BiZoHa is groundbreaking secular orphanage

The following was first published online May 22 by the Institute for Ethics & Emerging Technologies.

By Hank Pellissier

Is every orphanage in the world operated by a religious organization? Nope. Not anymore.
Steps to launch BiZoHa Orphanage were taken earlier this year by four members of the Brighter Brains Institute, a think-and-do tank located in San Francisco’s East Bay. BiZoHa, believed to be the world’s first atheist orphanage, is situated in Muhokya, in Kasese Province, near the Rwenzori Mountains of western Uganda, close to the Congo border.
Children living there will not be indoctrinated in any religion and instead will be tutored by the secular staff of the nearby Kasese Humanist Primary School. KHPS is aligned with godless groups like the Foundation Beyond Belief and Atheist Alliance International, plus other irreligious organizations in Australia, the United Kingdom, United States, Germany and Canada.

BiZoHa raised its start-up funds via a GoFundMe campaign in February that asked for $4,506 to construct a home for 20 to 25 orphans. The request went “viral” with astonishing quickness. Humanist writer Zoltan Istvan’s reportage on VICE Motherboard blasted the news into public consciousness. On Facebook, it was shared by tens of thousands of godless enthusiasts.

Thirty-three people donated $100 or more. One benefactor tossed in $1,000. Ninety-seven people contributed. The campaign was enriched beyond expectations in only 29 hours.
A brick building will shelter 25 orphans and staff. The construction cost was only $3,122. The remaining funds helped with installation of a 30-foot-deep latrine, brought in a pipeline for water and seeded most of the orphanage’s 7 acres with crops to provide economic self-sufficiency.

Bwambale M. Robert is director of KHPS and will be BiZoHa director. Establishing the orphanage has long been his dream. Orphaned at age 5, Bwambale worked his way through high school as a barber, subsequently received a university scholarship and matriculated in biology. He’s the author of the book Orphans of Rwenzori: A Humanist Perspective.

Bwambale intends to make BiZoHa economically self-sufficient in one year. This goal will be achieved by selling corn, beans, cassava, peanuts and lettuce grown on its 7-acre crop farm and by selling drinks in a roadside stand on the popular Fort Portal Mponde Road that leads to destinations like Bushenyi, Mbarra town, Queen Elizabeth National Park and Bwera.
BiZoHa is an acronym of the three main U.S. fundraisers. “Bi” is Biba Kavass, an award-winning economics teacher at Southwind High School in Memphis, Tenn., where she started the state’s first high school KIVA Club and encouraged students to write the upcoming book Microfinance in Action: A Guide for Teenagers.

“Zo” is Zoltan Istvan, author of The Transhumanist Wager and feature writer/columnist at Gizmodo, VICE, National Geographic, Huffington Post, Psychology Today and other publications.

“Ha” is Hank Pellissier, journalist and interim managing director of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technology and Brighter Brains Institute director. I was the founder/co-producer of the world’s first Atheist Film Festival, in 2009.

Uganda has 3.5 million orphans, or about 9% of the population. Children are parentless due to AIDS, civil war and other violence, accidents and abandonment. Up to 70% of orphans become criminals as adults. Among girls, 60% end up in prostitution, where the HIV/AIDS rate is 37%.

Education is limited. When they “age out” of orphanages, many become street kids, sniffing glue, stealing, scavenging in garbage dumps and begging. Many are subjected to illness, filth, malnutrition, sexual abuse and child trafficking.

The main building in which the children and staff will be housed is already finished. It has a cheery humanist symbol on one side and a list of all significant contributors on another side.

Dr. Bruce Chou, a California anesthesiologist, contributed $1,000 for the nearly completed “Dr. Bruce Chou Classroom.” Andrea Vogt, from Germany, donated $925 to construct the “Andrea Vogt Roadside Stand,” which is about 50% complete. Another contributor added $500 to purchase a solar panel to help meet electrical needs.

Currently (late May), there’s a second GoFundMe campaign in progress that has raised an additional $2,500. Funds will be used for a variety of needs, including staff salaries. Full-time workers will receive $700 annually, a decent wage in rural Uganda.

Anyone interested in helping can donate at or email questions to [email protected].

Freedom From Religion Foundation