orphans whose parents had died of AIDS, especially in Kazo Parish, Beatrice’s home area. They began forming a nonprofit organization to address the situation.

Before leaving on their trip, Garubanda and Owen were blessed at a July 9 service by Rev. Blair Pogue, other HMI board members and members of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church.

They took with them 15 quilts made for the 12 orphan girls currently living in the Blue House by the Dorcas Quilters at Brooklyn Park Lutheran Church. Each quilt is embroidered with a Bible verse in the local dialect.

The existing Blue House in Kazo Town housing 12 girls is only temporary. The Garubandas bought 8.7 acres of land on which to build a permanent orphanage that will provide a home for as many as 200 needy children. A maternal/child health center, a meeting hall that can also be used for community activities, and gardens and facilities for small livestock are also planned.

On their trip, Garubanda and Owen, a former Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, met with the 12 orphan girls currently living in the Blue House, their caregivers and the Ugandan board of directors to begin making more definite plans for the new building.

The information they gathered will enable the board here to begin raising money for construction as well as operating funds for the orphanage.

Garubanda and Owen will report their findings at a dinner and fundraising event on Sunday, September 24, at 4 p.m. at the Higher Ground Academy, 1381 Marshall Ave. in St. Paul. Ugandan crafts and other locally produced items will be sold.