STORIES OF IMPACT
Sarah Grace Acen is a Level 6 student at Archbishop Flynn Secondary School. Her childhood mirrored that of many children in Northern Uganda – family separated by poverty, children scattered and cared for by guardians, often also poor. Sarah’s were peasant farmers. Despite her circumstances, she pursued her studies, and as a young Catholic girl, was fortunate to attend Sacred Heart Secondary School in Gulu, where she first learned of AFSS.
“By God’s grace and providence, the director of AFSS, together with the School Administration understood my problem of paying my school fees and put me in the Good Shepherd Scholarship Program. I thank God for this and for those who initiated and continue to contribute to the program. Without this support probably vulnerable children like me, despite our desire and good will to study, would have dropped out of school. For us girls the situation is even worse because once you drop out of school you would be forced into early marriage and become a child-mother at the age of 18 or 19 years!”
Sarah finds her academic life at AFSS to be very different from other schools she attended. She appreciates the commitment and availability of the teachers, and loves how the environment is so conducive to serious learning, naming its rural location as a positive characteristic – “out of the noise of the town”. Also important to Sarah is the school’s absolute lack of discrimination. She believes the school admits and treats every student equally and gives equal opportunity to everyone,” because the school setup is grounded on the fear of God, hard work and discipline”. Case in point, when it was time to elect student leaders in 2014, Sarah thought her chances were slim because she had only been there one year. But she gathered her courage, campaigned for the position, and was elected Head Girl of the School, a position she still holds today. Sarah is also grateful for how closely the administration listens to the needs of the students and tries to address them when possible. For example, she remembers how crowded the girls’ dorm was before the new wing was built!
As an aspiring civil engineer, Sarah is concerned about some of the challenges her school faces –a shortage of water that impacts sanitation, especially for girls; a need for lighting in the dormitories; the lack of a “real” library to support the increased student population; the absence of a chapel to encourage their faith formation; and a need for updated science labs so these students can advance and contribute to the development of their nation.
“I exhort my fellow students to always be hardworking and above all God-fearing, since ‘the fear of God is the beginning of all wisdom’, showing our appreciation to God for what he is doing for us by the hands and sacrifices of our benefactors. Let us strive for the moon and even if we fall we are among the greatest stars. Let us be disciplined and respectful to both our teachers and our parents.”
Sarah dreams of returning to AFSS to offer her services for future construction projects, sponsor needy students, and start an entrepreneurship club, where students can be taught skills, innovations and inventions of new ideas to become self-supportive. These are the thoughts of a young person who is being taught to think big, to recognize and use her gifts from God, and is filled with hope and gratitude for her many opportunities. She has truly been touched by the love of strangers.