by Abigail Wright
In June, I travelled to Uganda with my two friends, Rebecca Welsh and Nicola Thomas. I had been to Uganda the year previous, but I had spent the majority of my time doing research for my undergraduate dissertation, and was desperate to do some development work in the Kabale region. Having heard about the Children’s Rescue Voluntary Organisation (CRVO) through Solomon’s Children (now All Our Children), we arranged to meet up with the owner Leonard, to see if we could be of any help. CRVO is a non-governmental organisation that is dedicated to providing a better life for vulnerable children across southwestern Uganda, and works with any child under 16.
Leonard had already achieved wondrous things; children as had been taken out of child labour, and rescued from domestic abuse, neglect and dangerous environments. Instead, they had a supply of food, a primary education and a sound counselling service, all in aid of bettering the future lives of these children. However, Leonard was giving all his time to the organisation on a voluntary basis, and heavily relied on Junior, another volunteer at the centre, and other volunteers who had offered to help look after the younger children. Therefore, our help was desperately needed.
We quickly fell into a routine at the organisation; the mornings consisted of us going out and finding children who were in vulnerable situations, and it was this time that we realised the extent to which the children were exposed to the most horrific conditions. We witnessed children working in quarries where people had died the week before from falling cliff faces, and children subjected to such extreme poverty that they were forced to carry bricks all day for the equivalent of 25 pence. We often found children scrounging in dustbins for food, and avoiding school because their parents could not afford to pay for books or uniforms.
The afternoons were more upbeat, as we spent them playing with the children, teaching them songs and dancing. In exchange for our games of ‘duck duck goose’ and ’ladders’, we learnt how to sing and dance African style! It wasn’t long before the children learnt to trust us, and we were welcomed in to their lives with opened arms. It was the afternoons that we realised just how important the work of Leonard and Junior was. To see the children playing and laughing at the organisation, you would never have thought they were subjected to similar conditions of the children we had seen in the mornings; the difference was unbelievable.
We enjoyed our stay in Uganda so much we didn’t want to leave, and we really believe that we were a great help to the volunteers, and helped to put a smile on the children’s faces. We are currently training for a marathon to raise money for the children so they can afford to buy an agricultural plot and sewing machines so they can learn some skills for their future. I have volunteered before, but this is the first time where I truly feel I have made a difference.
If you would like to make a difference using a gap year or holiday time, please get in touch.
Note (added 19/04/13): All Our Children continue to work actively to support the education of street children in Kabale, although no longer through the CRVO mentioned in this blog post. Click to find out about street children in Kabale we are currently working with.