CHARLES TOWN — Leaders of the Children of Uganda recently held an open house to celebrate the 10th anniversary of its international headquarters at 214 W. Congress St.
The event also served to remind Eastern Panhandle residents of Children of Uganda’s presence here and “to recommit our mission” to helping hundreds of Ugandan children in need, according to the charity’s executive director Pamela Brannon.
Brannon, 53, said the event also marked the launching of the nonprofit’s first backpack donation program for children who need support right here in Jefferson County. “We want to give back to the community that supports us,” she said.
The deadline for the project comes Dec. 31.
“Our program works with children from grade one through university to help them break the chains of dependency and empower their vulnerable families,” she said.
Uganda, a landlocked country in East Africa, has a population of more than 42 million. “Half are children under the age of 15 and half of them are orphans living in poverty,” Brannon said.
Brannon said there are more orphans in Uganda than anywhere else in the world because of the AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty and decades of civil conflict there.
“We’re on the ground in Uganda to help as many of these young people as we can,” she said. “We give children safe shelter, food, clothing, education and medical care. In Uganda, there are no public schools, so without school fees, children don’t learn. Through us, children gain an education and the life skills they need for future success. Their lives are completely transformed.”
The Children of Uganda organization began in 1995 in Dallas and was originally called the Uganda Children’s Charity Foundation. A registered 501(c)3 nonprofit, it works in conjunction with non-governmental organizations in Uganda.
Over the years, Brannon has traveled to Uganda some 15 times to work with teams there.
A native of Jefferson County who studied at University of Maryland after graduating from Jefferson High, Brannon worked for charitable nonprofits in California before she returned to Charles Town to care for her aging parents around the time she was named executive director of the agency.
“It made sense to move the headquarters to Charles Town,” she said. “Some of the board’s members live in the Washington, D.C., area.”
Along with Brannon, the headquarters here has a part-time staff that includes administrative assistant Danesia Chiccirichi and Mason Meadows, who directs the sponsors program.
Brannon serves on the nonprofit’s nine-member board of directors. Janet Olajide, the board’s treasurer, also attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony.