Today's speaker was Sylvia Allen.  Sylvia grew up in the Twin Cities, currently resides in New Jersey, yet is a member of the North St. Paul/Maplewood Rotary Club. She was a producer for KSTP radio and TV for many years, then taught Public Relations at New York University for 20 years.  Her real passion, however is the "Sylvia's Children" organization, which was the primary subject of her comments today.  She founded this non-profit which is devoted to helping more than 1,000 students and orphans, ages 3 to 14, at the Mbiriizi Primary School in Masaka, Uganda. In 2003, she went on a humanitarian trip to Uganda and while there, was asked by Geofrey Kawuma, head of the school, to be the school’s Grandmother, a responsibility she was honored to accept. Since that first trip in 2003, she has raised more than $800,000 for the school.

Her goal is to make the school self-sustaining. “The community is filled with industrious and creative people,” Allen says, “it’s common sense that once they have a solid foundation, including quality education and basic necessities, they will flourish. It begins with nurturing the children.”   The challenges however are great.  The country has 1.5 million orphans.  95% of the population does not have electricity.  More than half of the population lives on less than $2 a day.  95% of the population does not have water.  And only 20% of the children go past 7th grade.  She does not let these facts deter her, stating her guiding belief that "obstacles are what you see when you take your eye off the ball!"