Local charity helps needy girls in Uganda

Cristen McCormick doesn’t believe in coincidence. But whatever one would call it — happenstance, fate, divine intervention — the chain of events that resulted in McCormick creating Hope for Hearts offers pretty strong evidence that something, somewhere, was at work.

McCormick and her family attend St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church. There, McCormick met the Rev. Mugagga Lule. From Lule, McCormick learned of St. Elizabeth Girls Academy, an orphanage he founded in Uganda, East Africa for orphaned and abandoned street girls.

As a result of that series of events, McCormick in 2007 created Hope for Hearts, a foundation that raises money to support the orphanage.

According to McCormick, Lule founded the orphanage simply because “there are so many orphans on the street in Uganda, apparently as many as 2,000 children.”

Lule, who is from Uganda, “decided he had to do something for these kids living out on the street,” McCormick says. About 200 girls now receive board and vocational training at the academy, McCormick says, but many more still have to be turned away.

McCormick says that, when Lule told her about the academy, she “fell in love with the project,” in part because it represents a “hand up, not a handout. We’re not giving these girls anything that will make then dependent. We’re giving them the tools to become independent and become good community citizens.”

Also, says McCormick, herself the mother of four, “the money that we provide to this academy means life and death, literally. It costs $4.30 a week per girl to provide basic food and shelter.”

The nonprofit Hope for Hearts works, first, to keep the academy running and provide for the girls’ needs. Donors may contribute lump sum gifts or sponsor a girl for $240 annually. That, McCormick says, covers the cost of a girl’s food, board and classes.

Donors so far have included individuals, school classes and families. In fact, McCormick says, because donors receive periodic letters from the girls they sponsor, that’s “a really nice way to show your children that you can help people in other areas (around the world) and really make an impact.”

Hope for Hearts also raises money for the academy through the sale of African bead necklaces that are handmade in Uganda, McCormick says.

In addition to providing for the academy’s ongoing needs, Hope for Hearts’ long-term objective is to fund the construction of a new St. Elizabeth campus. That project is estimated to cost $4.5 million, McCormick says.

For more information, visit the organization’s Web site at www.hopeforhearts.net or call 412-6571.

Contact reporter John Przybys at jprzybys@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0280.

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