Our History

2003 Safari Becomes a Lifelong Journey for Four Friends

Joe and Elaine Griswold and Dana and Kathryn Hiscock were heading out to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest to see the Mountain Gorillas when they stopped to see a Ugandan village in 2003. The highlight of the visit was the school choir whose singing, dancing, and drumming captured their hearts and changed the course of their lives. They came home to New Jersey eager to share with their friends and churches about their experiences.

The journey continues today. The photos and the captions in the gallery above chronicle some highlights.

The Good Shepherd Childcare Centre opened in 2005. This was supported by Community Presbyterian Church, Brigantine, NJ.

By 2006 the four friends added Jackie Sarner and Judy Sconyers to their return trip to Uganda. These two women were also affected profoundly and came back home to spread the word.

Activity and commitment called for a 501(c)(3), and Real Partners Uganda was formed in 2006. Founders included the Hiscocks, the Griswolds, and Jackie Sarner.

By 2008, a more formal entity was needed in Uganda in order to serve the community better. Tree of Life Ministries (TOLM) was formed as a CBO and Nonprofit Company Limited by Guarantee. The organization became the Ugandan counterpart to Real Partners Uganda.

The first thing that TOLM did was to create a school—Mustard Seed Academy—for all of the kids who had sponsors through RPU.

From 2009-2012 Mustard Seed Academy included 3 levels of Nursery School and a Primary School that added a level each year. Permanent classroom construction began, with the Nursery School benefitting first.

2009 – Four Xavier University students spent most of the summer volunteering and enriching the lives of students and staff.

2010 – Tom Sheridan and nephew Luke Culleny visited. Tom boosted sustainability projects at Mustard Seed and in the village of Kalungi. Luke made a documentary: Service Safari: Mission of Hope.

2012 was a pivotal year. For the first year, MSA had a class of ‘candidates’ who were preparing for the important end of primary school exams called the PLE.

Kristen Pettet (now Haley) spent the year (2012) volunteering at MSA as a community health educator and all-around helper and friend. Mustard Seed students still ask about ‘Auntie Kristen’ who is remembered with love.

Service Safari: Mission of Hope (2010)

2012 was a year of expansion for RPU with new board members and over 20 visitors to Uganda.

2013 was the first year for Mustard Seed Secondary School.

With RPU’s support, Tree of Life Ministries (TOLM) was able to buy 13 acres of land for the new Primary and Secondary Schools.

In early 2013, the Engineering Ministries International (eMI) group of volunteer engineers and architects came to develop a master plan for Mustard Seed Primary and Secondary Schools–”The Green Campus.”

Development continued with a new level of secondary school being added each year until in 2016 the first class of secondary students sat for the Uganda Certificate of Education exams (UCE), and they excelled.

Temporary buildings were replaced with permanent ones (classrooms and dormitories) according to the master plan that eMI developed.

In 2017, a new program, Career Opportunity Pathway (COP), was initiated. This gave Mustard Seed graduates the opportunity to gain practical skills and further education to ensure self-reliance after two years.

2018 – Gifts given in memory of Joe Griswold, who died on Dec. 30, 2017, began to transform the main campus into an oasis of ‘green and clean.’