Barack was the first Umoja student to complete secondary school (2008). Since working for one year as the Umoja Project’s first Administrative Assistant, he has been working toward a college diploma in community development and social work which he hopes to complete in November.
In his spare time, Barack continues to volunteer for the Umoja Project. He helped to create the Umoja Project Alumni Association, a peer support group which also mentors the younger students still in high school. Since both of Barack’s parents died when he was young, he credits the “Umoja Family” for helping him stay in school and encouraging his studies.
He says, “Secondary school was like a bridge that has enabled me to cross over to another side of life, with a clear path that I can walk in realizing my goals. I am now very hopeful that my dream of becoming a community worker will be real. I thank God for the Project which has consistently supported us. However, not every journey is short of challenges. I personally have found it hard to be the family provider and pay for part of my school fees altogether. But I have to march on and with your continued prayers I will go through. Thank you.”
The excerpts below are from a letter written in 2010:
My name is Barack Juma. I wish to briefly express my appreciation to Umoja Project as I look back on how far I have come. Two years ago, my student life at St. Mary Goretti Oluowa Secondary School was characterized by irregularity in school attendance occasioned by chronic lack of school fees and big fee arrears. Being a total orphan with no means of assuring continued school fees support, my studies solely depended on how often I got small jobs in the village to earn some little money to buy a few study items and, wherever so possible, to pay some of the colossal school fees.
The day I heard of Umoja Project and was selected for support was my greatest day. Since that day I have been able to regularly attend school. I was glad when at the beginning of this year 2008, I not only had my school fees paid for but also got the examination registration fees paid for me! I have been honored by being regarded the first Umoja Project graduate and treated as a celebrity.
I am greatly humbled and realize just how lucky I have been and just how much I owe Umoja Project for seeing me through my high school studies. I am so grateful that many more boys and girls are beneficiaries of this blessing. I can only but count my blessings as my misery has been swept away by Umoja Project’s support.
I took my exams vowing to set a legacy for other students in academic excellence in appreciation of the privilege of being taken through school. I am yet to learn of my performance as the results will be released in February 2009. In my appreciation, I have indicated my willingness to serve Umoja Project for some time voluntarily though I would be glad to earn some money that I may save for my college tuition. It is my prayer that Umoja Project comes up with a way in which it will be possible to give hope to its graduates beyond high school. Long live the Umoja Project!