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Photos: Tuck into desserts in Port Coquitlam to help a Ugandan safe haven

On Feb. 18, Carli Travers and her husband, Robert Birungi, and their family will return to the Riverside Community Church for a dessert night fundraiser for Abetavu.

Their work was hard enough before the pandemic hit.

But when the COVID-19 virus spread across the world in 2020, the African country of Uganda shut the doors to institutions — preventing even its youngest and most vulnerable citizens from accessing core services.

“Our whole community went backward,” said Port Coquitlam’s Carli Travers, who runs an 11-acre educational and support centre with her husband, Robert Birungi, called Abetavu.

“It felt like it was all for nothing.”

Now, the parents to six biological children — and many more adopted in Birungi’s homeland — say they’re trying to bring some normalcy back to the safe haven they opened 15 years ago and build awareness in Canada about Abetavu.

On Feb. 18, the pair will return to the Riverside Community Church in Port Coquitlam to celebrate the milestone and raise funds through a dessert night: Cannoli King, DesignerCookies, Cassandra Cake Co. and Cakes n Sweets have signed on to offer treats at the special event that starts at 7 p.m.

Travers, who attended B.C. Christian Academy in PoCo and Douglas College in Coquitlam, said Uganda is struggling as it makes its way out of the pandemic “and more needs to be done on the ground,” she said, noting Birungi recently returned from Abetavu.

“We need to give as much support as we can.”

Among the centre’s goals is to build a daycare for children with special needs, who often are stigmatized for their disabilities.

Travers hopes to collect $35,000 from the sixth annual dessert night — the same as in November 2019 — to sponsor the programs and services at Abetavu because Ugandan officials “see no value in education right now…. And there needs to be an opportunity for the kids to have a better future.”

Travers said the dessert night will not include a silent auction this time around; instead, there will be:

  • speeches
  • a table to sell Ugandan crafts (supporting the Abetavu women in the village)
  • a live Fund-A-Need

Mostly, “the focus will be on celebrating all the amazing things over the past 15 years and looking forward to our future.”

Tickets for the Abetavu Dessert Night are $15 via To make a donation to the charity’s Fund-a-Need, go to (when making a donation, where it says FUND, scroll down to Abetavu). Tax receipts will be issued under Canadian Charity Classrooms for Africa.

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