ST. MARYS — Seniors at the Auglaize County Council on Aging plan to reach out to Ugandan elders across a cultural gap to correspond via videos and letters with people whose lives are affected by combatting poverty and AIDS.
Part pen-pal program and part mission of compassion, ACCA Director Chris Roby said the program was inspired by the work of the Mwera Miracle Center in Kampala, Uganda, where roughly 100 seniors go for help. The lives of seniors in the area are influenced by poverty and HIV, where they live on one meal every two days. Some survive on only black tea and sugar. They combat problems of contaminated water and lack medical treatment and basic necessities like beds and soap.
Many of the seniors have grandchildren and extended family to take care of because their children died of HIV/AIDS, leaving behind children. Most of those children are unable to go to school.
What the senior program wants to do is help the Mwera Center feed the seniors a meal every month, help them repair their houses and get them bedding.
Also, the group hopes to provide some kind of medical treatment, buy land for growing food, and drill for clean water.
The group wants to get the grandchildren in these homes an education, food, sanitary items and clothes.
More than that, however, the senior center plans to send letters and a video to open the lines of communication with the 93 people who will benefit.
The list of names puts the youngest grandparents in their late forties, and the oldest, Tadeo Bulekelawo, of the village of Kiwande, at 92.
“It’s pretty amazing how these people survive on what they get,” Roby said.
Roby said that while the lives of the seniors in Uganda are completely different from those at the council on aging, she thinks the friendships will encourage an appreciation of cultural diversity.
“I thought, ‘What a wonderful opportunity to expand their horizons and expand the cultural group,’” Roby said.
The ACCA will also host a spaghetti buffet and dance to reach out to the seniors from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Wapakoneta Eagles.
“We want everyone to get involved,” Roby said. “We’re very blessed here, and this is a new way to reach out and give back.”
She said she thinks when the letters and videos start going back and forth it will provide a unique opportunity to have a window into what it means to be elderly in another part of the world. The group will also exchange handmade tokens. There may even be a chance, with the help of an English speaking pastor, to Skype with the seniors.
“It just touched my heart when I heard about the number of seniors,” Roby said. “I know I’m a director so I’m not supposed to be — but I thought we’ve just got to do something for them.”