Jeniffer, Uganda

“I really don’t know how to thank you enough.  You have been my confidence, inspiration, motivator and above all my best friend.” These are the grateful words from a deserving young lady whom Geelong local Sally Higoe has devoted much of her time and energy into helping with the basics of life.

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Eleven years ago, a chance encounter with 7yr old Jeniffer in Kabale, Uganda was where Sally began her quest to improve the quality of one life. Since then, Sally’s fundraising efforts have positively affected the lives of many in Jeniffer’s community.

‘When I met Jeniffer in 2007, she was selling bananas from a basket on her head, walking the streets and chatting to tourists, so that she could raise money to pay for her own schooling.  She inspired my husband and I, and after a great little chat with her, we bought some bananas and said our good byes. The next day she came running up to us in the street – she wished to return our 10 cents change!’

Sally wanted to help Jeniffer achieve her goal, so through Nelco, (an employee at the accommodation where Sally was staying), they arranged to meet Jen’s family.

‘We decided to pay for her schooling. We helped ‘Mum’ to open a bank account and for the next 5 years we liaised online with Nelco and the Principal and put Jen through primary school.’

‘Jen – up against enormous odds, (poverty, malnutrition, terrible living conditions, walking miles to and from school and for water alone), graduated high school last year, with a score of 18 out of a possible 25.  In her words, she said “Never did I imagine all those years ago when I met you on the street that I would be lucky enough to be a student and especially to graduate from school.”

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‘We have always been very careful to provide funds to aid self-empowerment and resilience – not simply for food and survival.  Jen has a dream of tailoring and sewing.  Her aim is to become certified and start a training school in her village.  In her words, “A school here teaching handicrafts and tailoring would make a lot of money…it will yield a difference in the lives of the entire village”.

‘Jeniffer’s drive and passion for life, along with her dreams are what inspired me to run the fundraiser Dessert For A Dream. This dessert night fundraiser succeeded in buying Jenn a sewing machine, 6 months of office space and also paid her fees for the 1 year course to learn professional tailoring.’

Sally has recently turned her fundraising efforts to assist with an orphanage in Kabale, now run by Nelco (who she met all those years ago in Uganda). She has begun a Facebook Page called ‘Consider Kabale’ creating awareness, and giving people in our local community an opportunity to offer ideas and initiatives to make a positive difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

Story: Sarah Treacy Photos supplied