Fr. Robert’s Story
I am Rev. Fr. Robert Seraph Aliunzi, AJ, born and raised in Ugandan but now naturalized as an American citizen. I am also a missionary priest belonging to the Apostles of Jesus Religious Order. Currently, I am the Pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle in Chandler, Arizona and previously served for eight years as the Dean of the Northwest Deanery and another eight years in the Presbyteral Council and College of Consultors in the Diocese of Phoenix, Arizona.
I’m so excited to have the opportunity to introduce you to E3 Africa, an organization committed to educating the orphaned, impoverished, and often forgotten of God’s children which Rosalie Weller and I helped co-found.
In a country that has a history of poverty and rural devastation, I am excited that hundreds of Ugandan students are now finding their lives transformed through education provided by the loving sponsors of E3 Africa. There was a time when these students would never have dared to dream of a life beyond subsistence, but through the educational opportunities provided to them by E3 Africa sponsors, they can now plan productive futures and ways in which to contribute toward the economic and social transformation of their communities and their own lives.
E3 Africa was born out of my personal life experiences. Raised in a family of ten children, we lost our father when I was five years old and my mother a year later. My oldest teenage brother became head of the family and eventually found a way to send me to school. But the most productive and sensitive years of my youth were marred by hunger, sickness, fear, threats to my life, expulsion from school and extreme isolation and loneliness. These experiences created a profound sense of loss that haunted me for many years.
Reflecting, however, I came to realize that these experiences were blessings from God that taught me about compassion, love, forgiveness, and understanding. I also realized that had it not been for the intervention of many kind people along the way, I would never have been able to acquire my seminary education and become a priest. My childhood experiences shaped my adult world and created in me a passion for helping other orphans. They helped to define my priesthood in no small way and “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that, you do unto me” (Mt.25:40), became my inspiration.
In gratitude, I began paying the tuition and living expenses of other Ugandan orphans who were so like me. In 2004, I was sent by my religious order to the United States and assigned to Saint Thomas Aquinas parish in Avondale, Arizona as an Associate Pastor. Six months later, I was appointed by the bishop as the Pastor of St. James Parish in Glendale. It was here that a year later Rosalie Weller and I established Efforts to Educate the Needy Children of Uganda (EENU), with the support of the parishioners of St. James who adopted it as their Outreach Ministry. In 2005, EENU became a registered Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) in Uganda in 2005. A year later, under the advice of Bishop Thomas Olmsted of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, the organization became a registered 501c3 non-profit organization called EENU-USA, Inc. In 2013, we renamed our organization E3 Africa to reflect our mission of Educating, Enriching, and Empowering our students in Uganda.
From its inception, the goal of E3 Africa has been to provide educational opportunities for secondary students through funding and sponsorship. Today we have hundreds of children’s education being sponsored by some fantastic people from the United States, with more children on the waiting list for this same incredible opportunity.
E3 Africa also has a Board of Directors in Uganda, apart from the board here in the United States. Joseph Ambayo, our Ugandan Executive Director, manages the ground operations after years of volunteering his time to E3 Africa. As a former secondary school teacher and school administrator, Joseph has a solid understanding of the Ugandan educational system, teen psychology, and behavioral attitudes. Being raised as an orphan himself, he has a great passion for helping children.
Joseph has developed a strong relationship with the personnel of the schools that E3 Africa students attend. He has developed career guidance and counseling seminars for the students and their guardians. He monitors the progress and behavior of each student through personal visits to their respective schools. The focus of E3 Africa is to develop educated, psychologically healthy young adults, capable of becoming productive citizens and leaders of Uganda. By bringing the students together, they are learning to deal with their differences and conflicts in productive ways. They are learning to appreciate that they are all “one people” who can live peacefully together through Joseph’s promotion of the “E3 Africa Family”. This vision is particularly crucial because most of these students are orphans who have suffered years of conflicts arising from tribal, ethnic, and religious differences.
Having experienced the loss of parents, siblings, and other family members, these students often struggle with issues of abandonment and hopelessness. By building an E3 Africa family, we help our students to develop an identity, self-awareness, and self-confidence; they now belong. This attitude is much appreciated by the educators of the students as being a uniquely E3 Africa quality and is credited with helping our E3 Africa students achieve a 98% success rate in being promoted to the next educational level.
Donations are vital in supporting our operational expenses and are critical to our continued success. Student sponsorship is essential to our ability to educate poor, rural Ugandan teens. We are always interested in joining up with persons and organizations with interest in education, business, and international affairs to work with us on our Board of Directors and Sponsorship, School Construction, Fundraising, Finance, Communications, and Board Development committees. Currently, we are building our secondary school, St. Thomas Aquinas College in Moyo, northern Uganda, where all our students will be educated. A multipurpose hall, two classroom buildings, two girl’s and boy’s dormitories, a chapel, a kitchen, and cafeteria have already been constructed, and we are set to open our school on February 2020 with an initial intake of 120 students. We still have four more classroom blocks, a library, a laboratory, an information technology center and administration building, and two more dormitories to build to accommodate the 800 students we hope to enroll eventually.
I share our successes, hopes, and dreams with you in anticipation that you will be inspired to join us in the warm glow of satisfaction that one receives from helping those so much less fortunate.
We encourage you to learn more about us by exploring our website.