In 1985, AVSI Uganda began with St. Joseph's Missionary Hospital in Kitgum. Since then, it has inititated or been involved with hundreds of projects, with focuses spanning from healthcare to education, nutrition and agriculture, initiatives related to HIV/AIDS, economic empowerment and livelihoods, assistance for child soldiers, and
the management of refugee camps.
AVSI in Uganda was founded 30 years ago by a group of Italian doctors who worked at the St. Joseph's mission hospital in Kitgum. In order to improve the quality of services offered, a formal collaboration between the hospital and local institutions was initiated.
AVSI’s presence was further strengthened in 1990, when they opened offices in Kampala, now the current headquarters. This history and relationship with local communities has allowed AVSI to establish well-equipped and versatile field offices in Gulu, Pader and Kitgum with experienced staff who possess in-depth knowledge of the area, the population and the local leadership; this has also allowed AVSI to begin operating in twelve other districts of the country.
"The person comes first. We have always tried to give a more human face to our work. This means looking at the needs of each individual and accompanying communities on their development paths by helping them to search for a better life with their own resources,” explains John Makoha, the country representative for AVSI Uganda.
AVSI has accompanied communities in Uganda for 30 years, even during the long periods of instability that characterize their recent history.
Northern Uganda has been the scene of bloody clashes between rebels and government forces as well as a site for the overflowing civil strife from the South Sudanese border. These events resulted in a large refugee population that required great attention and creativity from AVSI Uganda for the development of both long-term programs and an emergency response. In this context, the holistic and integrated approach inherent in any of AVSI’s projects, and the decades of experience in the field have enabled AVSI Uganda to not lose sight of its overall goals in the country.
"Whether it's teaching methods of modern farming to families in order to increase the harvest, helping women to start their own businesses, or allowing the most vulnerable children to access quality education, we do not lose sight of our method that relies entirely on the human factor and the ability of communities to overcome the challenges that life brings,” adds John Makoha.
Currently, the main priorities for AVSI in the country are related to access of quality education, vocational training and employment, and support for five major hospitals in Uganda, with particular regard for the prevention and care of HIV/AIDS patients. Today, AVSI employs 172 staff, based at the head offices and the two field offices. AVSI has an annual budget of $9 million for a wide range of programs across the country. Donors include the USAID, European Union, ICC, UNICEF, Alliance, FAO and private donations from Belgium, Canada and Italy.
In 2002, the commitment of AVSI for education in Uganda began with the Permanent Center of Education (PCE) in Kampala. Today it is known as the Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education, and is officially recognized by the Ugandan government. The school includes a series of courses for teachers and professionals that are based on the educational method of Don Giussani. Over the years, the school has given more than 500 courses and trained around 25,000 educators.
To mark AVSI’s 30th anniversary in Uganda, the Kampala office is noting its commitment to education with an event at the Luigi Giussani school. The staff will join government officials, business leaders and members of the community in marking this celebratory occasion with a formal event on Friday, September 18th.
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