West Chandler pastor helps starving children find new homes, hope and lives in his native Uganda


It’s something unimaginable for the people of Tempe and West Chandler, but for Michael Scaramella, it’s a tragedy that is never far from his mind.

“None of us went to the streets. None of us went hungry. These kids, unfortunately, did, ”said Scaramella.

It refers to children in Uganda, where locals struggle amid crushing poverty, ongoing tribal wars and religious persecution. For millions of people, education is out of reach.

Scaramella is the new Executive Director of E3 Africa, which is dedicated to the education, enrichment and empowerment of young Ugandans. Rev. Robert Aliunzi, AJ, co-founder of E3 Africa and originally from Uganda, is the pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church in West Chandler, where parishioners have mobilized to support efforts to help Ugandan children.

Scaramella pointed to the many sponsors of E3 Africa who, for $ 70 per month, pay for schooling and, in some cases, board and lodging for the children, many of whom are orphans. In 2016, the organization inaugurated a school, St. Thomas Aquinas in Uganda. The inauguration of the campus multipurpose hall took place in 2016.

Construction continues as the school expands. Some sponsored children live and attend St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Uganda while others live at home or attend classes elsewhere, efforts funded by donors and benefactors. At present, however, due to the pandemic, the Ugandan government has closed all schools.

“You see videos of these kids crying because they can’t go to school,” Scaramella said. “For them, it’s not a vacation. It’s not a break. It means more and more suffering.

Part of this suffering is due to the fact that E3 Africa provides meals to students. As schools are closed, they are missing meals. Much of the funds raised by E3 Africa goes towards food, but the organization has found an innovative solution: part of the school’s land is used to grow crops.

“Not only are we doing it for the students so that they can eat, but they are learning agriculture and learning skills,” said Scaramella. “They will take the surplus to the markets where they will also support the communities and reinvest that money directly into the school.”

Aliunzi, even in the face of the difficulties posed by COVID-19, remains hopeful.

“Despite the pandemic crisis, this organization is the work of God,” Aliunzi said. “He always brings us good-hearted people to keep this going. And for that we are very grateful.

St. Thomas Aquinas College in Uganda will eventually train and host over 800 students and employ over 50 teachers, administrators and staff. The chief architect, James Ambayo, is a graduate of E3 Africa.

BethAnn Bader, a former principal who belongs to St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in West Chandler, became a sponsor in 2018.

“I know how important education is. These children, they are hungry, ”said Bader. “They are so eager to learn.”

Three years ago Aliunzi spoke to St. Andrew’s parishioners about E3 Africa and his efforts to save the children of his homeland. Bader, moved, got involved. It’s hard not to be touched when you consider the obstacles Aliunzi overcame in his quest to become a priest. He was orphaned at a very young age and raised by his older siblings.

As in many developing countries, the government provides only the most basic education, and only up to grade six. After that, the parents have to pay the tuition fees. In a country where nearly half the population survives on less than $ 2 a day, education is not possible for many children, especially if they are orphans. While Aliunzi was still a young boy, his teachers recognized that he was smart and would hide it from the school principal who visited the classrooms to ensure that the students’ tuition was paid.

With no way to finance his studies, it seemed Aliunzi’s dream of becoming a priest was not going to come true. Then a Spanish priest took pity on him and sponsored his education. When Aliunzi was ordained, he himself became a school principal, with the dubious distinction of firing students who couldn’t pay. He turned to growing vegetables to make the difference for poor students.

In 2004, Aliunzi was serving in Arizona. A parishioner, Rosalie Weller, asked her how she could show her gratitude to God after her daughter survived a tsunami that hit the Indonesian coast, killing 230,000 people.

Aliunzi spoke to Weller about his efforts to sponsor the education of needy children in Uganda and the two co-founded E-3 Africa. Weller passed away on August 16, but her legacy and E3 Africa’s work continues.

Scaramella says the organization sponsored around 100 children who graduated from the program.

“In total, we have helped around 350 children,” he said.

The first student sponsored by E3 Africa was Richard Opi. Born unarmed, the village chief told his parents to kill him because he would be useless to the tribe. With the sponsorship of E3 Africa, Opi graduated in Industrial Arts in 2015.

Bader sponsors Lucy, 17, who wants to be a nurse, and Anthony, 14, who wants to be a doctor. She receives letters from both, thanking her for helping them achieve their dreams.

“Anthony’s father abandoned him when he was 1 year old. He wants someone to guide him and show him how to be a godly man. Bader said. “It really touched my heart. He is grateful that he can go to school – his mother cannot (afford) to send him.

Bader says his goal is to sponsor more children.

“I was so lucky,” she said. “Here is a real, tangible opportunity for me, as an American, to help children who have so little. “

Information: E3africa.org.


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