My Story: Finding my Passion
Growing up, I never had a crystal clear vision of my future. There were many things I knew I cared about and loved, but I was never able to find something I was wholeheartedly passionate about. I struggled as I watched my peers find their identity in sports, academics and their careers. I felt like everyone around me knew their place in life and was already on their way to becoming who they were meant to be. I was envious of them and hoped to one day find my purpose.
A year after high school, I found myself in a history course in college desperate to raise my grade in the class. The professor offered an extra credit assignment, so of course I jumped at the opportunity. Little did I know, this assignment would change my life forever. The assignment was to watch a documentary (which was filmed in northern Uganda) and to write a paper about the film. And just like that, I was hooked. Once I saw the red dirt roads and the gorgeous faces of Uganda, I knew I was meant to be a part of it.
I dreamt about this amazing country for years, but plans to visit always fell through. I was starting to feel like this dream of making a difference in Uganda was going to stay that; a dream. Then, almost by a luck of fate, I was introduced to the organization US2Uganda4Life. This organization works alongside an orphanage/school (Jireh Children Center) and a medical clinic (Kalungi Medical Center) located in Masaka, Uganda.
US2Uganda4life helps provide basic needs and schooling to over 200 children (and growing!) at the orphanage. It also helps provide education, supplies and support to the medical center that in return, directly benefits the people of Masaka. The organization is 100% operated on donations and volunteers. US2Uganda4life usually tries to plan a trip to Uganda bi-annually with a group that consists of doctors, nurses, dentists, and other volunteers who are eager to make a difference.
The volunteers with medical knowledge and experience head to the clinic and work restlessly to treat patients; a majority of whom are living in extreme poverty and/or are very ill. They also conduct trainings and provide guidance to the staff of nurses and doctors. US2Uganda4life also hand delivers a HUGE abundance of medical supplies to the clinic that have been collected for them throughout the year.
All of the other volunteers head to the orphanage and help out any way they can. This includes: painting and repairing walls, installing pipelines, performing basic health checks on the children, implementing new programs to the teachers, conducting bible study groups, and most importantly.... praising and loving on the children. I was oblivious to the impact that just my presence would have on these children. It gave them hope and reassurance that people cared about them and that they mattered. They were overflowing with gratitude to learn that we traveled half way across the world to see them and help them. [I dont know about you, but theres only a few people in this world that I would spend 18 hours on a plane, then 4 hours in a cramped bus for, just to play around in the dirt with. So you KNOW these kiddos have to be pretty special ;) ] Of course, I fell in love with each and every one of them.
These children lived in a world of simplicity and being a girl who grew up in such a materialistic country, it was so hard for me to feel connected to them, at first. In additon, most of these kiddos didnt even speak English. How was I possibly going to relate to these children? Of course, as soon as I watched these children's faces light up after getting a basic sponge bath, all my insecurites washed away with the soap water. I began to realize that although these children might have been covered in dirt and have nothing to call their own, they were far from poor. Their little souls were rich with love, compassion and appreciation for the things that truly matter in this world. I felt a sense of pure joy while I was with them that was unlike anything I have ever experienced. We were complete strangers, living in two completely different worlds; but still had so much in common. I was reminded that love, laughter and happiness are the same regardless of country, culture or language. These children taught me so much about life, thankfulness, and every day found a new way to fill me up with inspiration.
Ever since I first watched that documentary almost ten years ago, I knew that I needed to go to Uganda and help the children who lived there. But still, after being able to successfully cross that dream off my bucket list, Im not able to just walk away from it. I know that this country is a part of me now and my journey is far from over. My heart has found its home in this beautiful country; the "Pearl of Africa."
If you would like to learn more about the organization I am traveling with, please check out the website http://www.us2uganda4life.org/ or feel free to ask me other ways you can help.
Some of the beautiful children of Jireh
(above: my little pal Douglas)
If you would like to sponser one of the kiddos that made such an impact on my heart, please check out this video
*All of the donatations will go directly towards my transportation and in-country expensese; along with supplies and items needed for the orphanage. They will not be used for any additional activites/meals/souveniours throughout the trip.
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