Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 15, 2019

MU Faculty Sponsor Children in Uganda

Chloe Leckrone


For years, multiple Manchester University professors have been involved with the Sparrow Fund—a program that allows people in the North Manchester community to sponsor The Manchester University community has always been far-reaching, but through a sponsorship program for children in Uganda. A sponsorship helps the child—or children—pay for school fees. The Sparrow Fund currently has 68 children being sponsored, some by members of the Manchester University community.

Dr. Greg Clark is one local sponsor. Clark has been a professor of physics at Manchester for 28 years. He and his wife, Anne, sponsored a young girl named Gloria from 2012 until earlier this year when she left school. They chose to continue their sponsorship with a new child, Sarah. Clark said the reason he finds sponsoring a child so important is because he believes he lives what he calls a “good, secure life,” so he should give back. Clark also said he finds it crucial for developing countries to educate young women, which the Sparrow Fund allows to happen.

Two other faculty members that have been involved with the Sparrow Fund are chemistry professors Dr. Mark Bryant and Dr. Terrie Salupo-Bryant. They have been sponsoring their child, Nancy, since 2012. They were drawn to Nancy because, like themselves, she is Catholic. Nancy hopes to be a Catholic sister and nurse when she grows up. Salupo-Bryant’s favorite part of sponsoring Nancy is knowing that she is connected to someone with a very different culture. “That connection reminds me that the world is bigger than myself,” she said.

Dr. Jeff Osborne, professor of chemistry, and his wife Maria Osborne have been sponsors for years as well. Like Clark, Bryant and Salupo-Bryant, the Osbornes have been sponsoring their child, Stephen, since 2012. In 2017, Stephen’s grandmother’s home was set on fire and he lost everything. Through the Sparrow Fund, the house was able to be rebuilt and Stephen was provided with what he needed. Sponsoring Stephen has taught the Osbornes that “a little bit of help can make a large difference in another person’s life,” as Jeff Osborne put it.

One common apprehension about sponsorship programs that nearly every professor mentioned was uncertainty about where and to whom their money would go. There are an endless number of sponsorship programs available online, but what set The Sparrow Fund apart from the rest was that the sponsors knew and trusted the person who organized the program, so they had no doubts as to what their money would be used for.

The founder of the Sparrow Fund, Sally Rich, wife of math professor Dr. Andy Rich, was inspired to start the program when her son went to Uganda for an internship. There, he met a man who would pay for children’s school fees when they could not afford them.

According to Rich, in this Ugandan community 45 percent of children are without at least one parent, as many died either during the Civil War or of AIDS. Many children are raised by their grandmothers who can barely afford to pay for food, let alone school fees. Rich reached out to the man her son had met and asked for the names of 10 children who could be sponsored and within one week all 10 had sponsors. She generally visits Uganda once a year to see the sponsored children and has built lifelong relationships through her trips.

The Sparrow Fund was not the only thing to come of Sally Rich’s son’s internship in Uganda. The man he met was also connected to an income-generating project with a group of 10 women who made paper beads. He was looking someone who would be willing to sell their paper-bead products. Rich’s son knew that his mother, whose three greatest passions are art, social work and other cultures, was the person for the job. Rich has been working with these diligent women ever since. She believes that the importance of her work with these women lies with the fact that it does not lead to dependency: it is sustainable and allows them to make money from their own products. They can support their own families and create jobs so that even more women can continue to support their families.

Their jewelry was sold locally at One World Handcrafts, but with the recent closing of the shop Rich is worried about the fate of the paper beads. At the moment, her main goal is to get the children currently being sponsored through the Sparrow Fund through school. She fears that the paper-beads project is dwindling and may not last as long as the sponsorships.

As Rich reminisced on her time spent working on these projects, she expressed that the greatest part of this experience has been building relationships with people from an entirely different community and culture. She always wanted to something like this and it has been the “biggest joy” of her life. She hopes it can continue for years to come.