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From taking out the trash to funding schools in Uganda: A CSU janitor’s story

In the spring semester of 2015, a sophomore at Colorado State University sat outside the engineering building after her lab, waiting for her ride.

What Laura Schreck, now an alumna, never expected was to strike up a conversation with a custodian and help launch a fundraising initiative that would provide education and essential supplies for orphans halfway across the world. She met Robert Serunjogi, a CSU student and night custodian at CSU, who came to America from Uganda.


“I saw Robert (Serunjogi) taking out the trash and asked him how his night was going,” Schreck said. “We started talking, and it took off from there.”

Serunjogi talked to Schreck about his aspirations to raise money for orphans in Uganda but was unsure of where to start. Schreck gave Serunjogi her email and set up a GoFundMe account for him, beginning their friendship and fundraising partnership.

Their original goal was $500, and Serunjogi planned on delivering clothes, school supplies and basic medical supplies to Luweero, Uganda. However, Serunjogi and Schreck raised much more than they anticipated.

According to Schreck, they had raised $1,000 the week the GoFundMe went live and another $8,000 in six weeks. With the excess money, Serunjogi decided to set a new goal — raise enough money to build a school for children in Luweero.

“Orphaned and underprivileged children are the worst sufferers without public education,” Serunjogi said. “I am working to free orphans from the cycle of poverty by providing a high-quality education.”

Serunjogi grew up in Uganda during a time of tense political conflict. The Ugandan Civil War and an insurgency left Serunjogi’s home village of Luweero partly destroyed. He lost nearly all of his family as a young boy and contracted polio due to lack of vaccines, which has left him partially paralyzed.

Currently, it is estimated that Uganda has 2.5 million school-aged orphans, mostly due to either the HIV/AIDS epidemic or political conflicts, according to a PowerPoint created by Serunjogi and Schreck. Luweero has 100 of these orphans.

Luweero, with a population of approximately 1,000, according to the presentation, is located 38 miles north of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. Unlike Kampala, Luweero has no electricity or running water. Children travel for more than two hours roundtrip to the nearest water source every day, according to Serunjogi.

The mission of the school is to promote the development, social-economic welfare, education and healthcare of the HIV/AIDS infected, orphaned and vulnerable children in the Luweero community, Serunjogi said.  


“The goal of this project is to tap into the underlying issues of education,” Serunjogi said.

In order to build a school, the cost is around $10,000. To fully run the schools for a year, including teacher wages, meals for students and supplies, it only costs another $10,000 dollars every year, according to Schreck.

Currently, there are three functioning schools in Luweero, hosting 190 students, according to the presentation. Some students walk up to three miles a day to attend school and get an education. Serunjogi hopes to build more schools, as well as bring solar power to the village and build a borehole nearby to locate fresh water.

The students at the schools are fed lunch during school every day. At night, the schools are converted to sleeping spaces for orphans to stay, Serunjogi said. In addition to providing an education, the schools also provide basic first aid supplies, education and information on HIV/AIDS and vaccinations.

Since her graduation from CSU, Schreck has started a new job and moved to a new location. She has begun to pass on her responsibilities to other parties.

“Robert (Serunjogi) has the ideas; he knows what it takes to get the job done,” Schreck said. “He tells me what needs to be done, and I have the ability to make it happen.”

Brian Jones, the director of the Little Shop of Physics, has been in collaboration with Serunjogi and Schreck to hold events and raise money for the schools. Serunjogi and his team also plan to bring the Little Shop of Physics program to the village to promote a strong science curriculum and a passion for learning. 

“I believe that education creates a level playing field for everyone, regardless of demographic,” Serunjogi said.

Serunjogi is currently pursuing his master’s degree in education. He hopes to soon travel back to Luweero and provide education to his community.

“Robert (Serunjogi) has the strength of interacting with people and being friendly that a lot of people don’t,” Schreck said. “He’s the heart.”

Delaney Allen can be reached at or on Twitter @DelaneyAllen0.

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