The Zozu Story

An Unexpected Beginning

Mick and Elaine Lebens and their children Ryan, Jessa, and Nathan take a missions trip to Arua, Uganda. All of them are astounded by the poverty they see, but also by the resilience of Pastor JP, a local pastor who has served the community for years. Upon returning home, the three Lebens children take the initiative to establish a non-profit.

School Building 101

The small-town church Templeton Presbyterian catches the enthusiasm of the Lebens family. In a single Christmas offering, the congregation of fewer than 250 people donates over $40,000 for the first four-classroom wing. It's a miracle, and it's just what Zozu needs to get going. 

Picking the Name

Realizing that God is calling them to more than a one-and-done fundraiser, the Lebens family starts the Zozu Project. "Zozu" means "thrive" in the tribal language, and both Ugandan and US founders share the vision of thriving children, families, and a healthy village.

Opening Day

Solid Rock Christian School, led by Pastor JP and all-Ugandan staff, opens its doors to 200 students. For almost all of the children, this is their first time in a classroom– and some of them are as old as 9!

We Create Change

Templeton students are the ones to get the project off the ground, running a campaign called "We Create Change" at the local schools. They provided all of the original school supplies, books, and meals for the first year of school! The following year, the whole school district teams up to build a library!

Water of Life

Our partners Sara Messer, Director of Taproot Charities, and Mission International raise funds to provide a water and sanitation system for the village. From the start, Zozu develops a culture of seeking partnerships with other organizations.

Parent Empowerment

Zozu gathers a group of mothers in the community to make paper beads for jewelry, employs local architects for all construction projects, and hires local seamstresses for school uniforms. Hundreds of hardworking parents find new sources of income to support their families as the project grows. 

Serious Steps

Solid Rock in Uganda provides employment for 17 full-time staff members, all Christians who have made sacrifices to serve the children. Zozu Project also takes a big step and hires its first US employee as Director of Communications.

The Smallest Students

Children are beginning elementary school unable to read or count, so Solid Rock Christian Preschool opens in 2018. The student body grows to 400 children, all from the neediest areas of the community.

A Milestone

The first students to graduate from Solid Rock Christian School receive their primary school diplomas and head off to boarding school in the capital city together. Though these students entered 4th grade with little previous education, 100% are accepted into secondary school. For many this is their first time in the capital. Their parents couldn't be prouder.

Multiplying the Loaves

Thanks to support from four different US churches, Solid Rock opens its industrial kitchen, replacing the pot-over-fire system. Now over 800 meals are served daily. And we do mean daily- the kitchen feeds the Sunday school on weekends!

Helping the Helpers

To address the difficulty of attracting and retaining Ugandan teaching staff to a rural area with a harsh climate, nearby housing is constructed for ten teachers. Equipped with solar electricity and indoor plumbing, many teachers upgrade when they move in.

Crisis Responce

With the schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, many students are left without medical care, education, and good nutrition- all things provided by the school. Zozu staff jump into action and, thanks to the generosity of many donors, are able to deliver over 10,000 meals to families struggling with food insecurity during the crisis.

Accelerating the Work

With a preschool, seven classes in elementary, and two classes in high school, Zozu Project celebrates the 500th student to enroll in the program and continues to grow its staff of locally employed Ugandans. To date, God has used Zozu Project and all of its staff and donors to bring hope to hundreds of families. We're all watching to see what He does next.

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