During his eight-and-a-half years in the United States, Father Julius Turyatoranwa attended graduate school at Illinois State University, working on a master’s degree and a subsequent PhD in Educational Administration and Foundations. His clerical duties with the Diocese of Peoria took him to parishes in Bloomington and Morton before he became a parochial vicar serving St. Patrick Catholic Church in Washington and St. Monica Catholic Church in East Peoria. He completed and defended his doctoral dissertation in October, and he will graduate in mid-December.
The son of a poor family from Rukiga District in Uganda, Turyatoranwa is mindful of the value of education as a means of escaping poverty. When he returns to Uganda shortly after Christmas, he plans to establish a primary boarding school near Mbarara, the country’s second-largest city.
“The school will be for students from pre-kindergarten through seventh grade,” said Turyatoranwa. “The students who will be in the boarding section will be only from first grade upwards, because prior to that age, children are too young to be at a boarding school.”
Turyatoranwa purchased the five-acre plot of land on which the school will be built for about $70,000, paying in installments over the past three years. He made the final payment about eight months ago.
“The land is in a prime area, near a big city,” he said. “That made it expensive.”
To fund the school project, Turyatoranwa founded the non-profit organization Building Hope in Kids – Uganda. The new school will be called St. Patrick Boarding Primary School, and it will partner with St. Patrick Catholic School in Washington. The advantages of a boarding school are that it will enable students to obtain a quality education while having access to suitable accommodations, clean water and electricity, and nutritious meals. Turyatoranwa expects the endeavor to unfold over 10 years as funding becomes available and enrollment increases. In 10 years, he hopes for enrollment to gradually grow to 500 students.
The project will proceed in three phases and will cost an estimated $2.5 million. The first phase will involve surveying of the land, preparation of the grounds and construction of basic buildings such as classrooms, office, living quarters, a kitchen and dining hall, a student canteen, a barber shop and salon, and latrines. The second stage will include the construction of permanent dormitories, an administration building, a principal’s house, and a guest house. The final step will consist of adding upper floors to the dormitories built in the previous phase, along with building a multipurpose hall and chapel and staff living quarters.
“Construction is going to start in January 2018,” said Turyatoranwa. “We will spend the year putting up the first buildings and recruiting students, faculty and staff. Then we will enroll our first students in the 2019 academic year.”
The first phase of the school project will cost an estimated $500,000. Since the inception of Building Hope for Kids – Uganda, parishes in Bloomington, Morton, Washington and East Peoria, along with local businesses and private donors, have contributed about $300,000.
“I think it’s wonderful that kids in Uganda are going to have a beautiful school to attend,” said Pat Woehler of Washington, bookkeeper for St. Patrick Church and for Building Hope in Kids – Uganda. “Those kids will have a chance at a better education than they would have gotten otherwise, and they’ll have good food and good places to sleep. I’m proud to be part of this project.”
Returning to Uganda will be a bittersweet experience for Turyatoranwa. On one hand, he is happy at the prospect of returning home. On the other, he expects to miss the friends he made during his time in central Illinois.
“It has been an incredible ministry the past eight-and-a-half years,” he stated. I am grateful to the bishop of Peoria, Daniel Jenky, for allowing me to work under his guidance and leadership, and to the pastors and parishioners at the different parishes where I have worked. Certainly, when you have worked with people for a long time, you bond with them.”
Because St. Patrick Boarding Primary School will partner with St. Patrick Catholic School, Turyatoranwa anticipates continued contact with local parishioners over the years. He plans to sponsor adult mission trips that will afford local residents an opportunity to travel to Uganda and interact with students at the boarding school. He also foresees frequent correspondence between students of the two partner schools, teacher exchanges and online connections.
St. Patrick Boarding Primary School will be open to children of all faith denominations. Donations for the project can be made to:
Building Hope in Kids – Uganda
PO Box 612
Washington, IL 61571-0612
For more information, visit www.BuildingHopeInKids.org.