Have Hope, Give Hope

So often when we read stories of Africa we focus on issues of poverty, famine, and struggle. There are, however, stories of success, perseverance, and joy. This is one of those stories.

Not many people have heard of Kyazanga. It is a small, dusty village in Uganda, about 4.5 hours outside of the capital, Kampala. I was first introduced to the village through Global Volunteer Network, a nonprofit that connects people with communities in need all over the world. It was my first trip outside of the United States, my first experience in a developing country, and my first encounter with extreme poverty.

For close to four months I lived and worked at House of Hope, an orphanage that is attached to Globalize Action Junior School. My days consisted of teaching at the school and spending time with the children who live onsite at the orphanage. Within the first 24 hours, I learned that many of the children were sick with illnesses like tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV. I saw children sleeping in hammocks – as many as four in one – because there were no beds. I discovered that for most, lunch at school was their only meal of the day. No matter how much I gave during my stay, I returned to the States wishing I could have done so much more.

I continue to stay in touch with House of Hope, sponsoring a young girl’s education, sending care packages to the children, and planning future visits. Over the years I have been fortunate enough to connect with others who have also volunteered in Kyazanga – precisely how I met Wendy Pollack.

Wendy, 67, first volunteered at House of Hope in 2010 and was blown away at the extreme poverty the children were exposed to.

Living each day with the children really brought home how much we have and take for granted.”

Upon returning to her home in Warnbro Perth, Australia, Wendy went to work creating House of Hope Uganda, Inc. The charity raises money for projects at the school and orphanage, from construction to food supply. Since its inception, House of Hope Uganda, Inc. has built a proper dormitory, two new classrooms and latrine block, installed a solar pump, and put in showers for the children and volunteers who come to stay. Thanks to Wendy and those who have donated, the children not only have a greater opportunity for education and food, but also have access to clean water and solar lighting allowing for evening studies and better security.

Dedicating her retirement to the children of House of Hope and Globalize Action School, Wendy remains passionate about improving the lives of the boys and girls in Uganda. She hosts regular fundraisers, visits the children as often as she can, and even began a second project in a town near the Kenyan border assisting disabled children with severe medical conditions.

Photo Credit: Lauren Himiak
Photo Credit: Lauren Himiak

It has been beyond inspiring to see the progress that House of Hope has made thanks to Wendy. She is not only impacting the lives of the children who live and go to school in the village, but her work is impacting families and surrounding communities. Even further, Wendy is impacting the lives of volunteers and sponsors who are forever impacted by their experience with House of Hope.

The children would not have the opportunity for secondary school without our help.”

Volunteering in Uganda has made a tremendous impact on my life – leading me to a Masters in International Affairs and a career in human rights in the developing world. Each day I research issues of poverty, violence, and the hardships of the developing world. Yet, thanks to people like Wendy, there are stories of accomplishment and joy. She serves as a reminder that change can come. In fact, with a little hope and determination, the world really can be a better place.

If you are interested in donating to House of Hope, please visit www.houseofhopeuganda.org.au. For $35 per month, you can sponsor a child’s education sending them to secondary school and a chance for a bright future. For further information, including how you can volunteer at House of Hope, email houseofhopeuganda@gmail.com.

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Category: Rights    Sheroes
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Lauren Himiak

Lauren Himiak currently serves as Storytelling Manager at the Center for Reproductive Rights, working to incorporate lived experiences into judicial strategy to advance reproductive freedom. She has a background in international reproductive rights, working for Women Deliver and Population Council, and volunteering time in Haiti and Uganda to improve the health and resources for girls and women. Lauren also worked as a journalist for over a decade in Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. She has a Masters in International Affairs, Governance and Human Rights from the New School and continues to blog for The Huffington Post as a contributing writer. Follow her on Twitter at @LO_BKLN

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  • I fully support the idea of this blog that when considering global and international work, more needs to be done to focus on the the success stories. All too often, media focuses on the negative in order to garner a larger audience. Digging deeper, however, can reveal the truly inspirational and hopeful stories that need to be shared. Wendy with the House of Hope truly has done a wonderful job in furthering children’s education and her story deserves to be shared. Thank you for taking this blogging opportunity to share your story of accomplishment and remind the blogging audience the small joys that can come out of international work.