Back To School Drive: My Experience As a Volunteer

Hunger, poverty, disease, child labour and most of life’s hurdles are strangers in my home area. I realized that without you seeing the problems people go through you can never really relate with how much help is needed.

For as long as I can remember, I have been passionate about helping people. Any opportunity to perform an act of kindness, be it large or small, thrilled me. From lending pencils to classmates in need to babysitting for my sister to doing community service, I enjoyed it all. Needless to say, of the many goals I have for my life, among the most important is my desire to provide help to those in need through my commitment to service. As a University student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies, Somehow I was able to land a volunteering opportunity at BaNgaAfayo’s Back to school Backpack Drive Program. I participated in this program not only because my school demands I do but to also stop wishing and really do something to give back.

This gave me a chance to realize the fact that the statistics we hear every day about homelessness are real children – not just numbers.

In all honesty, I didn’t know what to expect. It was hard to imagine the difference I could make in these children’s lives, since I was just a stranger giving them a visit. But now I know not to underestimate a stranger’s capacity to impact another’s life, because the effects can be tenfold.

Me posing with Stella, one of the children from the orphanage.

Me posing with Stella, one of the children from the orphanage.

During this time I assisted in preparing setting tables, registering children and filling backpacks with school supplies. Most of the children were dirty and putting on worn out clothes and walking bare feet. I found out later that these children work for their own food on different farms and wear the same clothes every day and some even ware them to school. I realized that we are all humans who are reflections of the human condition regardless of our socioeconomic backgrounds. In essence, I realized something I already knew subconsciously: every individual is equally deserving of help in his or her time of need and that it could easily be me in need.

This gave me a chance to realize the fact that the statistics we hear every day about homelessness are real children – not just numbers. Every child I played alongside, carried and served, reminded me that the largest percentage of people who are homeless is in fact, not the men people see on the street who are raising hands to beg, but families: Mothers, children of all ages, infants, and elderly people.

During this Back to School Drive, I saw children’s hopes being restored, parents believing again all with what BaNgaAfayo offered. Since it was time for children to report back to school, scholastic materials were given. Children got new backpacks, books, pens and pencils. Ohh, you could have seen the smiles on their faces. I wish we had captured their excitement in a bottle! Their grins were ear-to-ear as they received the backpacks. None of these children has ever owned a backpack before. That is when I learned that most of these children come from families that can barely afford even a single book. That for a child to be in school is enough on its own and things like bags were a luxury.

Me (on the left) preparing a backpack for handout with other vounteers

Me (on the left) preparing a backpack for handout along with other volunteers.

‘’They are just so many children, how do you manage to provide for all of them?’’ I asked the team leader. I was told it is the mercy of God and love from different well-wishers who donate and sponsor some of the children.

I would’ve never predicted how amazing the effects of my visit to this remote place would be.  After doing all we did, meeting and speaking to some of the children one-on-one, I was amazed by how appreciative they were for my visit. Perhaps they felt lonely or abandoned before, but now tears of joy glistened in their eyes. Maybe all people need is to know they are cared for, even by a simple stranger.

Lesson Learned

I had so many questions about how the team of young people at BaNgaAfayo were able to do what they do for the people in the community of Kayunga District and in that I learned how generous people are, even when they don’t have much to give.

Not only do we need to understand the ‘issue’ or ‘societal problem’ that many people face and are impacted by every day, but we need to meet and work alongside those whose daily realities are shaped by injustices, while not creating any divides or barriers in the process. Everyday people are affected by the issues that organizations like BaNgaAfayo fight for or against, and once we realize how much change and difference things like advocacy, outreach and service to others can bring, I believe young people will realize their call to action and their potential in their local landscapes to really affect change.

Watch this 3 minutes video to see how this program is changing lives.

We can do more together…

Story by Precious Kalungi, Volunteer

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