Agaba Dunok was born in a refugee camp in South Western Uganda. Not only did he escape the refugee camp and create a future for himself but he also created a future for 300+ refugee children just like him.
Agaba spent his early years in Nakivale Refugee Settlement. His parents were survivors of the Rwandan Genocide and fled to Uganda in order to escape the conflict. Conditions in the camp were extremely difficult for his family. Diseases such as cholera, ebola, HIV, and AIDS were rampant while food and water were scarce. The living situation eventually took a toll on Agaba’s mother. She passed away when he was just three years old. Shortly after his mother’s demise, his father left the family in order to accept a job elsewhere. After his father left Agaba was orphaned and alone in a refugee camp.
However, even as a young boy Agaba was entrepreneurial. He soon got to know an older woman, Ms. Katurumba who needed his help. Ms. Katurumba was too old to collect water from the local water well by herself and so Agaba volunteered to do it for her in exchange for a hot meal. The two of them eventually developed a mother-son bond and Agaba would stay at her home occasionally. Ms.Katurumba’s biological son, Mr. Arishaba Edson, soon took notice of the boy and offered him a place at his primary school. For Agaba this was the opportunity of a lifetime. He left his life in the refugee camp and started school at Mary and Paul Primary school where he was both a worker and a student. He stayed at the school full-time. When he was not in classes he would help to raise cows for the school. Despite working and studying at the same time, Agaba excelled in his studies. He loved learning and performed very well in his academic life.
“I love to be in school more than I love being at home. In school, is the first time I had 2 meals a day. I loved education very much.”
His love of education eventually earned him a scholarship to high school and an entry point to Makerere University. The empowerment he gained from his education and his university life led him to found KIDSAID Uganda in 2016. KIDSAID provides refugee children in Uganda with the opportunity to attend primary school. Agaba finds these refugee children in the same camp that he grew up in or on the side of the road and riverbanks. He has been able to create a partnership with the Kitwe Primary school Located in Kitwe-Ruhaama -Ntungamo District ,South Western Uganda. This school and Agaba signed a Memorandum of Understanding which allows refugee children to attend the school while paying 20% of the original school fee. Agaba pays for these children through sponsors and his own personal business of growing trees and selling firewood. The aim for KIDSAID is to help refugee children to gain an education and excel to the university level or beyond.
“In 2016 we started with only 20 kids but today we have helped 349 kids. Out of 349 kids, about 200 have been able to make it to high school.”
For Agaba, KIDSAID is his life-mission. He joined the Millennium Fellowship with the intention of promoting his organization and lending credibility to it. Since joining the Fellowship as both a Fellow and Campus Director, he has been able to improve his managerial skills, learn how to interact with different people, and build partnerships. He has also learned to gauge how different people might react to different situations.
“I would like to directly apply the network I have gained (from the Fellowship) to my organization as the Fellowship has helped me to connect to life-minded people in my community.”
In the next few years, Agaba has a big vision for KIDSAID. He wishes to build his own school in 5-8 years.This school will be dedicated to helping refugee children like himself. He also wants to introduce vocational education such as metalwork or woodwork in this school so that the children have multiple options for their future.
“The project of my life is KIDSAID Uganda. It is the best project I can do in my lifetime. It appeals to my personal emotions and emotional being. We all know education is the only weapon against underdevelopment. I’m trying to create a generation of refugees that understand why they were displaced and understand how to survive.”