I am "under the wire" for January’s Amazing Canadians feature by posting it on the last day of January. Unfortunately, attempts to have an in-person interview with Bill and Ann Peckham failed. Being such remarkable people, I am writing their story anyway and hope they will be ok with it and hope I have the story straight. Information has been obtained from publicly available sources and the Eagle Wings Children’s Village website.
Bill and Ann came to my attention through my mom, who had worked with them in the Frontier School Division in Manitoba. Mom told me of their adventures after retiring from teaching and of how they have impacted the lives of so many orphaned children in Africa.
Bill and Ann hail from Manitoba. Bill spent his career in education as a teacher, principal and special education resource teacher. Ann cared for home and children and worked in various capacities outside the home as well. Upon retiring, they moved back to Gilbert Plains, MB and became involved with missionary activities.
Being drawn to missionary work, Bill and Ann eventually travelled to Uganda to visit Rev. Christopher Muwonge, who had lived with the Peckhams in Winnipeg in the 1980s. A three month stay turned into two years, during which time, Bill and Ann travelled Uganda extensively. These travels opened their eyes to the poverty and strife of Ugandan children and they developed a personal commitment to helping the thousands of Ugandan orphans. They began to plan their own program in the Kalugu District of Southern Uganda. In 2004, their application to the Ugandan Government, to operate Eagles Wings Children’s Village (EWCV) as an official NGO (Non Government Organization), was granted. In 2005, EWCV was granted registered charity status in both Uganda and Canada. In October of 2005, Bill and Ann became residents of Uganda, committed to improving the lives of Ugandan children.
Uganda is in central Africa, with no borders on oceans. One of the best climates in the world lends itself to agriculture, which is relied upon in the EWCV to provide food and occupation for its residents. Though the entire country of Uganda could fit inside the province of Manitoba three times, there are over 27 million people, with one of the highest population growth rates in the world. The majority of the population is under 15 years of age and 2.3 million children are orphaned, due to the high death rate from HIV/AIDS.
By establishing EWCV as an NGO and charity, the organization was able to purchase 74 acres of land. This property has been used to provide clean drinking water, schools, a play structure, and agricultural land to provide food for the children. Eleven acres of this land is under cultivation and learning agricultural skills and participating in working the land are a key part of the childrens’ educations. The EWCV employs a growing staff of Ugandans in a variety of roles. Farm managers and assistants, maintenance staff, teachers, social worker, housekeepers, seamstresses, house parents and security guards are among the many staff involved in operating and maintaining the Village. Bill and Ann volunteer their services to the community.
In addition to addressing the health needs of the children by providing good food, water, clothing, and cots with mosquito netting, the EWCV also has an on-site clinic provided by Hellenic Ministries. A doctor and nurse attend to the additional health needs of the village children and staff.
Education is provided, free of charge, to the orphaned children in the village, as well as the neediest children in the neighbouring community. Text books, supplies, uniforms, shoes, food and health care are provided at no cost. All students begin with English, Literacy (Reading and Writing), Math, Luganda, Christian Education and Physical Education. Once promoted to Senior One level, studies expand to include Integrated Science, including agriculture, and Social Studies.
Heading into their 14th year, Bill and Ann’s remarkable achievements have provided hope and life for hundreds of orphaned Ugandan children, who would otherwise be facing a life of poverty and ill health, if any life at all. I am truly humbled by their generosity and tenacity in seeing their dream through, and the selflessness with which they have committed themselves to their task. If you are seeking inspiration, search no further than this remarkable couple.
The operation of the EWCV relies on charitable donations and volunteers. If you would like to support their work by volunteering, sponsoring a child, or making a donation, please visit their website at: http://eagleswingschildrensvillage.com/. If you are not able to volunteer or donate, please visit the site anyway and see the pictures and newsletters for the feel-good moments of making a difference in a child’s life.