Work gets under way on Ugandan orphanage

2012-08-06T00:00:00Z 2012-08-06T08:06:09Z Work gets under way on Ugandan orphanageBy SUSAN OLP solp@billingsgazette.com The Billings Gazette

Brick by brick, an orphanage to house Ugandan orphans is under construction after much hard work raising thousands of dollars.

The Tender Mercies orphanage, situated in a village on the outskirts of Kayunga, Urganda, will house 16 orphans ages 6 to 16. It is being built with money collected by AIDSpirit, a faith-based Billings nonprofit that reaches out to people affected by HIV/AIDS.

AIDSpirit, which works with local people with HIV/AIDS, over the years has expanded its outreach to Africa, which has been hit hard by AIDS. AIDSpirit supporters help sponsor 60 children to go to school, many of whom live with guardians and most of whom were born to AIDS patients.

But 14 of the youths don’t have family and two have guardians who don’t have enough food to feed them. They are housed in a two-room building inadequate to meet their needs.

A volunteer team traveled to Uganda last year to construct an outside kitchen to prepare meals. A well to provide clean drinking water has been built and 13 bio-sand filters were installed.

After a couple of years of fundraising, AIDSpirit has raised $70,000 toward a new building, said Sister Mary V. Maronick, spiritual director of the Billings organization.

The most recent push was the Buy A Brick program sponsored by students at Billings Central Catholic High School, which raised about $3,000. Other money has come through garage sales and presentations about the project, Maronick said.

At the end of June, Terry Fettig, chairman of AIDSpirit and a contractor, departed for Kayunga for three months to lead the construction project.

“They don’t have any machines. They’re doing this all themselves,” Maronick said. “It’s so exciting to finally see pictures of them digging trenches and laying bricks.”

The brick walls are taking shape and workers are pouring a concrete floor, Maronick said.

When finished, the building will include living quarters, a medical office to take care of the children, a crafts room and a room for the director of the orphanage.

It will be more than triple the size of the current 575-square-foot building. And it is located outside of the village, away from the garbage dump and the tough area of town where the present orphanage sits.

“When Terry called about a week ago, he was so excited,” Maronick said. “He said, ‘I wish other people could see this dream unfolding before our very eyes.’ ”

In order for the building to be finished by year’s end, another $30,000 is needed, Maronick said. That’s $20,000 more than originally anticipated.

“Now that Terry is over there on the job supervising, he’s seen extra needs and expenses that have come up,” she said.

Money collected for the project will go directly toward the orphanage, Maronick said.

“It’s just so exciting to think we could be close to getting it done,” she said.

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