Grace Agwaru: GoL’s 1st child

       Grace Agwaru is Gift of life’s first child. She underwent heart surgery on November 15, 1975 at five years old, and is now a Gift of Life International (GOLI) global ambassador.  Her story is told below. 

      “Back in the early 70’s, when my daughter was diagnosed with a hole in the heart, I had never in my whole life heard of anybody suffering from heart disease,” narrates 70-year-old Silvester Agwaru about when he was told by the doctors at Mulago that his third born child had a hole in the heart.  “From the time Grace was born, she started having regular sickness,” he says.  Working as a civil servant in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, his family was staying in Entebbe, so he took the baby to Grade A in Entebbe Hospital.  “The doctors couldn’t find what was wrong with our baby and we were referred to Mulago Hospital.”

      When her problem was finally diagnosed, Mr. Agwaru says the doctors at the national referral hospital started carrying out extensive examinations on his daughter and giving her medication. Through these doctors, Mr. Agwaru was introduced to Kampala Rotary Club which ran an article about her plight. The story was published in the Rotary Times, a Rotary monthly magazine. Robbi Donno, a United States Rotarian, read her story, and felt he could do something. He recounted her plight to his club members, and they decided to help. After fundraising, Grace was booked into St. Francis Hospital in Long Island, N.Y. for heart surgery.

      Grace Agwaru does not remember most of the finer details of the events that put a stop to her endless visits to hospital.  Her most vivid memory of childhood, though, is that she was a sickly child who had to endure continuous painful injections.  But the operation that Grace underwent at age 5 crossover from sickly to healthy.  Grace became the first child to receive heart surgery with support from Robbi’s Rotary Club in Manhasset. What both Robbi and Grace’s father did not know at that time, was that this desire to help a child with a heart complication would blossom into a fully-fledged worldwide organization–Gift of Life International. Gift of Life (GoL) gives an opportunity to children like Grace to live a normal and long life because as Grace puts it, “doctors at Mulago said she would not live beyond her 16th birthday if she did not receive this corrective surgery.”

      “My life became pretty normal after that.  I went to Buganda Road and Soroti Primary Schools.  I then went to Mount St. Mary’s Namagunga and from where I went to Makerere University.” At Makerere, Grace earned a degree in Agricultural Economics and proceeded to obtain a Masters in Agricultural Extension, also from Makerere.” “Grace never had any other health complications after her surgery.  She became a very normal child,” her father happily said.  The family, together with cousins and nieces, were at the GOLI reunion that brought together all children helped by this organization.  They came together to celebrate the opportunity at life that was offered to them through by GOLI. “What GOLI did for me inspired my education and the need to take care of myself and give back to GOLI,” says Grace, who is now 39-years old.  Until recently when she started working as a GOLI ambassador, Grace has been using her agricultural skills to work with communities in Soroti in group development projects.  “I am passionate about helping them become self sufficient.”
Grace and her father are also the founders of Soroti Central Rotary Club.  They began this club as a way of helping others in their community just as GoLI had helped them many years earlier.


Presently, Grace is based in New York where she carries out her duties as a global ambassador for Gift of Life International.


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