By Steve Sears
Mission Madera, founded by 1985 Morris Catholic High School graduate Gerard Duphiney, and his son Ben, a 2018 grad, was recently awarded a $15,000 grant courtesy of the Invest in Others Global Impact Award for the work they’ve done and continue to do in the ravaged country of Madera, Uganda in Africa.
The Mission statement of Mission Madera is (from the website): RADIATING THE LOVE OF CHRIST, MISSION MADERA STRIVES TO PUT FAITH IN ACTION BY SERVING THE NEEDS OF THE SCHOOLS, FAMILIES, AND THE LITTLE SISTERS OF ST. FRANCIS TO IMPROVE THE LIVING CONDITIONS AND ENCOUNTER THE HUMAN DIGNITY OF EACH PERSON WITHIN THE MADERA COMMUNITY IN UGANDA, AFRICA.
Mission Madera started when 10-year-old Ben expressed an interest to visit Madera, but further encouragement came when, during his sophomore year, he met Sr. Cecilia at the Assumption College for Sisters, which is on the old campus of Morris Catholic High School. Sr. Cecelia, born and raised in Madera, planned and prayed with Ben for two months, both envisioning a trip to her homeland.
The inaugural trip to Uganda was in the summer of 2017, when Ben, his dad, and Sr. Cecelia flew to the country for a two week stay. Funds that had been collected for the trip were wired from Morris Catholic when Duphiney told the school conditions in the country were so horrible. “There was no running water, no sinks, no soap for the kids,” he says, and contractors were hired to remedy the issue. There are three schools in the Madera community: The 1,000 student, all-girls St. Ann’s Elementary School, St. Francis Primary School for the Blind, and St. Francis Secondary School for the Blind.
“When we finished that summer,” Duphiney recalls, “we were at the airport and I said, ‘Boy, that was great.’ And Ben said, ‘We have to come back next year. Dad, this is bigger than us. I want others to come and experience the joy we felt.’”
“The people were just so warm and welcoming and loving,” Duphiney says. “In spite of their circumstances, they just have this joy about them. It was a good lesson for all of us.”
The trip was repeated in 2018, this time with a group of 12 others for another two week stay, and in 2019, this time the excursion being a two-parter: first Morris Catholic, and the second, a mission trip with folks from Notre Dame of Mount Carmel Parish in Cedar Knolls.
COVID-19 stuck a fork in the 2020 trip. “Within days of our (United States) shutdown, they (Uganda) were shut down as well,” says Duphiney. “The difference there is they literally shut it down with no assistance. In our government, of course, we offered assistance. It was tremendously helpful. So, here are people (in Madera) that go out every day to work to buy food that day to eat. And they were shut down.” Duphiney sent an email and asked those in Madera what they needed done. The response was they were experiencing starvation; it was bad. Mission Madera sent funds over to buy 6,000 lbs. of food.
A 2021 trip is still up in the air.
“We do have additional funding,” says Duphiney, a Denville resident and a Managing Partner at Duphiney Financial Network, “but we’re always looking for more because the work is endless.”
For more information and ways to support Mission Madera, visit www.missionmadera.com.