Denise Brennan's eyes light up when she talks about Uganda.
The first grade teacher and Durham resident has spent the past several years helping build a future for children of the east African country orphaned by the tragedy of war and AIDS.
As part of that mission, Brennan has organized a concert by Destiny Africa Children's Choir which will return to Coginchaug High School on June 7 (the group performed at CRHS in 2008). All proceeds from Thursday's event will be given to the Kampala Children's Centre (KCC), a Ugandan organization that currently provides shelter and education to about 200 of the country's orphans.
"These kids are so amazing," says Brennan. "They're gifted singers, dancers and drummers. Even though the words are in Ugandan, you know what they're saying because they're telling their story of overcoming tragedy."
Brennan got involved with KCC through her own church, Wellspring in Kensington. In January, she visited the centre for the first time to meet the children she's become so dedicated to helping, including a 12-year-old boy named Erukahna.
"When I arrived I thought how am I going to know it's him," Brennan recalls. "But when I got there, there he was with his bright orange shirt and matching Adidas hat that I'd sent him."
For $45 a month, Brennan is able to pay for Erukahna's schooling, hot meals and the vitamins he needs. "I send him things, a few things a year. I know he's taken care of," she says.
During her recent trip, Brennan says Ugandan officials also visited the school for the unveiling of a new computer lab, the first of its kind in the region. The lab was built through donations by Brennan's family, friends and the community — including bake sales at Memorial and Strong elementary schools and a faculty jeans day at the high school.
Because technology is so rare in the country, the focus has now turned to hiring a technology specialist to help teach students how to use the equipment.
"My vision for the future, I would love to have a connection and have District 13 have a classroom somewhere to connect to them," Brennan says. "I can see that happening in the future."
Several members of the 20-member choir — who range in age from 9 to 16 — will stay with Brennan while the group tours the rest of the state. They money they raise during their 4-month tour will be used to build more housing, a middle school, a cafeteria and a nursery in Uganda.
The work, Brennan says, is all a reflection of the centre's director, Pastor Arnold Muwonge.
"His vision was to give the best to the very least."
The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 for an adult, $5 for students. $25 gets you a family ticket. For tickets or information call Denise Brennan at (860) 729-4251 or e-mail email@example.com.