MARBLEHEAD — Growing up in Marblehead, Kevin Schwartz knew he was lucky. But he didn’t realize just how lucky he was until he reached medical school and began talking with his roommate.
While Schwartz was enjoying life in seaside Marblehead, in a comfortable single-family home with a brother and sister, Fred Oola was living in the squalor of a displaced persons camp in Uganda, which had been embroiled in a two-decades-long civil war. Schwartz attended the private Pingree School in Hamilton, graduating in 1996 with a top-notch education. Oola was able to get an education because an Italian missionary paid for him to attend a boarding school, which opened the door for him to become a doctor.
The two roommates met at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester.
They bonded, talking a lot about their different upbringings.
“I had a lot of opportunity growing up in the United States, and I feel like I could have been born in a displaced persons camp in Uganda with so few opportunities,” Schwarz said. “I always wanted to help even out some of the unfairness.”
As for Oola, “he wanted to give the same opportunity he received to other kids,” Schwartz said.
While they were still in medical school, they decided to start The Child is Innocent, a nonprofit organization that works to educate children and develop leaders in Northern Uganda. The organization was launched in 2004.
Tonight, the organization will hold a fundraiser from 6:30 to 9 at the Pingree School library, 537 Highland St., Hamilton. The event will feature African music and a recently filmed documentary on the organization. All proceeds will go directly to the organization.
The conflict between the Ugandan government and the rebel Lord’s Resistance Army was fought for more than 20 years, mostly in northern Uganda, and was once called “the most forgotten, worst humanitarian crisis in the world” by the United Nations, according to the organization. Millions have been displaced and thousands killed during the conflict. While the region is safer now, the effects of war still remain.