Giving Back

North Salem Grad Embraces Connections in Uganda

Grace with a child at the Ugandan orphanage Credits: Joan Gabel Myers
Retired BOCES teacher of the visually impaired works with young boy at the orphanage. Credits: Joan Gabel Myers
A worker at the orphage wheels a resident to a local event in Uganda. Credits: Joan Gabel Myers
Edith Lukabwe, orphanage director in Uganda, surrounded by children who reside there. Credits: Joan Gabel Myers

NORTH SALEM, N.Y.— Helping those less fortunate has always been a cause close to Grace Myers’ heart. The North Salem High School graduate is currently a 2nd-grade special education teacher at PS 84 in New York City. Following a discussion with colleagues regarding the treatment of special-needs children in Uganda, she felt compelled to get involved and offer her time and skills.

In 2015, Myers traveled to a little orphanage located outside of Jinja in Uganda, as a volunteer with the group EmbraceKulture at an orphanage called Home of Hope.

The goal of her visit was to help equip teachers with the special skills needed to aid the children that many Ugandans deemed unteachable.

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Myers’ mother, Joan Gabel Myers, said her daughter came back a changed person, profoundly touched by what she experienced there.

“The disabled children are treated like they are disposable in Uganda. The woman Edith Lukabwe, who runs the orphanage, once had a disabled child herself who died and made it her life’s mission to help these children,” Gabel Myers said.

EmbraceKulture is an organization working in Uganda to ensure that all children are embraced and accepted for what makes them unique. They are building schools and training teachers in order to be able to offer quality education for children with developmental disabilities, including autism, Downs syndrome and cerebral palsy. They focus on education because they believe, as most of us do, that it is the key to building an inclusive world.

Last year, Myers traveled back to Uganda after enlisting the aid of her aunt, Helen Vail, to help meet the great need for special ed teachers. Helen, now retired, taught the visually impaired at BOCES for over 25 years and gladly offered her support.  Together, they made the trek back to Home For Hope last August and found the orphanage overcrowded and under funded. Home of Hope, originally built for 20 children, is now home to over 40, with more arriving each month. Home For Hope founder Edith was able to build bunk beds but the rooms filled as quickly as she could build them. Now she is forced to have children sleep in the hallways. She simply can’t turn away these children who have no where else to go. They are able to get grants to help with construction but Edith needs to purchase the land first. The land costs $20,000 for all 3 acres.

Myers is raising money in the hopes of helping Edith provide love and care for even more children at the orphanage. To donate, visit

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