My husband and I and our three sons have been sponsoring two children through Change A Life Uganda almost since the inception of this wonderful charity. We feel so blessed to be a part of this organization as we have seen so many grass roots projects come to fruition. Our children have been able to become pen pals with the children in Uganda and have corresponded on numerous occasions throughout the years. We even had the opportunity to Skype with them for the first time ever in Migyera, Uganda! From raising money to build a school, purchase school uniforms, medical kits, beds, CLEAN DRINKING WATER, develop a medical clinic, computers...the list goes on and on. The founders go every summer to ensure our funds are going to the right place and are in touch with the sponsors via emails, newsletters, Facebook so we have all become one family. They never cease to amaze us by what they have accomplished in such a short period of time! Our wish would be to meet our sponsored children in person, maybe one day :)
Change A Life has made a immeasurable difference in the children and families they support. What they have accomplished in a few short years is both amazing and inspiring. As a classroom teacher and advisor to our school's student council, I appreciate the opportunity for our students to be able to work with such a wonderful organization and for them to be able to directly impact the lives of other children.
As the Communications Chair for ChangeALife Uganda, I can say with certainty that the enthusiasm, commitment, and energy of this organization is boundless. The two founders, Jean Semler and Dave Thelen, have taken an issue near to their hearts – education for Ugandan children – and made it a reality for countless sponsored children. The organization continues to grow and meet both its short and long term goals, while returning almost all raised monies back to the communities in Migyera and Nabbingo. Encompassing healthcare and microfinance projects has benefited the families of these sponsored children as well. ChangeALife Uganda serves the needs of the community as it empowers its residents.
This organization is really making a difference in the lives of the people they serve. Years ago they chose Migerya, Uganda and have continued to return to the same location which has allowed them to concentrate their efforts and chose education as their main focus. During the time period they have been there, they have built a school which now educates and houses nearly 600 children, raised their test scores to some of the highest in the country, brought fresh water in abundant supply to child who never had fresh readily available water, built a health clinic and have helped the parents of the children at the school with microfinance projects that allow them to earn money in a sustainable way. The health portion of their project is just beginning but has now raised funds to assist in building a healthier, safer place for women to give birth. I have traveled with other organizations in a volunteer capacity but ChangeALife Uganda is by far the most organized and focus of all the groups with which I have had the privilege to work.
ChangeALife Uganda accomplished a major goal in 2014 the completion of a water project which we started in 2009. Now our school, health center and the local community has clean water from a 512' well and a 50,000L water tower. A big thank you to all who made this happen. This summer was our first to host university students from GlobeMed and graduate students doing research on water issues from Duke's Nicholas School of the environment. We appreciate their contribution. This summer our medical volunteers completed physicals on 460 of our children attending St. Lawrence School. Many more happenings but this is just a highlight of how ChangeALife Uganda is changing lives.
Ever since I was 10 years old, I dreamed of helping those in need in Africa. On a relaxing day in August 2006 – three years after I retired from – I was inspired to help in an even bigger way and really fulfill that dream.
It began with a visit in my New Jersey home with Father Lawrence Kimbowa, a native of Uganda. He shared the story of his childhood there – the civil war, the refugee camp and the Chicago couple who sponsored his education and changed his life. He also shared the promise he made to himself – to give the children of Uganda the rare opportunity he was given as a child: the gift of education.
Inspired by Fr. Kimbowa’s story, my husband and I traveled to Uganda and witnessed great need. Many children have lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS and others were unable to attend school because there parents could not pay school fees. For most of these children, a quality education was not an option. We recognized the opportunity to truly make a difference.
Beginning with the sponsorship of 10 Ugandan children by friends who wanted to help, we created ChangeALife Uganda (CALU), which was formally incorporated in March 2007, followed by a 501 (c)(3) non-profit classification in April 2008, CALU was poised to make a difference.
ChangeALife Uganda focuses on education, health care and income-generating opportunities and it concentrates on children, because ‘children, are the catalyst for change. Our goal is to provide these children and other children living in poverty with the education and skills they need so that they and their families have the opportunity for better futures.” We now have almost 300 children in our sponsorship program.
One of the most fulfilling accomplishments took place in August 2012. CALU opened a new health center in Migyera – a truck stop town on the way to the Sudan. In partnership with Mildmay Uganda, the health center began providing testing, HIV care and antiretrovirals to 167 patients diagnosed with HIV.
I remember back in 2006 when a nurse here told me about the large number of people dying of HIV because of a lack of medication. I immediately recalled the 1996 New York Times headline highlighting a 50 percent reduction in mortality because of the new protease inhibitors. Here it was 2006 – 10 years later – and people here were still dying of AIDS in large numbers. Now – 16 years later – the treatment and medication are finally available here, thanks to Mildmay Uganda.
Our 2013 trip brought new surprises. Our women are attending a Literacy Program where they are learning to read and write English. They surprised us with their new crafts - exquisite handcrafted baskets and stylish women's handbags. The children in the micro-enterprise program have pigs, goats and chickens and are paying back their loan and saving their money in bank accounts. Our volunteers shared their talents through their gift of education on how to sew, play chess, write journals, brush teeth, use listening techniques and inspire children with new educational approaches. It was an outstanding trip and the bonds of friendship and sharing enriched everyone.
It was a pleasure joining you, Dave and the rest of the CALU Team on your 2013 Trip to Uganda. It was an eye-opening experience and I now see why my wife is so dedicated to your cause. I look forward to returning with you in the future.
In today's difficult economy it is imperative to seek out organizations that provide the best return for one's limited charitable donations. I look for the "integrity factor" that must govern a not for profit organization. I have seen and indeed, contributed to organizations that provide wonderful services, but do so with a qualified staff, but an expensive infrastructure. These are good and well intentioned, but are not as effective as they could be.
I discovered on a trip to Uganda, a group of dedicated individuals who sought a worthwhile endeauver and the proceeded to do somehing about it. They found a way to provide direct aid to those who needed it most. They did this by first making an analysis of the most severe problems, finding a solution to the problems and then worked to find a way to impliment the solution.
The main problems involved were lack of water, medical facilities, educational and financial training. This would be a venture to give aid to a society that has been denied basic needs of life, not hrough the fault of individuals, but due to poor government, limited resources.
Jean Semler and Dave Thalen worked to provide solutions to these problems by founding "Change A Life Uganda" or (CALU). Using their own funds, they promoted "charitable giving groups" among their friends, schools, church groups, community organizationsand any and all who would listen to their pleas. When you discover that every cent raised is used to provide solutions to the problems facing people in need, how can you refuse to help?
The reward you receive is to see pictures of schools being built, orphanages being construdted, small business program "start-ups" with sewing machines, or chicken or pig farm initiatives. For a special treat see a huge well with a pumping station that will provide water for an entire school and dormitory. Dreams have become a reality...all with every dollare donated going to fulfilling God's wishes.
Last summer I traveled to Uganda with the ChangeALife Uganda team. While there we dedicated a new health clinic that we were able to complete construction on, equip and staff. At the ceremony many important locals spoke about the value of the clinic. Finally, the last person to speak was a man from the village, representing the people who would benefit from the clinic. On a hot equatorial afternoon, dressed in a suit, white shirt and tie, he took the microphone. He said the people of Migyera were grateful to have the clinic so desperately need by the families there. Then he said: "We don't know why some people in a place called New Jersey would do this for us. Please tell them thank you."
For what was really not much money by U.S. standards, we were able to make a major difference in the lives of the happy, beautiful people in Migyera. That's what ChangeALife Uganda does: focused, meaningful help to those who need it. I'm hooked!
I have been a part of Change A Life Uganda since it's inception. I have watched it flourish and expand under the direction and dedication of Jean Semler and Dave Thelan. The original concept was to support the education 10 Ugandan children. Now CALU has 300 children enrolled in school based programs from primary level all the way to university! AND...there are additional programs for the families so that they too can see life changes. Income generating and health care initiatives for the families is growing every day! And the water project is almost completed! What a feat!
To see pictures in the newsletters or on the website are one thing , but to see the smiling faces of the people who have been touched by CALU is another! I was there in 2010 to witness this change! I was able to see the programs in action and to share the enthusiasm of Jean and Dave.
If you wish to make a difference in someone's life I urge you to join CALU and be part of this amazing organization!
This Summer I visited Uganda with CALU to teach Chess to the students there. I made great friends who welcomed me into their hearts in Uganda. Even though I was there to teach them, they taught me so much I will never forget them. I miss them so much already. I loved interacting with all the girls and experiencing what it is like to live in Uganda. Washing your own clothes, going to the bathroom, eating different foods. I stayed in the dorms with them a few nights. i also attended one of their study classes where they did math and I helped them solve the math puzzle. They said that I was very smart. It was an interesting and extravagant experience. I wish I could go back sooner to see them all again. They were very sad when I said I was leaving. My best friend was Gorette and I miss her so much that it is painful.... My favorite part of the trip was getting to change children's lives by teaching them chess and making new friends. I learned so much from this experience and was lucky enough to go with such a wonderful team, which made my trip the best they could.
I visited Uganda this year with Change A Life Uganda to help teach Chess to the students at the St. Lawrence Primary School in a village called Migeera. It was a great experience as my sister Judy and I not only taught Chess at the St. Lawrence School, but we were able to teach students from St. Joseph's Primary School in Nabbingo and a group of high school age students joined us at St. Lawrence's for some lessons as well. It was GREAT!! The students and teachers were very nice and I was able to make a lot of new friends during my time in Uganda. We also saw a lot of people who still need help, and I hope people will help them. Please help Change A Life Uganda in their efforts to help the Children of Uganda make a better life for themselves.