A Call to Peace from an Unexpected Source


“In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.

Then, in the name of democracy, let us use that power, let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give youth a future, and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfill that promise. They never will!

Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfill that promise! Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness.”  

Charlie Chaplin, The Final Speech from The Great Dictator


Sending Funds for Afghan and Ugandan Projects


This coming Tuesday morning (US east coast time) which is May 29th, Kelly (Momma KoiKoi) and I will be sending two wires to transfer funds.

The FIRST is going to Afghanistan for a total of $7467.20.  $6,967.20 of this sum, raised with thanks to many of you, is intended for the construction of a brick three room addition to an existing High School. The added space is needed to accommodate the growing student body. The remaining $500.00 will be used for the purchase of educational related materials for the students.

We of The Giving Circle are proud that our partnership with Attal and Afghans4Tomorrow, Inc. will be a long-term relationship.  Attal’s organization was formed for the betterment of education for all Afghan children. Next we will work together to realize the certification of fifty new teachers who will educate and inspire Afghan youth!

The Giving Circle is dedicated to assuring the gift of education for any child, regardless of gender, faith, race, or ability/ disability. We will let nothing deter us from this goal. We fully understand that darkness fears only the light. Oppressors fear only an educated population armed with the four most powerful weapons on earth: loving kindness,   respect, compassion and education.   

Which brings us to the explanation of the SECOND wire: These funds are being  sent to our most wonderful Ugandan team leaders Moses Wambi and Emma Walubi. They are intended to fund the projects scheduled for our upcoming team trip.  How is it possible that we’ll be  leaving in just over a month?  Today I seem to be so far behind in preparations.   But, as with all The Giving Circle does, we will be ready.


Please be aware that the Afghan pictures provided below are NOT from our project’s location. They are simply images found on the internet.







From Tough Beginnings To Real Successes


https://www.facebook.com/mark.bertrand.56/videos/3977097345020/?t=34The scene in the video is from just six years ago. Yes, just six years ago the construction of our Friendship School in Kagoma Gate, Uganda was perhaps half complete and still almost a year away from fully opening. This was to be the first school in the poorest of villages. The residents had nothing. Neither the adults nor the children could read or write. They were so poor that Kagoma Gate was called the “forgotten village.”

Yet, because of the generosity and effort of so many of you, this “forgotten village” now has a beautifully completed primary school. Even more exciting, in this past school year 2017, Kagoma Gate produced its first P7 candidate class. Thirty-eight students sat for the national exam and ALL but one PASSED. The one child who did not pass was facing family issues that prevented class attendance. We fully expect this child will succeed next year. Now remember this is a country in which seventy percent of its children do not finish primary school. But, in our schools in Busoga as well as Kagoma Gate, just under one-hundred percent of our children graduated!

Did I mention the chess program? In 2017, our kids brought home two chess national champions; in 2018, they brought home FOUR. Oh, and the boys’ team reached third in the nation!

Your generosity and effort have brought enormous changes of many kinds to the “forgotten village” in that same brief time frame. In less than 7 years this village of hopelessness now has, this school, a play ground, an improved water supply, and a clinic the presence of which allowed a year without a single death from malaria, diarrhea, wounds, or preventable miscarriages. Again, this village suffered NO deaths from these preventable causes.

Today Kogoma Gate enjoys improved sanitation thanks to the existence of several pit-latrine buildings. There is also now a kitchen building that provides every child with two GOOD meals a day. Our kids are healthy!

Your generosity and effort have also brought the first power and light here. Solar power provides energy to our two-room school building. These two rooms can be opened to form one grand room for church, village events, meetings, celebrations, and movie nights.

There is still plenty to do at Kagoma Gate. Sugarcane cutters make so very little that the village remains extremely poor. Yet the residents must pay everything to educate the kids. (This isn’t true in our Busoga school or any private schools.) In Kagoma Gate, this creates a sad contrast to the fact of the success of these kids in the national exam. Because of this extra burden and the absence of resources, only a small handful of our graduates, perhaps even as few as two, will attend high school this year. It’s impossible not to think about the others. But developing funding for the further education to the other “forgotten village” children will take time.

Remember though that the progress here is very real. We have taken this village out of the stone age. Many of the kids who passed the national exam will not get to high school right now. BUT, because they can read and write and have other abilities, they will qualify for jobs other than cutting sugar cane. These are skilled jobs which pay far better. The improved income will allow some in time to save money that will permit high school attendance. It will also help raise the income in the village and promote prosperity.

Some of the girls might still marry too early. But, unlike their mothers, they will be educated and able to read to their babies. When this next generation is ready for school, they will enter already speaking English and able to read. That is a victory.

Every year more and more children will attend high school and some will then go on to college. We have always believed that the greatest change for Kagoma Gate will come through the children of Kagoma Gate.
The Giving Circle is made up of seed planters, sowing seeds of hope, helping people to their feet, and giving them tools to build a better life while achieving self-sustainability.

In 2018 or perhaps 2019, we hope to build a small “factory” for a MOST cool business. We plan on making the teachers and villagers of Kagoma Gate our business partners. Much more information is yet to be shared on this. But the plan is to provide seed resources for the business and then to support it until it’s profitable. With the proceeds from the sale of items produced in the “factory”, a profit sharing system will allow our partners to save a percentage of their incomes and eventually be self-supporting. At that point the Giving Circle will be just a customer. It will be the residents who continue improving their village.

Now THAT’s a very big deal!


Final Reminder: COME to the ART AUCTION!!

This Thursday night I hope many of you can join us at the annual children’s international art sale at Bethlehem. We need to give GREAT thanks to Bill Reilly and his Helping Hands Club. The art from students and adults from around the world is amazing.
Each year The Giving Circle is blessed to receive 1/2 the funds raised; and each year we use our share to the fund either educational programs or farming/food related projects that permit us to improve our children’s nutrition.

This year’s contribution will allow us to complete building and start operations of the Aquaponics System.
PLEASE consider coming over to enjoy a great night, maybe pickup a great piece of art or two, and help both our Ugandan children and children in Belize. That half of earned proceeds helps send children to high school.

So, PLEASE, share this reminder. And by all means come on down to the event. Kelly Mommakoikoi and I will be there for sure.

Getting It Together for the Uganda Trip

This year’s The Giving Circle team visiting Uganda looks to be one of the best ever. It will certainly be the largest.
So many things to do, so many items to order, so much to get organized as we get ready for The Giving Circle’s upcoming team trip!
One example of an event to which we want pay particular attention is our Kagoma Gate chess team’s finishing 3rd in the Ugandan Nationals. In addition to the tee-shirts Chris Dunn of Royal Flush Ink printed for members of both teams, we also plan to honor this Kagoma team and teachers with a nice banner.

We also plan to present many other commemorative gifts to honor the hard work of our TGCA leadership team, the staffs at both schools, the clinic, our five full time leadership staff developing the Koi Koi Teachers University organization, our farm staff, and more. But you’ll understand that these items will be kept secret for now.
Trophies for the Spelling Bee, Math Contest, Chess Tourney, and Scrabble Tourney at each school were ordered and delivered. We also plan to bring new ribbons for the sports day events and more.
Traveling with us will also be a new banner printed to hang in the green house. Here we are running two amazing styles of aquaponic farming.
One of the project is the brainchild of our Danish/Viking TGC member, Lars P. Anholm. The system will add fish and vegetables to our students’ diets, while reducing overhead. The project will also generate an income stream, while producing super charged “waste” that will feed our gardens and banana plantation outside the greenhouse. With the acquisition of a small amount of money to purchase the last of the equipment, we can soon anticipate enjoying the first fish fry. Great job, Lars P. Anholm
The other is the design of TGC team member Dr Scott Hudson from Washington State University. This system is smaller and more basic. The structure consists of a hole dug into the ground. The resulting design can be replicated by villagers at their homes. The cost is striking low, particularly in relationship to the family’s financial gain.
Both of these systems are life science classrooms, for children hoping to pursue scientific studies as well as for children who simply want to learn to be the very best farmers possible.

Terrific Trophies

Shipment came today with awards for educational tournaments at both our schools during the summer team trip. Aren’t they terrific??!!!

REMINDER: Sunday Afternoon With Liam

PLEASE consider a VERY cool and important fundraiser coming up very soon: The Summit Clothing Company Fundraiser for the Summit Forest.

WHERE: Saratoga Winery 462 NY-29 Saratoga
WHEN: Sunday, May 20th 4-7pm
WHAT: Live music, food, beverages, games and more
WHY: Help make a reality of the first TGC
Summit Clothing Company Self-sustainable Forest.
HOW MUCH: Just $20 per person
TICKETS: On line at
At the door.

One-hundred fifteen acres are already under a twenty year lease. The funds Liam Rice’s company is raising will help clear that land and plant thousands of trees there. In three years, the forest will be thinned. Selling the downed trees will earn $30,000 usd, half of which will be used to start the 2nd Summit Forest.
After fifteen years, the first forest will have matured and be ready to cut. We anticipate that this will bring The Giving Circle $1.3 Million usd, rendering all our Ugandan / African projects self supporting. Replanting this land will begin the cycle again.
If we achieve the goal of thinning each forest every three years and using half the income to start another forest, The Giving Circle and our African branch will have many forests. We hope that this program will annually produce a mature forest ready to harvest and, we believe, offer over a million dollars of income. These funds will support and grow our projects in Uganda, then throughout Africa, and eventually throughout the 3rd world. It is this self-sustainability that is integral to the mission of The Giving Circle.
We can be very proud of Liam Rice, an amazing young man. He will continue the work long after the geezers like me can’t.
Please read about this important forest at

REMINDER: Fund Raising Art Auction

Only 10 days to this amazing event. Great thanks always to Bill and Hilary Reilly, the students, friends, staff of Bethlehem Middle school, and all who donate and buys this beautiful art.
Half the funds raised benefit our programs in Uganda. This year’s donations will help us complete our very important Aquaponics system, which will raise fish and plants to feed the children, greatly improving their nutrition. It will lower the operational costs of growing our own protein (fish) and increase availability of vegetables. Plus, the process will create an income that will buy needed educational supplies.
In addition, the Aquaponics project is a living life science classroom for the children.
For the system’s design and much of its construction thanks go out to our TGC Danish brother Lars P. Anholm

Getting Started In Kabul

Lets start the week off with some GREAT The Giving Circle News.
“Let us remember: One book, one pen, one child, and one teacher can change the world.” Malala Yousafzai
We’re about to wire the funds so that construction will start soon on the VERY much needed three room expansion to a vastly overcrowded high school near Kabul, Afghanistan. As with all that we manage to do, this achievement is happening thanks to many people. The Youth Squared Saratoga Youth Squared- Youth Helping Youth Program only last week provided a $500 grant. The funds we will wire will build this addition, we will include additional funds to but some needed supplies.
I am so very proud of Reese Fulmer, Skidmore student and now The Giving Circle board member, who was sent to talk to me by then Mayor Joanne Dittes Yepsen. He’d written a paper questioning why more charities could not operate the way we do. In response, Mayor Yepsen gave him my contact information. This led to our having a very long talk at the end of which I offered him a challenge. He accepted the proposal and has already completed part one.
Special thanks to Caffe Lena, our partners on this project, Afghans4Tomorrow and my brother Nang Attal.
We will keep you all updated as the building goes up.

A Happy Story About Arms

Mark wrote: “I was so happy to receive an e-mail from Kristin and the Siena e-Nable team. They had not forgotten about a request I had made for a very special, very beautiful, and very shy young lady. As you may remember, in 2017 the Siena e-Nable team, lead by Alyx Gleason and Miranda Marnes, made an arm for our daughter Veronica. (We were delighted when both of these young women were able to join last summer’s Uganda team.) The arm they built was delivered by Siena grad, Dr Manny Cirenza, in March, 2017.
During that trip, we visited the New Victory School, a primary school which is close to our current Koi Koi Home. While there we were able to spend some time with our youngest kids from our Koi Koi Home and with my great friend Ernest Kasami, the school’s founder.
Ernest introduced us to the beautiful young lady in the pictures. As you can see, she is VERY badly burned. In place of her left hand she has a stump that is longer than Veronica’s. But, unlike Veronica, this dear girl suffered so much bicep damage that she has little to no movement in the arm. I asked her if she would you like to have a hand and arm that would be the same color as her skin. I explained that, because she didn’t have much movement in what was left of her natural arm, a new one couldn’t work like Veronica’s. Still, in response, this terribly shy girl gave a little smile and said YES. Being a big hugger, I told her that indeed I’d be needing a hug. It was quickly clear that this sweetheart had not had many hugs in her life. She gave me a hug that was so tight and so filled with love.
After we returned, I contacted Siena ‘s Dr. Bellis, the advisor to the e-Nable club. I asked if the team could make an arm for this sweetheart. Admittedly, this arm will be almost 100% cosmetic. But having both arms and hands would make her feel “whole.”
The great news is that it seems the e-Nable club can create an arm for our girl in September. The plan is to get all the measurements this summer. When I return to Uganda in February 2019, it will be with the new arm for a very happy girl who now hugs me with two arms.
In truth, I will just be the delivery man. It will be the students of Siena’s e-Nable team who will make this child as whole as she can be and leave her very, very happy. We owe a huge thank you to the current Siena e-Nable team and to Dr. Mathew Bellis. And special mention and thanks to Miranda Marnes, Alyx Gleason, Sara Mahar, and all the Siena e-Nable team who got the ball rolling with Veronica.”