PHOTO BY LUIS JAVY DIAZ
Mary Gispert started her campaign through St. Catherine of Siena Church in Wilmington.
About three years ago, Mary Gispert had dinner with a priest from northern Uganda. The disturbing stories he told her about his country’s 20-year civil war inspired her to do something to help. “I knew nothing about Uganda at all,” says Gispert, of Hockessin. “There was this lost generation that didn’t know how to care for themselves. After the war ended, they had to rebuild their lives.”Gispert started a campaign through St. Catherine of Siena Church in Wilmington to build a preschool for children ages 3-7 in and around Gulu, Uganda. Called Give It Up for Gulu, the campaign has raised more than $40,000 through 5K races and other fundraisers. St. Catherine’s Nursery School opened on Feb. 3, 2014, and the following December, the school celebrated its first graduating class of 11. Construction has since begun to add a third classroom to the modest brick structure. The school has become quite popular, as people from other villages seek to enroll their children there. “It’s unusual to have a building,” Gispert says. “Many schools meet under a tree.” Gispert is now raising money to buy a van that will transport children to and from school. It is common for three or four children at a time to be carried to school via a motorcycle or bicycle. Gispert visited the school while it was under construction and plans a follow-up trip in April. In the meantime, Give It Up for Gulu will hold another 5K in September. She says she is always looking for volunteers and funds, stressing that no contribution is too small. “Most of the offerings have been humble,” says Gispert. “I just want people to feel connected to it.” (www.giveitupforgulu.com)