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The theme for World Day of Social Justice on Sunday is Achieving Social Justice through Formal Employment. One Australian school student, with the help of friends has raised money to improve the education and employment opportunities for the poor in Uganda.

Geelong student Sarah Kenworthy who has spent the past few years raising money for poor villagers in Mannya is planning another trip to Africa in January. Sarah, 19, will do volunteer work with two friends at the local school and health centre.

Studying first year nursing and midwifery at Deakin University, Sarah’s personal story appeared in an issue of The Majellan in 2015. To date she has collected enough money for more than 2000 solar lights.

Along with her siblings Jessie-anne and Benjamin, St Bernard’s Parish and the Geelong community, Sarah has raised $11,000 this year. “My goal is to raise another $16,000 to purchase a pallet of 1728 solar lights,” says Sarah. “There are over 40,000 people in Mannya and the surrounding villages, so it would be great if we could send more lights over.

“I would like to sincerely thank every person who donated money to this cause. From the article we raised enough money to purchase and send over 300 solar lights.”

Mannya is a poor Catholic village in remote Uganda with no running water or electricity. The children have to walk several kilometres each day to collect polluted water, which needs to be boiled prior to drinking. Mannya is well known for its high number of orphans whose parents have died of HIV.

The average income in Mannya is $1 a day and kerosene costs 50 per cent of the people’s daily income. With the help of the solar lights, families now have more money which goes towards food, education and health.

The solar lights help students to study at night, which in turn leads to higher grades and better employment opportunities.

Josephine, 15, a Mannya student said, “My family, together with the people of the Mannya community appreciate very much the solar lights you have provided to us. This gift has helped us to study and get light during the night.

“This will enable us to study better and achieve our goals and dreams in education. It has enabled my parents to save money that was being used to buy kerosene which is very expensive for us and often caused accidents and burns. The money will help us get scholastic materials like books, pens that have been difficult to afford in the past.”

Mannya parish priest, Father Mugisha Nestus said, “The solar lights have made a huge difference to the lives of the blessed families who have received one. In a neighbouring village I met a girl who was 8 years old, but because of the kerosene lamps she had lost all her fingers and half of her hair that will never grow back again.

“When I saw her, I was greatly touched and reflected how the solar lights will save many children in the future from devastating and life-threatening burns.”

Donations can be made to St Bernard’s Parish, 74 Fryers Road, Belmont, Victoria 3216 or (03) 5243 2739.