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Lakewood organization changes world for students in Uganda

Far Away Friends launches new campaign to raise money for dorm


There’s no way of measuring the power of learning something new, but helping to create a brand new school in Africa is a good start.

In northern Uganda, the Global Leaders Primary School is teaching about 100 rural students thanks to the efforts of Far Away Friends, a nonprofit created by Ugandan native Collines Angwech, and Lakewood High School graduate Jayme Ward.

“When I was a senior in high school, I learned about an organization called Invisible Children, that was raising awareness about the war in Uganda,” Ward remembers. “I couldn’t believe that at 17, I had never heard of a war that had been going on for 26 years.”

What she learned inspired her to make her first out of country trip to Uganda while in college, and once she visited, she knew she wanted to get involved.

And that’s why she and Angwech formed Far Away Friends in 2014.

“Education is so important, especially in rural areas,” Ward said. “It’s important that we have a beautiful, safe, and secure campus where our students can learn.”

While the organization works to help students and teachers in the Namasale sub-county in the Amolatar District of Uganda, Africa, it has remained fiercely local. When Far Away was first getting off the ground, Ward made a presentation at Lakewood High School about the fundraising needs of students, and Lakewood students delivered. Ward needed about $10,000, and Lakewood students and their families raised about $13,000 in just a week.

But beyond financial assistance, students at Lakewood have become volunteers and leaders with the organization.

“I was a senior at the time of the 2015 presentation, and was very intrigued and wanted to learn more about the organization,” said Siena Tornillo, a Lakewood graduate and Far Away’s regional manager of Fort Collins and northern Colorado. “I then went on to travel with them on their first cultural immersion trip during the summer of 2016, and after falling in love with the organization and the community in Uganda I traveled for a second time during July 2017.”

Far Away started a tradition of taking Lakewood students to Uganda on an annual trip, giving them firsthand experience about the needs of rural students. This focus on cross-cultural relationships and partnerships with other organizations has led to Far Away growingin just a few short years.

“I was asked to become a part of the Far Away Friends team as the Denver Coordinator and have been working on hosting educational and fundraising events in Denver and on the University of Denver campus,” said Jessie Jennett, another Lakewood grad. “I am also the liaison for Lakewood High School and plan do collaborate with Lakewood to keep the sister school partnership alive.”

In 2016, Far Away Friends raised enough money to finalize construction and open Global Leaders in the Amolatar District, which teaches about 100 students from preschool to sixth grade, and helps students pass the primary learning exam. Success on the exam allows them to go on to further schooling.

Other successes the organization has seen include the Brighter Futures campaign, which fully fundraised solar power for the school, and OperationTeach,that provided a fair salary for the teachers and staff at Global Leaders.

Currently, the organization is raising money for a dormitory on campus, since about half the students would benefit from housing. Right now, these students are boarding in classrooms.

“By supporting Far Away Friends, people are supporting the notion that education is for everyone,” Tornillo said. “Children, no matter their background should have an equal opportunity to receive a quality education.”


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