Fundraiser aims to help Uganda orphanage

When Pepperdine junior Courtney Germann held a fundraiser for a school half a world away last fall, she had no idea that her efforts would be so successful that she would be organizing another fundraiser to help those African students so quickly.

In her “Bus for Buyamba” walk las t October, Germann aimed to raise $30,000 for a bus to transport Ugandan orphans to Buyamba (it means “help” in Swahili) school, outside of Kampala. Fundraiser participants walked eight miles – the average distance that Buyamba students must walk every day to attend school – to get an idea of what those youngsters endure daily just for the chance to study.

Germann, who has traveled several times to Uganda to visit and work at the school in the summers, managed to raise the $30,000 and the bus was bought. Buyamba students now have transportation and the school is thriving.

And growing. With 800 students, Buyamba has built a new high school (many of whom board there), designed to house four floors of classrooms and a top floor to serve as a dormitory.

But they’ve only managed to find funding to finish two floors. So Germann decided another fundraiser was in order. She is calling it Building Buyamba, with an aim to raise $36,000 to finish two more floors. They currently have funding to finish the third floor, which will be under construction soon. For the moment, boy students are sleeping in a classroom and girl students are sleeping in the kitchen.

“Thirty-six thousand dollars will buy walls and flooring, and classes can at least move in,” Germann said. “So, since it’s a building effort, we are staging the fundraiser as a sand castlebuilding contest. Teams that find the most sponsors win prizes, and the grand prize for sand castle design will be chosen by a sand castle building expert!”


Uganda is a poor East African country with an average per capita income of $1,341. So Germann figured that America’s economy of scale could bring a lot to the Buyamba orphans.

“These children are such beautiful spirits and so grateful, even when they have nothing,” Germann said. “Thirty-six thousand dollars is totally doable. And it’s such a fun, family-oriented thing that you can do a lot of good with not a lot of effort.”

The Building Buyamba event will take place March 23 at Zuma Beach lifeguard tower 1 from 12:00 to 3:00. Teams can register online, with the entry fee providing lunch and a T-shirt. For every two sponsors a team signs up (at a minimum $5 sponsorship), they will be allowed one tool to help them in the castle building process (maybe a shovel, maybe a pail). If a team raises at least $100, they will get 10 minutes of sand castle building advice from the two expert volunteers (who declined to be named—but they currently work for major hotels as sand castle architects) who will be ultimately judging the entries.

The team that builds the best sand castle will win tickets to Disneyland, while the team that raises the most awareness (by getting the most sponsors) will win tickets to the Clippers and the Ducks. Other sponsors include Starbucks, Ralphs and Regal Theatres.

Germann is patrolling the Pepperdine campus to commandeer volunteer teams, and she has gotten the students at Point Dume Marine Science School on board to help with the effort. Unlike the bus project, building materials can already be found in Kampala, she said. The only thing stopping construction is the funding.

“My dream is to raise the money to finish the school in a year and a half, so I’ll know the kids have a comfortable living environment.” Germann said. “But even if we raise just $6,000, that will build one full classroom.”

Buyamba, Inc., was launched in 2006 and has hubs across the country in Texas, New York, Georgia and Florida. The nonprofit’s CEO, Julie Dimas, said she became inspired to get involved after meeting a Ugandan teacher who spoke about his country’s extreme poverty.

“Courtney is amazing with what she has accomplished already,” Dimas said. “But when you go there, as she has done, you see how much good can be done. We have three fundraisers going on the next few months. I think we’ll get that school built.” To find out more about Building Buyamba, and to sign up for the contest, visit the website

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