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Bluffs native works with nonprofit in Uganda

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Posted July 3, 2011 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Charity ~ 1,974 views

     

By Mike Brownlee ~ After working as a social worker in Omaha, Ryan Youtz headed where most twentysomethings looking for a change go: Africa. Kampala, Uganda, to be exact.

Youtz, 26, is the program coordinator for Ravens Ministries, which offers programs helping young adults and others in Kampala, the country’s capitol and home to about 1.6 million people.

“It’s a big city, a bustling city, but it’s a third-world city,” Youtz said.

Abel Muwanguzi founded Ravens Ministries in 2007 and Youtz came aboard in 2009. Uganda has the world’s second-youngest population, Youtz noted, with half the populace younger than 15.

Because of the poverty rate and rate of HIV or AIDS infections affecting their parents, many children drop out of school somewhere between fourth to 10th grade. The men said there is no free schooling in Uganda.

A key Ravens program places young adults in Kampala trade schools, colleges and universities – depending on the young adult’s education background – providing tuition fees, minimal room and board accommodations and assist with ensuring program members have access to basic health care.

“They end up at 21 years old, with no education, with no job. What are they going to do?” Youtz said. “The men turn to theft, while the woman often turn to prostitution.”

Muwanguzi and Youtz meet with youth adult empowerment program members one-on-one in a mentoring capacity as well.

The pair is in the United States for about a month, speaking to groups and individuals about Ravens in an effort to gain sponsors for the young adults they help. It’s Muwanguzi’s first time in the States.

“These are people who have ideas and dreams,” Muwanguzi said about the program. “They just need someone to lean on to help their dreams come to reality.”

Seven young adults are in the Ravens program, which takes about two to three years to complete. Three others have graduated, including a woman named Grace. Abel explained that Grace dropped out of school after her father died and mother took ill.

Through Ravens she was able to take graphic design courses at a technical school and is now employed in Kampala, while also seeking a four-year degree.

“We want to help people go from dependent and seeking help to being independent and able to take care of themselves,” Muwanguzi said.

Youtz was born in Council Bluffs and spent his summers with his father, Don, in the city after his parents divorced. He attended high school in Omaha while living with his mother, Janice Peterson, but said Council Bluffs has always been his second home.

While attending the University of Nebraska at Omaha, Youtz worked at an orphanage in Mali, a land-locked country in western Africa, a trek that solidified the continent as his third home.

“I knew once I set foot on African soil I’d be back,” Youtz said.

After college he headed to Kampala in 2008, working six months with a nonprofit organization that helped street children in the city. That’s where he met Muwanguzi.

With his stint over, Youtz returned to Omaha, where he got the social-worker position. He stayed in touch with Muwanguzi’s ministry, with an eye toward returning to Kampala to help.

“Many non-governmental organizations in Uganda work with children.” Youtz said. “What happens to these young adults that fall through the cracks?”

For more information on the program go to the website at ravensministries.org or to inquire about sponsorship, email Youtz or Muwanguzi at ryan@ravensministries.org or abel@ravensministries.org.


About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

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