Man, and his family, on a mission to Uganda

Cut from Hewlett-Packard, Paul Gibson heads to Uganda to work with AIDS-orphaned children

When Paul Gibson lost his job at Hewlett-Packard, he decided on a career move -- half a world away.

Gibson said he was "laid off/retired" when HP bought out Electronic Data Systems (EDS), and at the same time his wife, Janet, decided to move to Jinja, Uganda, to work fulltime with the Children of Grace organization.

Children of Grace helps youngsters orphaned by the AIDS epidemic in Africa. Gibson and his wife learned about the group from their son, Phillip, who went to Uganda on a missions trip in 2008.

Phillip came back excited over the work Children of Grace is doing.

"He and I went on a short term trip and that's how we became aware of this organization and what it does," Gibson said. "My wife went over about four months later."

The rest is a series of coincidences: Gibson, who'd been in information technology for his entire career, went to HP in the buyout, only to lose his job. About the same time, Children of Grace, which had been run in Africa, changed its leadership.

"It came up that we needed to find a leader for Children of Grace in Uganda," he said. "The opportunity came up and we decided that we were going to take a change of life direction. My heart and passion was to be in this business, to do to something that gave a meaningful purpose to my life."

Janet Gibson said the decision to change nearly everything about their lives was a mutual one.

"It was more of a joint thing," she said. "We kind of got the same idea, together."

"Both my wife and I thought this was manna from heaven," Gibson said. "The only consideration we had is -- we have four children, the youngest of which is a rising freshman in high school."

The idea of moving nearly 6,000 miles away from her friends didn't sit well with 14-year-old Cassidy.

"When we first told her it was very hard. In fact we had second thoughts," Janet said. "It was very hard the first night but there's a lot of people in the (Community Presbyterian Church) community, people in the youth group that really encouraged her. Within a few days she really had a change of heart. I think she's real fearful still, but trusting, too."

Gibson said electronic communication will let Cassidy stay in touch with her friends -- and stay in school as well. She'll attend San Ramon Valley Unified School District's Venture School.

"She has gone from being quite upset to being accepting and supportive," he said.

Cassidy wants to be a photojournalist, and the move will give her that opportunity.

"She's going to be our local reporter. That's been an angle she wants to be involved in," Gibson said.

He and his family will live in a home on land owned by Children of Grace, and he'll be working with the kids every day.

"There's approximately 800 kids," Gibson explained. Children of Grace, he said, runs a school, buying books and supplies, along with providing health care and other services.

"We have a multi-purpose facility of about 2,500 square feet. We have a staff of eight -- we call them mentors. Their jobs are to help us select the kids that are eligible to be sponsored and then provide sort of holistic oversight," he added.

Jinja is the second-largest city in Uganda, with a population of about 50,000, and surroundings that bring the area's population into the millions, he said. The city is on Lake Victoria, at the head of the Nile, near the equator, about 50 miles from Kampala, the capital.

Gibson described the area as "the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic" with millions of children in an area of about 100 square miles.

Children accepted at the school are those who have lost one or both parents through AIDS. While most children in Uganda only attend primary school, those accepted at Children of Grace will attend high school plus vocational training.

"If we can get them in school and keep them in school, you've got a generation who can help themselves," Gibson said.

Although Children of Grace is a faith-based organization, it's not tied a particular church, so sex education is part of the curriculum.

"For us it's a matter of teaching healthy living. We teach abstinence, but we teach a full range of safe practices," Gibson said. "This is all about the kids. For us it's about service and what we can do to help the kids."


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Posted by Kathy Peterson
a resident of San Ramon
on Jul 13, 2010 at 8:45 am

This is a very cool story. My husband lost his job over a year ago. It has been a very difficult year and a half. I am so encouraged by this story. It is very moving. I will be praying for the Gibson's.

Like this comment
Posted by spcwt
a resident of Danville
on Jul 13, 2010 at 9:16 am

My parents decided to move when I was 12 for “religious reasons.” They didn’t have to. They chose to. I lost all my friends. It sucked. I hope this 14 yr. old does okay.

There’s plenty of ways to help with the AIDS crisis and the poor right here at home. Not sure why people feel the need to move around the world to do it. Maybe because it sounds romantic? Maybe they have a Messiah complex? Maybe they want interesting stories to tell at parties when they come home? No doubt they'll do a lot of good, but why not wait until the kids are grown?

Hope before they leave they watch the movie, “The Mosquito Coast” with Harrison Ford.

Like this comment
Posted by Hans S.
a resident of Blackhawk
on Jul 14, 2010 at 12:49 am

This is unacceptable. This family should be reported. A child cannot attend school when not residing in this boundary, not to mention the boundary of the country. Just as for F-1 visas, just because you pay property taxes in the area does not justify school placement as they are not physically residing there.

Venture is not an online school. As a citizen of this community, I will be reporting this to the WASC accreditation, to the county of education, and all applicable agencies, for audit and review. I will also contact IRS. As well I will contact the UC system to see how many students used that for faking residency requirements, besides that everything they teach in Venture is a fraud. Who knows what profit SRVUSD is making using federal and state money committing international student fraud?

What a disgrace of our school district.

Steven Enoch, should be responding to my concerns as a citizen, and rectify with the Danville Express that he will not allow a student who is out of the country a placement in SRVUSD, and receive federal and state funding for a student not even in the US.

If Danville Express deleted my posting, I will still be reporting these people and the school district to all the agencies applicable.

Like this comment
Posted by Louise
a resident of Danville
on Jul 14, 2010 at 2:41 pm

If only the world were filled with families like this, who don't see borders on the suffering of others, and truly feel a calling to help where help is needed most.

I wish the best of luck to this family - and commend Miss Cassidy for her turn around in spirit. I look forward to her full report when she returns!

Will CPC be taking donations to assist? Lacking the courage to disrupt my comfortable existence, I would be happy to contribute to this amazing family's passion for assisting these children!

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