For thousands of years, the Batwa Pygmies lived among the silverback mountain gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of southwest Uganda. But in 1992, the forest was declared a World Heritage Site to protect the endangered silverback, and the Batwa lost their home.

Forced to transition from hunter-gatherers to farmers, they did not adapt well, and their very survival was threatened.

Over the years, Rotary members in the United States, Uganda, and other parts of the world helped with efforts to aid the Batwa. Most recently, those efforts have focused on the creation of a nursing school to serve the entire southwestern part of the country.

Dr. Scott Kellermann, a physician and Rotary member from California, USA, discovered the plight of the Batwa in 2000, when he and his wife, Carol, traveled to the area as medical missionaries to assess the indigenous people's needs. He describes the situation they found: "Abject poverty. No access to health care, no access to education, no clean water, no sanitation, land insecurity, and food insecurity."

The Kellermanns' survey found that 38 percent of the Batwa died before the age of five -- twice the rate of Uganda as a whole -- and that the average life expectancy was 28.

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