Andrew Mangeni was born in the nation of Uganda, in East Africa. As a young boy he started his schooling in Uganda, and later on in England. With the urging of his uncle who was a medical professor at Brown University, Andrew came to the United States in 1990 to pursue his higher education.
He received an associate in fine arts degree from the Community College of Rhode Island, and later went on to complete his bachelor of science in music education (cum laude) at Rhode Island College. Andrew then began teaching music in the Smithfield Schools while continuing his education at the University of Connecticut, where he obtained a master’s degree in music education. In the fall of 2002, he began to teach as an adjunct professor at Rhode Island College, while maintaining his job in Smithfield. Currently, he is attending Boston University to receive his doctoral degree in music education and continues working at both Rhode Island College and the Smithfield Schools.
When Andrew came to Rhode Island, he felt both welcomed and unwelcomed. Some people embraced him fully, like the family at his church who took him in “like he was their own son;” they even gave him the very first car he drove in the United States. Andrew quickly became friends with a fellow foreign student from Guatemala named Stuardo, and the two became like blood brothers; to this day their families remain very close. On the other hand, others were less eager to welcome Andrew; some people were quick to judge him because he spoke differently from them, or perhaps they thought that as another immigrant he had come to take opportunities away from society. Andrew explains that:
“They [immigrants] add to the fabric of our community. Many of them are simply looking to improve themselves… If someone is looking to improve themselves chances are the community in which they settle will improve as well.”
In fact, that is exactly what Andrew has done. In 2008, Andrew and his wife Anna became ordained as pastors at New Dimension Church, where they are serving the local community to build stronger families.
Andrew states that he was always blessed with great opportunities growing up, whereby he always had three meals a day and did not lack much growing up in a blessed household; he credits his parents for giving him the opportunity to acquire a good education in Uganda, England and later on in the United States. Currently Andrew has settled in a city with an economically diverse population; however, it was not until he returned to his native Uganda in 2009 that he fully recognized the impact of his blessings compared to others around the world. On this trip to Uganda Andrew was able to visit remote village areas where he saw a lot of people [especially children] living under severe poverty conditions.
“While we were driving on the streets of Kampala at night, we were shocked to find little children between the ages of 3 and 8 years… who were abandoned on the streets to beg for food into the late hours of the night.”
After seeing this Andrew and his wife Anna together with other friends decided to start a non-profit charitable organization to help widows and orphans; in 2011 they started AAM Global Mission and Pennies On Purpose (a capital campaign), with the sole purpose of building schools that service orphans and helping widows create small farming businesses to improve their sources of income. Andrew considers helping less fortunate people as his greatest achievement in life; his passion for education and charity combine to create this accomplishment.
“I believe that if I had not received the gift of education I would not be where I am today; if it were not for education you would all not be where you are today. So we want to use education to help widows and orphans get back on their feet and become self-sustained, that’s my greatest desire.”
Andrew and his family are planning to return to Uganda this summer, along with a team of volunteers to complete building a school they started in 2013. Andrew’s future includes retiring from teaching and dedicating his life to serving widows and orphans through AAM Global Mission. Their hope is to build over 100 schools over the next ten years around the world, and through education projects they hope to reduce poverty in Uganda and in other countries such as Haiti, India, Guatemala and several others.
Andrew hopes that one-day Rhode Island will be more diverse.
“I want a kind of Rhode Island that is Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” kind of Rhode Island; that’s the kind of Rhode Island I want for my children. I want my children to look at a person of any race and receive them without any reservations. I want my children to sit down and enjoy the same brotherly relationship that I have developed with my friend Stuardo from Guatemala… I want, a Rhode Island where people really respect each other, where my kids respect any kind of person, background, and I think that would be a better Rhode Island for all people.”
Andrew loves Rhode Island and would not move to live anywhere else—since this was the first and only US state he has ever lived in; he feels a very deep connection and claims to have been bitten by the “Rhode Island bug.”
“I’m proud to be an American. I became an American last year . The United States has become my home; I’ve been living here for the past 24 years, and it’s a big chunk of my life. The United States is home for me”
The Mangeni family currently resides in Lincoln, Rhode Island, and is looking forward to another mission trip to Uganda early this summer.
Written and compiled by Lizzy Tighe and Brian Millham