When Joanita Bbaale Senoga left her home country of Uganda in 1996, traveling to the United States and settling in Richmond, she also left behind the school she'd founded for low-income and orphaned children.
Now she hopes to grow the school from afar.
Called Circle of Peace School and located outside the Ugandan capital, Kampala, her school started with eight pupils but has swelled to 250, she says, with about 35 orphans in residence. Run by Senoga's family and hired staff, the school provides primary education and meals to children through the seventh grade.
Senoga, a University of Richmond graduate with two daughters, started the school in 1993. She says she was moved by her experience working as a teacher at a Ugandan school where the headmaster often entered her classroom to announce the names of pupils whose partial tuition had run out. Their parents had paid for as much as they could, Senoga says, and those children had to leave.
“I used to hide my kids in the closet,” she says.
Senoga started teaching children who couldn't afford to attend school full-time on the porch of her parents' house, and soon Circle of Peace School was renting land and building classrooms to accommodate its growing number of pupils.
Late last year Senoga learned that the land was no longer available. She returned to Uganda to rally a group to rebuild the school on property owned by her family.
Senoga says Circle of Peace School has been sponsored through an online charity organization, Givology.com, and that it has received donations of supplies and money from Richmond groups. A benefit photography exhibit, “Images of Hope: What Would You Buy With $50,” will be held at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Oregon Hill at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 27 to raise money for the school's expansion.