Fr. Robert Aliunzi, AJ, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Chandler and founder of E3 Africa, poses for a picture with students in his native Uganda’s Moyo district. (Photo courtesy of E3 Africa)
E3 Golf Classic

When: 9 a.m.–12 p.m., May 6

Where: Topgolf Gilbert, 1689 S. San Tan Village Pkwy., Gilbert

Click HERE for more information.

For young orphans in Uganda, an education can mean the difference between life and death.

That’s the message Fr. Robert Aliunzi, AJ, one of the co-founders of E3 Africa — short for educate, enrich and empower, has for Catholics in the Diocese of Phoenix. Though his homeland is nearly 10,000 miles away, Fr. Aliunzi believes God has called him to serve at St. Andrew Parish in Chandler while continuing his mission to save the impoverished and orphaned in Uganda.

Fr. Aliunzi traveled to Uganda last month to bless the brand-new Dr. Susan G. Menking Multipurpose Hall on the growing campus of the organization’s secondary school. It marked the completion of the school’s first phase of construction.

“For me the best part of the trip was when we flew over the town and saw the new building,” Fr. Aliunzi said. “I saw it like a shining star that will light the way for the future for so many.”

Teachers and students were lined up along the air strip where the prop plane that held Fr. Aliunzi landed and the ribbon-cutting ceremony soon followed. The multipurpose hall includes a large community classroom, an infirmary and teachers’ offices. The building will host peace and conflict resolution workshops, weddings, spiritual retreats and serve as a gathering point in Uganda’s Moyo district.

Construction on classrooms and a chapel at the high school, called St. Thomas Aquinas College — many countries refer to secondary schools as colleges — begins soon. Eventually, the co-ed school will educate and house 800 students.

Fr. Robert Aliunzi, AJ, pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Chandler and founder of E3 Africa, blesses the Dr. Susan G. Menking Multipurpose Hall in Uganda during a visit earlier this year. (Photo courtesy of E3 Africa)

The organization also pairs needy students with American sponsors who pay tuition, room and board for orphans’ education. Schooling beyond the sixth grade in the country is only for those who can afford the fees — or those students fortunate enough to have the generous support of donors.

From malaria to malnutrition to poverty, Uganda is plagued with challenges, including a low life expectancy. According to the World Health Organization, it’s 64 years for men and 60 years for women. A quality education can help pave the way to the brighter future millions hope for.

“They dream of a life which is beyond subsistence which most people are confined to,” Fr. Aliunzi said. “They dream of a future where there is going to be peace, where there is going to be food, where they can afford health care, where they can afford the kind of jobs they aspire to.”

Jake Hoffman, who became executive director of E3 Africa in 2016, said 175 students are currently being sponsored, but “for every student we are sponsoring, we have 10 on the priority waiting list.” Students are spread out among dozens of boarding schools throughout the country.

E3 Africa is holding its annual E3 Golf Classic May 6 at Topgolf Gilbert and is hoping to attract both donors and corporate sponsors.

“Funds generated from the event go directly towards our mission and allow E3 Africa to continue having a substantial impact on the orphaned and impoverished children in Uganda,” said Connie Sunday, chairman of E3 Africa.

Sunday said volunteering with the organization has helped her to grow in faith. The convert and St. Andrew parishioner is planning to travel to Uganda later this year or in 2018 for the dedication of the chapel and new blocks of classrooms.

“The positive impact E3 Africa is having on the lives of children cannot be overstated,” Sunday said. “E3 Africa is spreading the love of Christ to the least of these through the life-changing gift of education. It is truly a mission worth supporting.”