By JEN CARDINES
In the small village of Cyanika, Uganda, the Clare Nsenga Clinic gets many Southington visitors. The Saint Thomas Catholic Church has been involved in expanding the Ugandan clinic since 2015, and the church raises money throughout the year during “friend-raisers” to support the project.
St. Thomas is hosting another fundraising event on Friday, May 5 at Testa’s Banquet Facility, featuring a special guest. Father John Vianney Kamari from the Ugandan St. Francis Parish. The fundraiser is the centerpiece for a week-long Southington visit, and the public event will allow locals a glimpse into the clinic’s vital work.
Like Southington’s parish, Father Kamari’s parish works with the clinic. Many Southington members have visited the clinic site to aid in the expansion construction.
St. Thomas church member Dr. Kevin Dieckhaus is an associate professor at the University of Connecticut’s School of Medicine, and he is a doctor who treats infectious diseases. His involvement with the clinic spans even farther back than the local parish’s involvement.
Dieckhaus has been traveling to Uganda with his medical students regularly over the last decade. The doctor usually visits twice a year, either with his doctors in training or with fellow St. Thomas church members.
Cyanika lies in Kisoro County at the southernmost tip of Uganda (bordering Rwanda).
“It’s a wonderful little town. It’s just very under-resourced,” Dieckhaus said. “Fundraising over the last several years focused on the physical structure of a health clinic and community support programs.”
The facility is a Level 2 clinic, which deals with urgent care needs and immunizations, along with providing child care and pre-natal care. The clinic provides a basic level of healthcare resources for the entire community.
Construction of a five-unit apartment building and a 12-bed medical unit is nearing completion, and workers are putting the finishing touches on the interior.
Dieckhaus said one of the real needs in their community is a safe environment to deliver babies.
“One of my students discovered that 40 percent of women in this area deliver at home without skilled attendants,” he said. A new birthing center is one of the facilities being added during the construction process.
Southington residents are encouraging people to attend the fundraising event next week. The money raised does not go toward air fare or travel expenses. It goes directly to the project in Uganda and supporting the Cyanika community.
A school located across the street from the Clare Nsenga clinic is also supported by St. Thomas Church. As a direct result of church contributions, the school is now connected to the internet, which is significant in the area.
“They are the first primary school in the district to get internet access,” Dieckhaus said.
In 2015, the church held a “friend-raiser” that officials called a success. The money generated aided in building expansion construction needs.
At next week’s fundraiser, organizers will offer 30 to 40 items in a silent auction, and gift baskets will be on display for raffle.
Tickets cost $50 per person. For more information, visit www.stthomassouthington.org.
To purchase tickets, call the St. Thomas rectory at (860) 628-4713 or email Barbara Raby at BJ.Raby@cox.net.