Love reaches all the way to Uganda

By Hayley Gastmeier hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz -
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DOING GOOD: Former Chanel College student Aimee Mackey, 31, with children from the Uganda orphanage she funds through her charity Hope For Orphans International. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
DOING GOOD: Former Chanel College student Aimee Mackey, 31, with children from the Uganda orphanage she funds through her charity Hope For Orphans International. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

A former Masterton woman is on a mission to reconstruct a Ugandan orphanage which has fleas, unstable walls and a rotten leaking roof.

Aimee Mackey (nee Sherry), now living in Christchurch, will raise the funds needed through individuals nationwide taking part in local running events on her charity's behalf.

Her fundraiser, Running to Raise the Roof, will see Carterton couple Willie and Jude Jephson leading five other Wairarapa residents on the Tora 18km Challenge this Sunday.

Mrs Mackey and her Australian friend, Mel, started up their charity, Hope For Orphans International, in 2014. It fully funds the Ugandan orphanage in the small village of Mpigi.

The 31-year-old is aiming to raise $5000 to strengthen and repair the orphanage that supports 14 orphans aged 6 to 18.

She recently stepped back from her career as a nurse to work full time for the charity, saying it's been "one of the best decisions of my life".

"It is the most incredible job," said Mrs Mackey, a mother of two. "Since this started, it has been amazing the doors that have opened for us as a charity and the change we have seen in the 14 orphans.

"Each has come from backgrounds of abuse and neglect but all are now in school and doing amazingly well."

Last year, Mrs Mackey and her husband, Josh, also a former Chanel College student, visited the village, which had no power or running water and a dried-up well.

"There is so much need there in the village. It's totally poverty-stricken and life is so hard there but it's so awesome seeing what God and our supporters are able to change."

During their November visit the couple facilitated the installation of a water tank and spouting.

"They now have access to safe, clean water and no longer do the children have to cross main highways with 20kg jerry-cans for water."

She said the cost was about $1800 and half was donated while the couple was there.

"Honestly, I feel I have the best job ever," Mrs Mackey said.

The couple have plans to return to Uganda later this year.

Mrs Jephson, who is leading the charity's Wairarapa fundraising team on the Tora Challenge, said it had raised more than $1000, with a number of Carterton businesses donating to the cause. She said she was inspired by Mrs Mackey and would continue to fundraise through other events.

"Aimee has such a kind heart and for someone to change their life to benefit others is just totally amazing."

Mrs Mackey pays the charity's admin fees herself, and posts regular updates, pictures and videos on Hope for Orphans International's Facebook page.

The charity also gives regular donations to a school in Mpigi and plans to eventually fully rebuild the orphanage, at an estimated cost of $130,000.

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