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America's Cup wife supports school in Uganda

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Teamwork: Emma and Nathan Outteridge at the America's Cup World Series in New York (Photographs supplied)

Every night, before she goes to bed, Emma Outteridge checks the forecast. Weather has long determined the course of the day for the wife of Artemis skipper Nathan Outteridge.

However, she is less inclined to leave things to fate with Kaaso, the primary school she supports in rural Uganda.

“In the America’s Cup world, your life is entirely dependent on the weather,” she said.

“The weather dictates if they sail, when they sail, if they go to work.

“In the village, all anyone wants is for the rain to come for the harvest. That means: will they have food? Will they not? Will there be famine?

“Obviously, the stakes are slightly higher in the village.”

Dominic and Rose Mukwaya opened the Kabira Adult Attention and School for Orphans in 1999. They catered to 12 orphans in a grass-thatched hut.

The number swelled to 49 by the year’s end. The school now accommodates 638 students, some of whose parents pay.

“The Rakai district where the school is located in Southern Uganda is where the HIV/Aids virus first hit and so everyone was being wiped out,” Mrs Outteridge told Lifestyle.

“When a local Ugandan couple decided to start the school they had very, very little themselves.”

The New Zealand native spent six months volunteering with the school in 2009.

Halfway through her stint, she met a 12-year-old boy named Henry.

“He was in his final year of primary school and he asked if I would sponsor him because his dad had died and he had no way of getting to secondary school,” she said.

Henry was asking for a six-year commitment from an unemployed 25-year-old.

“I said I’m really not sure I can take this on,” Mrs Outteridge said. “But it weighed on my mind — the weight of this privilege.

“I’d done nothing to choose where on the planet I’d been born and to whom and, equally, people around the world hadn’t done anything wrong to be born somewhere so challenging.”

In the end, her parents helped her with the sponsorship. Eighteen “Henrys” followed. She managed to find sponsors for seven of the children within a year.

“The more I travelled and the more I talked to people about Uganda, the more people came on board,” she said.

There are now 53 children being sponsored through her charity, Kiwi Sponsorships. She also started a dormitory for girls at Kaaso, Kiwi House.

With help from Rebecca Roberts and RenaissanceRe, she raised $40,000 for a school bus last year. Last month, she partnered with Hamilton Rotary for a much needed $17,000 water harvesting system.

“There’s guttering on less than a third of the buildings, so when it rains all of that fabulous water washes off and is completely lost,” she said.

“That always strikes a chord with Bermudians, who know the value of harvesting the water, so we’re trying to raise money to put gutters on every building at the school and then to channel that in pipes down to two giant water tanks.”

Mrs Outteridge has written a book about her experience in Uganda, The Road to Masaka.

The title came from a story Mr Mukwaya told on Henry’s graduation in 2015.

“He asked students how you get to Masaka from Kaaso,” Mrs Outteridge said.

“The obvious way is you come out of the school grounds, you turn right, you hit the main road, you turn right and you reach Masaka.

“But Dominic, with his cheeky grin, said, ‘Aha, but what if I was to turn left?’

“If you turn left, you hit the shore of Lake Victoria. It’s a dead end — you can go no further. But, as Dominic pointed out, you could then board a boat, cross Victoria, reach an island group, cross the island group, catch another ferry to the mainland and then eventually get to Masaka.

“It would take a lot longer, but sometimes we’re not fortunate enough in life to be able to take the direct road. Sometimes you have to take those dusty back roads, those deviations, but you can still make it and you probably end up being a better person for it.

“That encapsulated my whole journey, from going to Uganda as a 25-year-old with no idea of where I was going and finding my purpose along the way.”

Seeing Henry graduate was one of the most moving moments of her life.

“So often people feel paralysed by all there is to do, so they do nothing,” she said.

“If you can do something it makes a difference to that little Henry.”

For more information, visit ileftmyheartinuganda.com; www.kaaso-uganda.org

All aboard: Emma Outteridge, left, and RenaissanceRe’s Rebecca Roberts deliver the new school bus
Emma Outteridge with Rose Mukwaya
Kaaso kids playing their instruments
Kids of Kaaso
Henry in his last year of primary school, aged 12, in 2009
Emma and Henry
Emma teaching music in 2009 (Photograph supplied)
Kaaso kids 2016
The opening of Kiwi House
A red dirt road in the Rakai district
Playing guitar with the nursery classes at Kaaso, 2016
Graduation day
Emma and Rebecca Roberts cross the equator with the bus
Emma and Rebecca Roberts on the school bus
The children and whole community coming out to welcome the bus, 2016
Dominic Mukwaya