Bootstraps Education

Building a Brighter Future for Refugee Children


Changing Fear to Hope

Bootstraps Education is an NGO, not-for-profit program, working in cooperation with Future for Refugee (www.futureforrefugee), teaching English, Math, and Computer Literacy. This school is provided free of charge to refugee children. The program is designed to help these students develop knowledge and skills which will enable them to be agents of their own change, as they move beyond basic subsistence, and beyond reliance on prostitution for basic necessities; to full employment and participation in society, when they come of age, whether that is in their host country, country of origin, or another country.

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Agents of Their own Change

Most children in refugee camps throughout Uganda are not receiving any formal education. 81.9% of children (ages 7-12) are not enrolled in a school, and 85% of children (ages 13-17), are not enrolled in a school. Not being able to go to school was rated as a primary stressor of children, according to a Save the Children, Needs Assessment Report on Child Protection and Education, among Ugandan refugees. Too many refugee children have been forced into the red-light (prostitution), due to the lack of money for basic necessities. Most youth in the world’s refugee settlements, and those living as Urban Refugees, do not believe that a bright future is possible for them, due to vulnerabilities, poverty, trauma, and stigma.

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Inclusive Population

By current definitions in educational systems of first-world countries, our students qualify as having special needs due to the level of physical and psychological trauma they have experienced and continue to experience, including forced migration, poverty, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, and being unable to attend school, according to a UNESCO report. In order for these children to get an education, the school needs to be a safe haven in their community, with adult role models who are aware of their daily struggles. All of our instructors are multi-lingual Ugandan refugees who understand the importance of treating our students with compassion and respect.

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At Bootstraps Education, our goal is to improve life-style outcomes for refugee children, by increasing their knowledge of English, Mathematics, and Computer Literacy; enabling them to be agents of change in their own futures, giving them real hope for furthering their education, leading to future gainful employment. Many of the children speak only regional languages from their country of origin, which will not help them in relocating outside their country of origin. (Conditions in their countries of origin often make returning there, impossible.) With this in mind, our top goal is to teach these students to read and write in English.

Through participation in the classroom, students will also be learning key life-skills of memorization, and self-discipline, as well as, being part of a group with a common goal. All these skills can noticeably increase self-esteem, which is often lowered through a variety of traumatic events experienced by these children. All children in our program live well-below the poverty line.  Other essential goals of our program, include teaching these children Mathematics and Computer Literacy, the concepts of which are international. In addition to the goals listed above, our school will also provide the children with a mid-day meal on school days. (Most students would not get this extra nutrition, if they were not at school.)

What's New?

Now that Irenge is out of the hospital and feeling stronger, he has been able to get back to managing the school and will be arranging meetings with others NGO's in Kampala. During these meetings we hope to get some on-going financial support from these NGO's who have stated their intent to help students get educated, but who did not have the budget to take that on independently.

Now that our teachers and students are really settling in to the school routine, we feel happy that we have been able to feed the younger students twice a day and the older students once a day. As research shows again and again, students who are genuinely hungry are not able to focus on schoolwork or retain knowledge. 

The students and their families are so pleased to be part of our school.

The only issue with the continuation and expansion of Bootstraps Education, is securing enough donations to fund it. Please see our Budget, Urgent Needs, and Donation pages to find out what you can help provide for our students. (Unfortunately our Go Fund Me and Pay Pal donation avenues are not able to set up monthly recurring donations, so if you want to donate monthly, please make a note on your calendar to jog your memory.)

We would love to hear from you via our contact form or by email at

Please be sure to sign up (on our homepage) for our newsletters!

Thanks for being part of the solution!

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Thankfully, after spending a week in the hospital being treated for Malaria, Irenge is back home, where he will need to rest before being strong enough to return to work at our school.

During Irenge's illness, I found out that mosquitos are very bad around the school, so once we have enough funding, we will be providing mosquito repellant to our students and teachers.

However, at this point our biggest priority is feeding the children twice a day while they are at school. For more on this, see "Students Crying From Hunger" on our Urgent Needs page. 

The biggest way you can help these children is to post a link to our site on all your social media accounts. Also, while large donations are always welcome, if you can give even a small monthly contribution of $20, this would be very helpful.

Irenge is planning to meet with other NGOs in Kampala, to see if they can help support the school, but this has had to be delayed due to Irenge's illness.

As always, than you for your interest in helping these precious, deserving children.

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Today, 8-25-20, Irenge sent me an email saying that some of the children were crying yesterday at school because they were hungry. He was able to feed them once yesterday and once today, but as soon as we can afford more cornmeal we will feed them porridge twice a day.

Actually, we got our wires crossed about when the students would start. He thought they should all come the week of individual testing and actually start class. I had planned on just a few children a day coming this week for testing, then everyone starting next week. Sometimes language barriers make it hard to understand each other. (English is his 4th language.) But it's all good, right?

The other sad news today is that Irenge now has Malaria. Apparently refugees in Kampala often die of malaria. (His brother had it a few months ago and after I sent less than $200, he was able to be hospitalized and to go home with medication.) I am hoping the same course of action will help Irenge.


The MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do to help right now is to put the link for our site:  on all of your social media accounts, because we need to start building up monthly donations. 

Finally if anyone would like to donate specifically to Irenge's medical fund, it would be best to send a check (made out to Bootstraps Education) to:

Marla McGhee

Bootstraps Education

93 Greymont Ln Apt 208

Asheville NC 28806

If you would like to contribute specifically to get the cornmeal we need to provide porridge for the children, please donate on our site or via our Go Fund Me page:

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This week, Irenge was able to hold meetings with parents of our students, who are all immensely grateful for their children to be starting our educational program. We have been able to assign 30 students to our 2 classrooms (15 per class), based on whether or not they can speak English. 

This week we have also partnered with the Seed Program International, which will be providing us with seeds for our 120 square-foot family garden. This is a real blessing as seeds are hard to find in Kampala.

We really appreciate your interest in our program, and encourage you to share the link to our website on all of your social media accounts. It is our hope that we can interest kind-hearted people in setting up a monthly donation to our program. (A commitment of even $10. - $25. per month, would make a big difference in our program.)

Thanks for your interest in helping these wonderful, deserving children!

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The news just keeps getting better! Due to a few generous donations, we have been able to start the school with 30 students, instead of 20, while maintaining optimum teacher-student ratios. Irenge is in the process of selecting 2 teaching assistants, so that each classroom of 15 students will have one teacher and one teaching assistant. 

Our teachers are now in-training, learning how to give the assessment tests which will be given during the week following our parent-teacher-student meeting on August 17, 2020. Based on these assessments, we will decide which students belong in our lower-primary class, and which belong in our upper-primary class. 

I know I may be "preaching to the choir here, but ..." It would really help our students for you to share our link on all your social media accounts. As much as we love and appreciate your big donations which have helped us open the school, it would really help ensure that we can continue our program if you, our benefactors, could donate monthly. (A monthly donation of $10 -25 would be of great benefit to the school.)

We'd love to hear from you via our contact page, and if you have not yet subscribed to our updates, please do. (We will never send junk, just periodic updates!)

Thank you so much for your feedback, connections, and of course for your donations!

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Wow! We just published this website yesterday and generosity of all types is flooding in! Many, many thanks to those of you who have jumped in to help us establish connections with more NGO partners, and who have given generous donations.

And these much-needed donations couldn't come at a better time. Locals are pleading with Irenge to make space for more students. We are strongly considering adding an afternoon session to our school day, as soon as possible, so that 20 more students can begin learning and working towards creating their own positive futures. 

We are starting the school with 2 classes of 10 students each and plan to keep our ratios low so that the children can really get the help they need to learn. Public schools in Uganda often have 50 - 200 students per teacher, which makes it difficult for the students to learn.

This week Irenge is also working hard to get the school set-up, so that we can start assessing children next week and can hold our first parent meeting next week. The families of our students are really happy about the opportunity for their children to attend a free, safe school; so we want to find opportunities for them to take part in the life of the school. We will be asking for parent volunteers to help with cooking for the students, as well as assisting the school in other ways.

It takes a (global) village!!

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We've Got A Building!!

Irenge was able to find an excellent place for us to open our school in Kampala. It is a house with space for classrooms, a computer lab, a kitchen, and two restrooms; but, the best part is, it has a big, fenced back yard, where the children will be able to grow vegetables that can be taken home to share with their families. (This is a real treat as many refugees do not get fresh fruits or vegetables.) The school is also located in a district with many other schools. 

Marla has been setting up our finances, so that we can receive your generous donations for these deserving little souls. She has also been working on training videos for the teachers about our initial assessment process and will soon be making videos to show the teachers how to implement our English/phonics program. We will be assessing our first class of students next week, so that we can place them in appropriate learning groups.

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Irenge Mbwiriza, one of our Founders, who is also our Country Director for Uganda, and our Lead Teacher, has been busy enrolling students for our first class. He has purchased some beautiful Covid-19 masks for our students and teachers, from an independent tailor in Kampala, and a purchased a charcoal stove for cooking the student's porridge. (This is an important meal for our students, that most can only get at school, as NGO rations of the monthly beans, cornmeal, oil, and salt; have been lower than usual lately, due to scarcity.) Irenge has also been scouting out a two-room rental in Kampala where our first classes will be housed, in addition to talking with other NGOS about our program, and registering our school with the Ugandan government.

Marla McGhee, the other one of our founders, who is a 35-year veteran educator, our Administrator, and our Director of Curriculum, has been working on developing this website, our Go Fund Me page, and our Facebook page, as it is important to get the word out about Bootstraps Education so we can secure much-needed books and other supplies for the school. Marla has also been working on developing our See It, Say It, Read It English program, and developing our Student Entrance Assessments, to place students into appropriate  learning groups. 

Coming Up soon...

We will introduce you to all of our teachers.

We will have a "Yearbook" picture of our first class of students.

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As so many great ideas do, Bootstraps Education started with a few conversations. These conversations were between an adult student who is a Ugandan refugee, and an American teacher. Mr. Irenge Mbwiriza, from Democratic Republic of Congo, was a student in Mrs. Marla McGhee's online English class, who explained the circumstances at the refugee settlement where he lived. He expressed a desire to help the children of the settlement receive an education, to help them move from living below the poverty line, toward obtaining an education which would improve their chances of making a better life when they came of age. This was a perfect match for Marla's lifelong desire to start a school that would really make a difference in the lives of its students.

After a lot of leg work from Irenge and a lot of data-mining by Marla, Bootstraps Education was born! Mr. Mbwiriza will serve as the lead teacher and country director for Uganda. Mrs. McGhee will continue to provide educational guidance, serve as the organization's administrator, and seek sources of funding to continue the program.

Irenge, Marla, our additional teachers (who will be introduced in future blogs), and the excited families of the children who have registered for our first term ever, to begin in August 2020, thank you for taking an interest in Bootstraps Education!

"IF YOUR DREAMS DON'T SCARE YOU, THEY'RE NOT BIG ENOUGH," Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, Liberian President



What the school needs to operate

Bootstraps Education is truly starting on a shoestring budget. Marla is designing our initial curriculum, and the teachers are building the furniture.

We are starting with the following:

1 ream of paper, 24 pencils, 20 composition notebooks, 1 white-board with markers, 20 enclosed folders (to keep everyone's pencils and papers separate during the pandemic), benches, tables, a charcoal stove, cornmeal, 1 cooking pot, 30 bowls, 30 cups, and 30 spoons, toilet paper, soap, and paper towels

We need donations to help us purchase the following 



Monthly Rent on our building >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>    $162.USD

Web hosting monthly (paid per year)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>  S12.USD

Electricity (estimated) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>      $20.USD

Water >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>      $20.USD

Food: cornmeal, sugar, charcoal (for stove) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>    $185.USD

Cleaning supplies: soap, paper towels, water bill (estimated) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>       $75.USD

Masks (for teachers, assistants, and 30 students) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>      $25.USD

                                                                                                                                      MONTHLY TOTAL>>>    $474.USD

Once per term

School supplies: 

textbooks, crayons, more paper, more pencils, erasers, individual pencil sharpeners >>>>>>>>>>>      $150.USD                                        (THIS $150. USD INCLUDES SUPPLIES FOR  ALL 30 STUDENTS PER TERM.)

                                                                                                                                               TERM TOTAL>>>    $150.USD

We also need: 

5 notebook-style computers (P.C.s with10-inch screens, please email before purchasing*)>>>>>>   Price TBD

A classroom library (We can get 30 early-reader library books for this price)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> $42.USD

WiFi bill (price TBD once computers are in place)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>   Price TBD

A small copier/printer>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>   Price TBD

Seeds and gardening supplies for out "Take Home" Garden >>>>>>> (Seeds are being provided by Seed Program International)

Filing fees for registration in Uganda>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>   $95.USD

Filing fees for non-profit status in the U.S.A. (IRS Form 1023 =$600., IRS Form 1023-EZ + $275.)>>   $875.USD


*Note to Donors: If you wish to donate items, such as computers or copiers, to the school, it is suggested to buy them from retailers in Kampala, as international shipping fees are extremely high.


Donation options appear on the next page.



This is not the, "I'd like to have an afternoon snack," type of "hunger" we speak of in our privileged first-world countries. THIS IS THE "OUR RATIONS HAVE BEEN CUT DUE TO DECREASED AVAILABILITY AND FUNDING, AND I AM LITERALLY STRAVING."

We have decided to feed them two times a day at school, WHICH MEANS WE WILL NEED TO DOUBLE OUR MONTHLY FOOD BUDGET. This is for humanitarian needs and due to the fact that there is a lot of educational research indicating that students learn best when they are not hungry.

Until we have enough funding to do both, we will continue to teach without the benefit of textbooks, so that we can funnel this money into our food budget, which has just become our top priority.



$ 100

Donation Amount

Future Plans

Future Plans
As our website shows we are starting small, but we have BIG plans for the future!

We opened our first school during August 2020,Kampala, Uganda, in August 2020, and our first class consists of 30 urban-refugee children, taught by 2 teachers. Once this school is well-established, we plan to open our next location in the Kayaka 2 refugee settlement, near Kamapla. From there we plan to expand to all refugee settlements in Uganda, then to refugee settlements in other African countries; then to refugee settlements on other continents.

Our plan for Uganda, is to educate the students through the Primary (K-6th grade) levels, so they will be prepared to take the Primary School Exit tests, to be eligible for Secondary School. When the time comes, we plan to cover the costs of uniforms and school supplies for those students wishing to enroll in Secondary School. Similar arrangements will be made for our schools/students in other countries.



  • Bootstraps Education, Semakeriko Rd., Kampala, Uganda
  • Visitors are welcome by appointment.


If your experience and expertise match our needs, we will contact you for further information.

Lawyer - U.S.
Accountant - U.S.
Accountant/Bookkeeper - Kampala, Uganda
Grant Writers - Worldwide