“I’ve never seen so much hope. They call Uganda
the Pearl of Africa, and I think some of it has to do
with the spirit. The spirit of the people is one of
hope,” he said.
By the worst of everything, he meant the poverty
and health challenges Ugandans face.
Those include high infant mortality and the
ravages of more than a million citizens infected with
EXPANDING CRUCIAL MEDICAL
The Kiwoko Hospital started as a clinic under
a tree in 1986 by an Irish missionary, Ian Clark,
in the aftermath of one of Uganda’s devastating
civil wars, which killed and displaced hundreds of
thousands of people.
The hospital is now a 25-acre compound
employing more than 350 staff, with 270 patient
beds and offering medical services to a region of
Funding from Aspen led to a three-fold increase
in the size of the hospital’s maternity ward and its
When Aspen first started working with the ISIS
Foundation, fewer than one-third of the prematurely
born babies in the Kiwoko Hospital survived. Now,
the survival rate of premature babies is more than
“We saw the babies,” Vitale said. “We got a
chance to hold them and interact with them. And
we got to meet the doctors and the nurses and the
skilled staff,” he said.
“I walked back a different person.”
Vitale likes to go on safaris, and when he traveled
to Uganda, he brought with him a new set of
clothing, boots and equipment with the intent to use
Once there, though, he decided to give them all
away to the Ugandans.
“I felt guilty to own it and so I left it there in a
basket. Nobody wanted to accept them. They said,
‘You can’t do this.’ I said, ‘Yes I can,’ ” Vitale said.
“I know that somebody there needed it a lot
more than I did and there was no possible way that
I could keep that stuff and leave there with a good
conscience,” he said.
TAKING FURTHER ACTION
When he returned from Uganda, the first thing
Vitale did was take a long, hot shower.
But then he started thinking about how he could
involve others in the insurance industry to become
involved with the ISIS Foundation and make a
difference in East Africa.
Last October, Vitale and Aspen organized a
By September of 2013, Aspen Insurance CEO
Mario Vitale was a 37-year veteran of the insurance
industry and a successful one at that.
All it took was one week visiting the village of
Kiwoko, in Central Uganda for Vitale, back at home
in New York, to wonder what he was doing with his
“I remember putting a tie on and looking at
myself in the mirror and somehow everything I do
every day, which I love — the insurance business —
didn’t seem as important anymore,” Vitale recalled.
That September, Vitale had acted as the lead
ambassador for a group of Aspen staff members who
visited Uganda as part of Aspen’s work with the ISIS
The Foundation originated in 1998 with the goal
of bringing medical and educational support to poor
villages in Uganda and Nepal.
Every year since 2007, Aspen Insurance has
made contributions to the ISIS Foundation and a
group of “Aspen Ambassadors,” numbering between
seven and nine people, visits Kiwoko and spends
time getting to know the village members Aspen’s
contributions help to support.
To date, Aspen has contributed a substantial
amount to the ISIS Foundation’s efforts in Uganda.
Of which, $640,000 has come directly from Aspen
employees in the UK and the United States.
“The Aspen-ISIS Foundation partnership is
unique in the financial services sector, both in its
depth of engagement with local communities and
in the degree to which it has become embedded
in Aspen’s corporate culture,” said Anubha Rawat,
communications and partnerships director for the
“It has shown us the exponential power of
linking the business sector with those in need in the
developing world,” he said.
It’s not easy for Westerners to visit Uganda
and keep their emotions in check. Although
discouraged, tears are commonplace as insurance
sector employees used to living in relative comfort
confront the harsh conditions Ugandans live in.
During his week-long September trip, Vitale
visited the neonatal center and maternity ward that
Aspen’s support has made possible. He played with
the village children, participated in daily prayers
and otherwise immersed himself in a culture that
almost automatically becomes beloved to those
Aspen staff members that visit there.
All in all, he said, he came away a changed man.
“Nothing prepared me for the fact that this was
really Ground Zero for the worst and the best of
everything,” he said.
By the best of everything, Vitale meant the
boundless hope that Ugandans bring to their daily
An insurance carrier partners with an international foundation to save
lives and build community in Central Uganda. BY DAN REYNOLDS
RISK & INSURANCE®
Spirit of Giving
• Aspen has been working with the ISIS Foundation
• An Aspen-hosted fundraiser in New York for the
ISIS Foundation in October, 2013 raised more than
• The ISIS Foundation rescued 136 trafficked children
in Nepal in 2006.
ASPEN’S MARIO Vitale is working to help Ugandans with the ISIS Foundation.
OCTOBER 15, 2014
“I felt guilty to own it and so I left it
there in a basket. Nobody wanted
to accept them. They said, ‘You
can’t do this.’ I said, ‘Yes I can.’ ”
—MARIO VITALE, CEO, ASPEN INSURANCE