Daniel Musinguzi remembers the first time he put on a pair of shoes. He was 16 years old.
“They weren’t normal shoes; they had holes in them,” he said in his thick Ugandan accent.
Musinguzi is the founder of the Mission Aid Project, a 501c3 that is working to raise money for children in Uganda to go to school.
Like many people living in the United States, Daniel wants to help children in Uganda. But his motivation is different: These are his people, and he’s been where they are.
In 2000, Musinguzi met some children who were on the street, sleeping in plastic bags, in the capital of Uganda. The children’s parents either died or their parents abandoned them. Many, especially those infected with HIV from their parents, are dead by their third birthday, he said.
“Children have children, and then they are not able to take care of them,” he said.
Musinguzi went to the government to get permission to take children in. As a pastor, he gets help from his church, and the orphanages have seen about 800 children since then, he said.
Now Musinguzi is on a new mission: get the help of Americans to raise money for a school for the children, he said.
“We have a school made of papyrus, but it falls down when the wind blows,” he said. “We want to build brick buildings.”
Musinguzi said educating the children on-site is easier than sending them off to school.
Americans from Louisiana came to visit Musinguzi’s church and invited him to the United States in 2006, he said. He’s been sending money back home ever since.
“God is good,” he said. “I am glad for what I am doing right now.”
But Musinguzi’s job transferred him to Tyler, where he has no connections, so fundraising is more difficult.
“Some people weren’t willing to stay involved, but I’ve stayed involved because I fell in love with the kids,” said Joshua Guillory, board member of Mission Aid Project who went to Uganda on the initial visit.
Musinguzi will needs thousands more to reach his goal.
“I won’t give up on (the children),” he said. “In this new year, I am going to work hard to build the school.”