The vision for Juna Amagara originated with Ben Tumuheirwe in May 1985 as he marched out of a courthouse in Kampala. Ben had been arrested for "Holding an unlawful assembly" at Makerere University but thanks to prayer, the government’s case against Ben was dismissed. On that day, he dedicated his life to God for use in bringing the saving message of His love and grace to children and youth in schools and parents in the communities. In 2004, the vision became reality as a group of Americans traveling with Ben to Uganda urged him to start a ministry specifically to save the lives of children in his home country.
Who is Rev. Dr. Ben Tumuheirwe?
Ben is founder and Executive Director of Juna Amagara Ministries. He has over 20 years of experience in International Preaching, Evangelism and Bible Teaching and as a conference speaker in East Africa, the U.K., Sweden and throughout the U.S.A. After graduation from University, Ben worked 10 years for Scripture Union bringing the Gospel to school children throughout Uganda. While attending University for eight years in the U.S., was ordained as a priest in the Anglican Church. He served for two years as Missionary in Residence at the First Presbyterian Church of Glen Ellyn, IL. Ben founded Juna Amagara Ministries in 2004 to give AIDS orphans a chance at life and also to improve life in the very rural communities of Southwestern Uganda.
Ben holds a Bachelor of Science Degree from Makerere University in Kampala, a Master of Arts in Theology Degree from Wheaton College, a Master of Arts in Religion Degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Trinity International University in Illinois.
How is Juna Amagara Ministries different from other humanitarian efforts in Africa today? Juna Amagara Ministries is unique in that we deal not just with the physical needs of AIDS orphans but also the life skills and spiritual needs as well. Our intention is to nurture the few from a variety of locations so that they can become leaders, go back to their villages and change the lives of many. We are not an organization collecting child sponsorship money just to do community development, healthcare programs or build agricultural models. Instead, we are facilitators of needs as identified by indigenous people in crisis. We are adept at running schools, children's homes, foster children care, community health and community evangelism.
How severe is the AIDS problem today?
In the past 25 years, HIV/AIDS has killed millions of people at every level of society and in virtually every country in Africa. The disease continues unabated in most of those countries. But Uganda is rapidly conquering the disease. In 1986, this nation’s president formed a coalition of government, education and church leaders to campaign for a vigorous, Christian-based way of life in the country as an approach to changing the behavior that causes the runaway AIDS pandemic. The result of putting Christ in schools, government and in the society itself resulted in the reduction of new incidences of HIV/AIDS dropping by 2/3. Even so, many people have died, leaving their children behind. Today, there are more than two million children in Uganda who need caregivers and education, 880,000 of them with no means of support whatsoever. These are the children Juna Amagara seeks to serve and save.
Why is Juna Amagara based in Christianity?
Juna Amagara has a Christian foundation because we know it is the belief in Christ that creates permanent change in the behavior of people society-wide. When it comes to HIV/AIDS, there is a popular thematic solution called ABC… Abstinence, Being faithful to one’s spouse and Condoms. With its emphasis on condoms, this approach has been proven tragically false. Instead, we speak of ABC as Abstinence, Being faithful to one’s spouse and Commitment to Christ. In Uganda, countless people, especially children will attest that Christ fills lives and leads young people down a path of right living. It is Christ and His followers who will heal this society. Moreover, belief in Jesus gives young people both a moral compass and confidence that they can achieve whatever goals they set for themselves.
Can the work of Juna Amagara be done without a Christian focus?
How are donated funds used?
Every dollar donated to Juna Amagara Ministries goes to support the children of Amagara House Children’s Homes, AIDS orphan scholarships or vocational training programs. Money is used to provide shelter, purchase food, pay staff, pay school fees, purchase scholastic materials and school uniforms, pay medical bills, utility bills, transport and vehicles, e-mail/telephone communication and equipment/materials for vocational training. It is anticipated that vocational programs will turn into enterprises that will help the ministry become at least partially self-sustaining while students gain expertise in business and earn while they learn. The ministry is operated by volunteer Boards of Directors in Uganda and the U.S., the Executive Director and his staff in Uganda.
How is money handled and how do you avoid corruption?
Juna Amagara Ministries is a registered Non-Government Organization (NGO) in Uganda and, as such, is required by law to operate with financial integrity as specified by the government. Accounts are overseen by the Juna Amagara Ministries Board of Directors, a group of dedicated people that include s respected University Professors, local business owners, an attorney and church leaders. Money is handled only by ministry personnel, not government officials or intermediaries. Money is wired directly from the US to the Juna Amagara bank account in Kampala . Withdrawals are balanced with expenditures in a monthly accounting to the Board. All transactions and financial reports are reviewed by both the US and Ugandan Boards of Directors. Financial practices in the U.S. are audited annually. Juna Amagara has earned the Seal of Approval from Guidestar.com for its practices.
How are orphans selected for the program?
Our Ugandan Director of Operations has devised rigorous selection criteria for children who are invited to Amagara House and also those who receive scholarships. Children have learned how to make application to Juna Amagara Ministries for assistance. And, our contacts throughout the country allow us to learn of those families with the most need. Children selected so far represent rays of hope to their siblings and their communities. When one of nine siblings gets to go to school, there is hope. When a child finds love and shelter even as his second parent lies dying, there is hope. When one member of a child-directed family finds support, there is hope.
Are orphans required to convert to Christianity before receiving aid?
No. Orphans receive aid because they are orphans. Period. They will, however, be exposed to moral modeling and Christian lifestyles of the staff of Juna Amagara and members of the community who owe their escape from the AIDS onslaught to adhering to Christ. They will be living in a Christian community where they may of their own free will take up the Christian faith. No one will be turned away unless they violate the moral requirements and regulations for living in the Children's center.
How do you see the organization growing?
The first Amagara Children’s House was opened in 2004 in rented premises with 14 children under care. By the end of its third year, Juna Amagara had over 140 kids under care, some 45 of them in a house built by the ministry on land owned by the ministry. By 2008, the ministry had built the Kishanje Learning Advancement Center where more than 200 children attend school or are tutored after school. It is the goal of the ministry to have more than 1,000 children in the program by the end of the year 2010. The ministry will grow in scope – more operations in more places. It will grow in numbers. And, it will grow in the services – vocational training, business education and community health – as funding and resources become available from supporters around the world.
How will you measure the ministry’s success?
There are four ways to measure the success of a ministry like Juna Amagara. The first is to see the faces and hear the stories of the children under our care. Do they feel loved? Do they excel in school? Are they leading other children down God’s path? To us, this is the most important measurement and we are already seeing these results. The second is external – audits of financial operations, reviews by third party inspectors, government reports, annual reports from the Board of Directors – all give an objective view of the ministry ’s financial and operational stewardship of its resources. The third measurement is the ministry’s support base. Are people actively excited about the work? Do they tell others about the ministry? So far, Juna Amagara has a very active and growing support base of churches, foundations and individuals. The fourth measurement can only be made over time. What are the children doing ten years after graduating from university, having been supported by Juna Amagara Scholarships and mentoring? We get a glimpse of his future in the graduates of our ABIDE program who are rapidly becoming the strong, educated motivated, Christian core of leadership and productive society in tomorrow’s Uganda and all of Africa.
What does the ministry need today?
For specifics, please visit our current Wish List on the Donations page. And visit this website often to watch the progress that’s being made. Give us your email address so we can keep you informed by regular newsletters.
There are many opportunities here, but mostly we need people to prayerfully come alongside us and decide how they can best use their time, talent and treasure to support this incredible ministry.
Come to Uganda. It is a beautiful country filled with joyful people. When you experience this place and its hospitality, you will find God leading you to do something exciting. We need your hands and we need your heart. Do you like working with children? Are you a skilled artist or craftsperson? Are you an engineer or a pilot? A doctor or a nurse? Are you a gardener, an arborist, a farmer, a mechanic, a pastor, a computer networking consultant? We need you all. The opportunities for contribution are endless, limited only by the hearts of people who care. Email us today to find out how you can become involved.