After years of teaching in the United States, raising two children, enjoying 3 lovely granddaughters, and traveling frequently to Central America, a long dreamed-of trip to East Africa in 2003 changed Joe and Elaine Griswold forever.
During their safari vacation, the Griswolds and fellow travelers decided to make a side trip to a government sponsored village school in Lukaya. Due to road delays, they arrived hours after they were expected, but 700 students waited enthusiastically to greet them. The couples then toured the school and the village and by the end of that visit, were coming up with ways to help the children. As Joe Griswold states “We went to view the animals but were captured by the children.”
While researching a way they could make a lasting contribution to Lukaya, the Griswold’s learned that over 50% of Lukaya’s population is under 18 years old with huge numbers of orphaned and vulnerable children because of the spread of HIV/AIDS. As a small truck-stop along the main highway of East and Central Africa, Lukaya’s populations live along the road termed “the AIDS Highway” because of its role in spreading the disease through sub Saharan Africa.
With strong backgrounds in education and a firm belief that knowledge is a powerful asset for individuals and communities, the Griswolds and many American partners and donors, began the Mustard Seed Academy, a school serving approximately 300 children from ages 3 to 13. Today the Mustard Seed Academy hosts small class sizes, well-educated Ugandan teachers, good nutrition and health care. It is also a well-known model for sustainable development as the school’s directors and teachers are local to the community and the campus uses socially responsible and environmental friendly building materials. The school grounds even contain a medicinal garden that helps with improved nutrition, resulting in children who are more resistant to common diseases such as malaria and typhoid.