Grass Valley man raising funds for school in Uganda
How to help
For More information on Anthony Rabak find him on Facebook at “Just tell me when you’re gonna stick me!”
For more information about the program, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anthony Rabak has always had a soft spot in his heart for children in need.
Much of this compassion comes from the fact that he was one himself, he said. Diagnosed with leukemia at the tender age of five, his family was told his disease was terminal and he would be lucky if he lived to be 10. His mother, a deeply religious woman, felt that God had abandoned her and her child. She lost all hope.
“Then one day a nurse pointed a finger at her and looked at her in the eye with a stern face,” said Rabak. “The nurse said, ‘You are already burying your son and he’s still alive. You’re not giving him a fighting chance.’”
Something shifted in Rabak’s mother and her rage turned to surrender to the God she’d first felt had betrayed her. Within 36 days, young Rabak went into remission — a remarkable turn of events that would forever cement the faith that continues to exist in the Rabak family.
Nonetheless, weeks of experimental radiation and three years of chemotherapy took a toll on Rabak’s young body. Today, at age 50 and living in Grass Valley, he is still plagued by reoccurring brain tumors, which ironically, he said, are treated with yet more radiation. At age 21 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a condition that increasingly limits his mobility.
“My life has been a struggle with the effects of radiation and chemo,” he said. “I believe the MS was also caused by this. The aggressive treatment all happened while my immune system was still developing.”
The pages of Rabak’s 2009 self-published book, “Just Tell Me When You’re Gonna Stick Me,” are filled with heartbreaking stories of MRIs and radiation, disappointment and anger as he deals with a seemingly nonstop series of medical nightmares.
But Rabak himself is not a cynical man. In fact, he has spent his adult life inspiring others through his own writing and charitable work. But a year ago something captured his attention that has since had a profound impact on his life.
Through his affiliation with a Christian men’s organization, Rabak learned of a remote central Ugandan school in the Mpigi District, comprised mostly of orphans. The Siloam Mountain Junior School houses 350 girls and 250 boys and currently has no electricity. The mission of Siloam is “to care for vulnerable people who are spiritually, physically, and economically poor, enabling them to positively impact their world.”
In talking with the school’s youth director, Rabak learned that due to lack of funding, all the children are currently sleeping on the floor.
“He told me that yes, they needed electricity, but first they need simple beds, bunk beds,” said Rabak. “He sent me a night video of the children sleeping — a sea of kids huddled together on the floor. That’s when my heart broke. Children should not be sleeping on the hard floor. It’s cold, dirty and uncomfortable and it’s a health hazard. It hurt my heart to see that. They only have two pit toilets down a long path outside, so they urinate in buckets during the night.”
“At the school, students grow most of their own food and pump their own water from a bore hole — they also rotate tree growing for firewood to fuel their cooking,” continued Rabak. “Despite their circumstances, there is joy in the students’ hearts and smiles on their faces. Children gain a vital education that can give them a chance to further advance themselves and break the cycle of abject poverty that is too often the normal case in that part of the world.”
Rabak is now on a passionate mission. Communicating through email and Skype, he has now been working with school administrators in Mpigi to provide beds for the students of Siloam Mountain Junior School. Due to limited space, beds must be triple bunks. A total of 200 are needed, and they must be made of metal in order to endure the harsh climate.
A financial goal
An exhaustive search uncovered a place to buy materials, as well as fabricator students who offered to make the beds, keeping costs way down. Each triple decker bed now costs the equivalent of $67.50 plus foam mattresses at $17 each.
A total of 40 out of the 200 needed have been made, driven 350 kilometers and delivered, said Rabak. But there is a problem.
“Jealousy has arisen among the kids who don’t get to sleep in a bed yet,” he said. “We need to step things up. We were making 20 at a time, but we need to do it faster. Now some kids are sleeping two to three in a bed.”
After months of informal fundraising, Rabak is now stepping up his game. He has now launched a GoFundMe page at “Help get kids off the floor!” or http://www.gofundme.com/help-get-kids-off-the-floor. Members of the nonprofit Business Men’s Fellowship in the United Kingdom and Uganda have now agreed to oversee the allocation of funding through their organizations, thereby providing thorough oversight of monies.
Rabak is now hoping Nevada County schools, churches and service organizations will consider donating money toward the beds, even if it’s just one bed (or level for $40) at a time. The entire project is expected to cost $21,000. The small donations, he said, could be a valuable learning experience for Nevada County residents should they decide to also reach out to students and administrators at the central Ugandan school.
“We set up a meeting where I could see all the kids on video — when the camera panned out I could see a sea of smiling children, waving to me, like at a football game,” said Rabak. “That touched my heart deeply. The sad part of this story is that this is just one school of 600 orphans, yet there are thousands of other schools in dire need just like this one.
“But I tell myself, ‘I can’t do it for all of them, but I can do it for this one.’ This kids asked me, ‘Are you going to come see us?’ I told them that if I had the money to come, I would rather spend it on building more beds. I see my young self in all of their faces.”
To contact Staff Writer Cory Fisher, email her at Cory@theunion.com.
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