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Smile Africa Ministries (SAM) in the Tororo District of Uganda originated in 1996 as a family compassion project of Pastor Ruth Kahawa, caring for those infected with HIV/AIDS.  At that time there was a great stigma towards the people with HIV and Pastor Ruth saw how many of them were suffering alone.  She and her family started visiting the sick giving them clothes, blankets, utensils, soap, sugar, and just spending time with them.  The ministry has greatly expanded and now reaches the needs of many vulnerable people, such as street children, orphans, widows, women in abusive marriages, the elderly and persons with disabilities.  Since its conception SAM has helped over 10,000 women, more than 12,000 children and thousands of families.









In 2004 a tailoring and crafts program was started to help vulnerable women become self-reliant.  This same year she registered Smile Africa as a community based organization (CBO).  In 2007 Pastor Ruth started a feeding program for the Karamojong children in the Tororo area. She was inspired by God to do this one night while praying after a young Karamojong girl died after eating a piece of meat that had been poisoned to kill rats in one of the local markets in town. In 2008 Smile Africa was registered as a non-governmental organization (NGO).

The Karamojong are nomadic herdsmen of the Karamoja District of Uganda.  Due to famine and clan warring many Karamojong have moved to different areas of Uganda including Tororo.  They are considered to be fierce fighters, drunks, beggars, and thieves by many and are consequently discriminated against.  Many of them survive by eating food leftovers that have been thrown into rubbish pits and bins.

Currently approximately 350 Karamojong and other children come to SAM six days a week and are fed porridge in the morning and a nutritious meal in the afternoon.  The meals are provided free of charge. SAM ministry partner Hope 4 Kids International (H4KI) ships SAM nutritious meals donated by Feed My Starving Children (FMSC) in Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA.  Each meal provides the essential nutrition for a growing child for one day.  

In addition to being fed the children receive basic medical care at the SAM clinic.  Many of them are treated for malaria, are de-wormed, have their jiggers removed, and have their scabies, fungal infections and wounds treated.  Their hygiene is improving as a result of education and the opportunity to bathe in Smile’s showers.  Smile Africa is now a registered nursery and primary school and 110 of the children receive basic education in preschool through the primary two grade level on site, completely free of charge.  They also learn about Jesus Christ and witness His love firsthand.  Over 200 of the children are now sponsored in other public primary schools nearby, several dozen are sponsored in secondary and vocational training and a few are even being supported as they pursue degrees at the university.  One has just earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at Kyambogo University and another is pursuing a Master’s in History at Makerere University. This is a great step forward in raising these children’s social status as well as improving individual opportunities for them.

SAM also has a women empowerment program.  Ministry partners Hope 4 Women International (H4WI) and Reach Up Reach Out Ministries (RURO) sponsor women for 1 year during which time they are given monthly support.  They are encouraged to save their monthly support so they will have capital for an income generating activity or small business when they complete their year.  The women’s groups meet once a week for a time of worship, a study of leadership and character principles, and to learn agricultural techniques. 

Another objective of Smile Africa Ministries is church planting and evangelism.  Through the generous donations of partners Smile Africa Ministries has helped several local pastors buy land and build churches.  In addition to this another objective is conducting conferences to build up God’s people in the word of God. SAM also has a church fellowship on site Sunday mornings led by Michael De La Rocha and his wife Abbo Sylivia who also disciple many of the youth.


All of the 66 vulnerable children and babies who were previously living at the SAM facility have now been resettled back into the community with family, foster and adoptive parents through a thorough deinstitutionalization (DI) program done in partnership with Tororo District Local Government (TDLG) and Child’s I Foundation (CIF) that took place from 2016 to 2019. In addition to supporting vulnerable children and women in the community and promoting and advocating for (DI), visions for the next five years include registering the vocational training programs of hairdressing, tailoring, baking and welding, and adding vocational training programs for carpentry and computers, building classrooms and an assembly hall for the on-site children, developing agricultural projects, and finally building a business center to generate income for ministry activities.

Pastor Ruth Kahawa Smile Africa Ministries Founder and Director-A.jpg

Smile Africa's History

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