The Rev. Dennis Dease, university president, received a Partner in Hope Award for his efforts in opening community-based medical clinics in Uganda.
The Twin Cities nonprofit organization, Hope for the City, honored Dease with the award Oct. 2 at the Fall Gala held at the Sheraton Hotel in Bloomington.
“The [award] was a good surprise and an honor,” Dease said. “I was not aware of the existence of this award when I began two-and-a-half years ago to establish medical clinics in Uganda.”
Hope for the City is a relief organization that uses corporate surplus to fight poverty, hunger and disease around the world. The organization donates overstock products such as food and medical resources to people in need.
According to its Web site, the organization has donated more than $435 million in wholesale value of goods since its start in 2000.
Hope for the City recently agreed to work as a partner in Dease’s medical clinic initiative in Uganda. Dease has worked with St. Thomas alumnus Charles Lugemwa to open 400 community-based medical clinics in Uganda.
Dease visited Uganda in 2003 for a meeting of the International Federation of Catholic Colleges and Universities.
“Uganda is poised for dramatic development,” Dease said. “It has great potential. Called by Winston Churchill [as] ‘the pearl of Africa.’”
Two clinics have opened in the Kampala suburbs of Ndejje and Kasubi with more on the way. Dease said he hopes to open 400 clinics within six to 10 years.
In addition to opening medical clinics, Dease has made an effort to enroll Uganda students at St. Thomas. With his efforts, Uganda now ranks third for student representation at St. Thomas, behind India and China.
The New Visio, a Ugandan newspaper, recently reported the 50 most popular college choices for study abroad students and St. Thomas was third, behind Oxford and the University of Minnesota.
The 37 Ugandan St. Thomas students joined Dease at the Hope for the City Gala to celebrate his award.
The fundraising gala drew a large crowd and had a program, which was full of testimonials and video documentaries regarding the organization’s efforts. Dease was impressed with the program but said the highlight of the night was the musical entertainment after the formal program, which was a vocal performance by a group of St. Thomas Ugandan students.
“They were like rock stars,” Dease said. “They brought the large ballroom to its feet in a wild, standing ovation.”
Senior Brian Osende, who is from Uganda, was at the Gala and said he is thankful for the work that Dease has done for the country, as well as Ugandan students.
“I am so grateful for a person like Father Dease,” Osende said. “The type of character he has, you just cannot put into words, he is very generous.”
For Osende, Dease has given him the opportunity to go to college. Without the help and support of Dease, Osende said he would not be able to afford coming to St. Thomas.
“It is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” Osende said. “He told me that it is hard to imagine people dying over simple illnesses, when other people are so wasteful. He told me that this is what I fight with everyday.”
Brian Matthews can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org