Merle Anderson retired in 2000 from River Valley Cooperative where he served as Manager. He spent a thirty-seven year career in senior management for farm supply and grain marketing cooperatives in western Illinois and eastern Iowa. Upon retirement, and as a long-time Rotarian, Merle fulfilled fifteen assignments as a business consultant for newly formed companies in the former Soviet Union countries of Ukraine and Moldova. In 2010, he accepted the first of four assignments in Uganda, Africa.

In 2012, while on assignment in Uganda, Merle met Robbinah Hakiza, the founder and director of the Imbabazi Center for Women and Children, a small operation in Kisoro, Uganda. The center provides clothing and shelter for orphaned or vulnerable children. Merle recruited people to become sponsors of deserving children. Sponsors provide funding to pay for school tuition, school supplies and clothing. He also initiated a Rotary Global Grant that brought clean water to over 10,000 Kisoro residents who had never had access to clean water. The grant also provided classroom desks, kitchen equipment, a modern toilet system and security for the center.

The Imbabazi Center does not have dormitories, so Robbinah finds caregivers who provide food and shelter for the deserving children. About 90% of the caregivers are widows with four to six children of their own. The center also provides training and a mini-finance program for the caregivers so they can operate a small business and be able to provide income to feed and clothe their children. The Center has grown to fifty-seven children with fifty sponsors.

In June 2023, Merle led a delegation of seven fellow Rotarians and sponsors to Uganda. None had ever been to Uganda and only two had previously been to Africa. The purpose of the trip was to view the projects they and other sponsors had financed over the past ten years.

Merle’s presentation provides insight into life in Uganda. Uganda sits under the Equator and is referred to as the “Pearl of Africa.”

Some scenes from our January 19 meeting.