Sydney Maki poses in front of one of her organization's schools in Uganda. Maki is still trying to raise money to finish work on building a second school there.

Terrace non-profit builds schools in Uganda

Sydney Maki, 19, founded the Ekitangaala Ministries to support vulnerable Ugandan youth

The founder of a local non-profit organization that supports vulnerable youth in Uganda says it’s close to raising the $25,000 needed to help build a second school there.

Ekitangaala Ministries founder Sydney Maki said the organization just had two successful weekends of garage sales hosted by dedicated volunteers at the Terrace Evangelical Free Church, and also attended a crafts fair in town, that raised $6,500, bringing the total raised so far to about $21,000.

Maki said a lot of the money at this point will go towards building a roof for the new school.

“Our first school was very makeshift, it was made out of wood, and it collapsed in October. The terminates ate the wood, the support beams, and it just collapsed,” Maki said.

“We started raising money about a month before that for the new school because we knew it was coming. It started in September, we had a big book sale in the mall here.”

After the old, wooden school collapsed, Maki said it took approximately 50 days for her team to rebuild and refortify the structure with bricks.

Revamping the original school came at a good time, too, because Maki said when she first started her organization there were only around 150 youth attending the school, a number that has since risen significantly.

What first started as a non-profit that aimed to provide money for feeding programs and pay the salaries for six teachers at the school has increased due to Maki and her organization’s efforts.

“Now there’s over 600 students at the school. We have 20 staff members and we still run the feeding programs,” Maki said.

The non-profit also continues to pay staff salaries.

The organization has approximately 85 regular monthly donors that help pay for its numerous charitable projects, and is near to finishing construction on a second school in the town of Rakai, Uganda.

Maki’s organization started because of a simple act of charity. When she was 13-years-old she was diagnosed with a neurological pain disease that forced her to be bed ridden for a significant amount of time. She even had to take a leave of absence from school because of her illness, and required a wheelchair to get about.

While cooped up in bed, Maki, who is now 19-years-old and will be attending post-secondary in September, read a lot of books. One that particularly stuck out for her was about AIDS orphans. “It just sort of sparked something in me. I wanted to do something but I didn’t think I could because I was in a wheelchair. I really had no life,” Maki said.

“But I just kept thinking about it.”

About four months later, Maki came across a story online about a young boy in Uganda that needed a wheelchair. She ended up getting in touch with the youth’s caretaker, and a short time later had raised almost $130 by selling homemade bookmarks to people in Terrace.

This was enough to buy the youth a new wheelchair, igniting her now continued relationship with the town and country.

“I just kept in touch with the boy’s caretaker,” Maki said. “I didn’t really have any other plans to do anything, and he just started telling me about the children in his community that need a school but can’t afford school,” Maki said.

Most of the youth in the community in Rakai, she learned, were in some way affected by the HIV-AIDS epidemic, either resulting in the loss of a parent or parents, or the youth themselves having contracted it.

In March 2013, through Maki’s efforts to raise money, the newly founded Ekitangaala Ministries started paying the salaries for six teachers at the school in Rakai and she also started a feeding program there that now provides meals to over 600 students.

But Maki said right now her main focus is on finishing construction of the new school.

The original school that was recently rebuilt now houses students from kindergarten to Grade 4. The upcoming second addition to the school is going to house Grades 5 to 7.

Maki, who returned from a trip to Uganda in March, said she is motivated to continue doing this work by her desire to help others and by her Christian faith.

She also said the support her non-profit has received from the Terrace community has been top-notch. “This last fundraiser – I barely had anything to do with the garage sale. I showed up, they had it all planned, they had volunteers and everything, so it’s been amazing,” Maki said.

Those who are interested in helping Maki and Ekitangaala Ministries reach its goal should visit www.ekitangaala.org/donate.