NORFOLK, Va. – George Srour was visiting an orphanage in Kampala, Uganda, this summer when he turned a corner and was swarmed by a group of “double orphans” – children who lost both parents to AIDS and were infected themselves.
All they wanted was to shake his hand.
“I couldn’t stop smiling, but at the same time I felt really awful because I had my hand out and … I didn’t have anything to give them,” recalled Srour, a 21-year-old senior at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va.
On Christmas morning, he plans to return to the Meeting Point Kampala orphanage with two friends from campus. And this time he won’t show up empty-handed.
Srour will surprise the children with gifts and school supplies bought with some of the more than $30,000 collected through a fund-raising project he created, Christmas in Kampala.
All of the 950 children, many of whom are double-orphans, also will get a holiday dinner complete with Coca-Cola, a luxury there.
About $8,000 will be used to put up a concrete building to replace the orphanage’s bamboo schoolhouse, which has to be rebuilt several times a year because it gets eaten away by ants. If any money is left over, Srour hopes to set up a trust to take care of the orphanage’s future needs.
Srour initially visited the orphanage through an internship with the United Nations World Food Programme, which fights global hunger. He spent four weeks at the humanitarian agency’s headquarters in Rome, then went to Uganda for two weeks.
When he went to Meeting Point Kampala and was ambushed by the kids, they took him to the schoolhouse and sang for him. Srour asked the headmaster how much it would cost to build a school out of durable materials. When she told him $8,000, he thought, “That’s easy. I’m doing it. There’s got to be a way.”
When he returned to campus this fall, he approached the school about raising money for the orphanage. A Web site explaining the project went up Nov. 1, through the Dog Street Journal, an online college newspaper Srour founded. Donors were asked to contribute $5 to “adopt” an orphan.
Donors include William and Mary students, faculty and staff and members of Srour’s church in his hometown of Indianapolis.
His former co-workers in Rome raised more than $4,000, with many giving money they had intended to use to buy Christmas presents.
Key Club International, a service program for high school students, donated $10,000 collected from its members. That included $500 from a Key Club in Jamaica, which was hit hard by hurricanes this year.
“It’s awesome to know that people who could use the money themselves were more than willing to raise the money for us,” Srour said.