I believe passionately that in our increasingly challenged and interconnected world, we all need to find our voices and apply our energies in contributing what we are able to for building a better future. It has been my privilege on my journey to meet some wonderful individuals and to be a small part of supporting them with their self development or their mission for change. I have learned and grown through giving my time, knowledge, and skills in support of my dear friends who have started grass roots community NGOs to improve education and other opportunities in Uganda, Sudan and Kuala Lumpur. Additionally I administrated and volunteered in a teacher training programme for Sudanese teachers while working at KICS in Sudan
Uganda is a country very dear to my heart, mainly due to the courage, resilience and joyful nature of the people I met there. Supreme amongst them is Olive Kajubu. Olive was my teacher assistant from 1999 to 2001. When I returned to Uganda in 2004 I persuaded her to switch schools. In 2005, she came to me with a project to develop housing and medical care for old people ‘Jajas’ in her home village deep in the bush. I helped her only with writing a proposal and distributing it amongst friends and family. Over ten years later Olive not only has provided for the elderly but she has built Kito Community School where there was no school, and has left her job to run this school and train the teachers. Olive’s project relies entirely on donations from friends, ex colleagues and church contacts. I am humbled by her incredible achievements and happy to be one of her support pillars with advocacy and fundraising. Recently supporters formed an NGO, Enduring Communities to support her work
Another great friend and inspirational leader, is Emmanuel Mwaka Lutukmoi whom I met when a friend and I travelled to Gulu in the Acholi region of Northern Uganda with supplies for children fleeing being captured as child soldiers. Emmanuel was running the Wang O Fireplace Centre as part of his United Youth Action for Progress NGO as a refuge for ‘night commuter’ children and we were lucky to find him. Our work together over two years created some amazing multi media fundraisers in Uganda which not only supported his work but raised awareness of the situation with the Acholi people. Emmanuel is inspirational and has raised support for thousands of girls to receive secondary school education in a country where female education is not highly valued. Under his aegis, I have sponsored several girls through secondary school and continue to follow their progress. My current sponsee, Jackie will take her A levels next year and wants to study law or international development.
Softpower Education is a community education NGO which flourished from the vision of my amazing friend, Hannah Small. From building just one pre-school with the help of overland truck travellers, over the course of fifteen years, Softpower has become a respected community partner servicing the needs of multiple primary schools in the Budongo region north of Jinja, Uganda. As well as sponsoring a pre-school teacher in the early days, I was privileged to spend several months volunteering in the Amagazi Education Centre, carrying out an audit which doubled the number of students it served, supporting the development of health and agriculture projects and training the teachers in the centre. Any educator looking for a wonderful grassroots ‘voluntourism’ experience should take a look at Softpower Education
Children UP is a small NGO which supports capable but needy children to access Secondary and Further Education in Gulu, Northern Uganda. It is the retiral project of two great friends of mine in Chicago, the wonderful Charlie and Betty Laliberte. I’m proud to say it was conceived in my home while their daughter was staying with me in Uganda and Charlie was persuaded to visit and travel with her. It is a delightful small project and if you want your day brightened, do follow them on Facebook, the posts always make me smile!
Pandawas Academy is a community organised school for refugees in a suburb of Kuala Lumpur. As well as training tutors for a volunteer programme, I was able to help the administrators set up a volunteer database and construct learning in a simpler and more structured way. Pandawas Academy is a great example of how people with a vision. like co-founders Robert and Jessica can inspire community engagement. Through my time there I interacted with more than 1000 Malaysian and expat volunteers many of whom have moved on to help with other, less well supported refugee schools. It was a revelation to see how committed the local population are to giving their time, energies and talents.
Kids for Kids is the brainchild of yet another inspirational woman, Patricia Parker. Kids for Kids started out providing goats to families in the ravaged Darfur region but now does so much more. The Junior Section of our school in Sudan, KICS adopted Kids for Kids after I met Patricia at a social event. When visiting Khartoum she would meet with our student council and attend assemblies, and the children became very passionate about the project. Several parents commented on how impressed they were with their children’s grasp of the issues and how eloquently they would speak about them and the action they were taking. The way Kids for Kids is organised, children really take ownership and the feedback they receive about their efforts is very encouraging to them.