The concept of The Child is Innocent is simple. As the U.S. executive director, Schwartz, 34, finds families here in the States willing to sponsor students financially, while Oola recruits promising students in Uganda to receive the scholarships.
Schwartz said the organization started with 13 students in 2004 and has grown to about 130 kids now. Education and leadership development is important because much of the northern part of Uganda needs to be rebuilt after two decades of war. Most people at the camps also missed out on any sort of educational opportunity, Schwartz said.
“We felt like the people to take responsibility and best suited to lead the rebuilding and development were northern Ugandans themselves,” he said.
Nancy Wayne of Marblehead has been supporting the organization for the past six years because it provides the students a safe and healthy place to learn.
“My husband and I believe very strongly in education as a vehicle to give children the opportunities to realize their potential,” she said.
As part of the sponsorship, donors receive letters and report cards from their students in Uganda, and they can write letters to them.
“It is not just about giving money and hoping it goes well,” Wayne said. “You get feedback from the students. Even though we are so many miles apart, we still have that connection.”
Schwartz now lives in Boston and works as a pediatric emergency physician at Boston Medical Center. He goes to Uganda every year or two to do medical work and to visit the children in the program. Much of his role for the organization is to recruit and raise money, but he also helps develop some of the leadership curriculum.
Schwartz said six graduates of the program now attend college and 15 students are in the process of applying for college.
“My hope,” he said, “is we’ll continue to graduate community leaders and the children will come to help rebuild and improve the lives of their families and neighbors.”