Volunteering

#buildOn #GivingTuesday by Lucas Turner

Today is #GivingTuesday and is the perfect day to join the buildOn movement! For 3 years, I have been completely immersed in service, education and making a difference with buildOn. My journey has included breaking ground on 22 primary schools in 5 different countries, engaging in meaningful community service alongside incredible high school students in the South Bronx and speaking to large groups of motivated university students about the power of global education. Every single day, we are breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education! 

From living in villages in Nepal and Senegal, to witnessing the transformational impact international travel has on young people, to experiencing the joy an adult feels when they learn to write their name for the first time; buildOn has provided me with endless opportunities to become a student of the world, and use what I have learned to make a larger positive impact. 

It is never too early or too late to get involved with something bigger than yourself! I would LOVE to help you take your first step on that journey. Building a school with buildOn and traveling on Trek can be for ANYONE. In my time leading Treks, I have taken everyone from C-level executives, celebrities, families, college sororities, interior designers and high school students to build primary schools. YOU can fund a school, break ground on that school, live with host families, engage in cultural activities and push yourself outside of your comfort zone! 

Let's do this! There is no better time to start than today! Shoot me an email at lucas.turner@buildon.org or comment below and I'll get you started on fundraising for your buildOn school and Trek! Also, if you just want to give to buildOn for #givingtuesday, donate here!

#lucasonthego

From the Field: Abide Family Center Visit by Lucas Turner

"Institutions are never a healthy environment for a child to grow up in. Every child deserves a family and every effort should be made to give them one." Abide Family Center

Working internationally in the NGO sector has many wonderful benefits; one of those major benefits is being able to connect with many of the inspiring NGO's in the field and the selfless people that run them. In the last two weeks I have been able to witness pure magic and action be incorporated into so many lives across East Africa. I consider myself lucky and called to share the stories I absorb through these fantastic organizations.

Through a common interest in Uganda, Kelsey Nielson, co-founder of Abide Family Center, and I connected over Instagram photos. "Great pic! Uganda is amazing." "Let us know when you are in Uganda, we would love for you to visit!" "Hey! I am heading your way this week, can I visit Abide?" These are three examples of the comments we would leave on each others photos and by the amazing power of social media, we were able to connect and I was welcomed with open arms and a French Toast breakfast by the Abide family.

The Abide Family Center is a buzzing place located just outside of Jinja, Uganda on a beautiful compound. When I entered the gates my eyes were greeted by a business class in session under a gazebo, mentoring meetings for young mothers under a shade tree, kids playing in a sand box and women learning how to sew yoga bags in a program called "Stitched Together". The co-founders of Abide Family Center, Kelsey Nielson and Megan Parker, met while volunteering at various orphanages throughout Jinja, Uganda and saw a huge gap in the system. They explained that there is a big problem in the orphanages in Uganda because children are growing up in institutions while they still have family members living close by. Various reasons for kids going into orphanages include poverty, job loss, young motherhood, lack of resources or a basic no desire to care by the parents. Orphanage life is never an optimal situation for anyone. They knew that there had to be a way to lower the number of children in orphanages and re-connect them with their families. And with that gap in the system and opportunity for innovation, Abide Family Center was born.

Abide Family Center exists to empower mothers and fathers, enrich children's lives and provide tools to educate families to be self-sustaining. They receive referrals from the local government of families or abandoned children that need a helping hand. To those families or children, they offer top of the line mentorship, business courses on entrepreneurship to spark potential jobs for families, and professional case workers to assess needs. Abide is also full of amazing caretakers who make sure the children are surrounded by positivity in a safe learning environment. Throughout my time at Abide, I witnessed Ellen, a young teenage mother of triplets learn how to sew yoga bags while being provided emergency 3-month housing on the compound. In the standard orphanage system, she would have had to resort to putting her triplets in orphanage care because she cannot afford simple necessities like formula, proper housing, or basic care, all because she lacks support. Since joining Abide, she is making large strides towards being able to be a great mother for her triplets and to provide a bright future for herself and her children.

I was very impressed by Kelsey, Megan and the rest of the Abide Family Center team. It is a small, yet mighty crew working towards phenomenal goals and they have been making a large impact on the families of Uganda in the short 7 months they have been in operation. The most inspiring thing about Kelsey and Megan is that they are still in their early twenties. They finished their degrees in the USA and knew that if they did not put their dream into action now, they never would. They are living examples of people who are not scared to raise the bar, step out of their comfort zones and trust in God as they devote themselves to creating better lives for the marginalized people of the world. They both live on-site in a very primitive set-up, take cold showers and gamble on if they will have power or not each day. It is people like this who remind me that anything is possible, luxuries are not always determined by the amount of things you have, and that sharing your skills with people that most need them is essential to living a fulfilled, happy life.

Thank you Abide Family Center for teaching me a little bit about love, empowerment, action and most of all, family. Feel free to check them out at abidefamilycenter.org and if you feel compelled to donate towards their cause, go to abidefamilycenter.org/donate0.aspx. Also, make sure to check out their newest video!

#familiesNOTorphanages

From the field,

Lucas

From the Field: When Water Doesn't Flow by Lucas Turner

Close your eyes for a second. Picture in your mind where your closest water faucet is. Chances are that you are less than 15 feet from a sink, shower, or a garden hose. And, the chances are even higher that you have multiple places in your home where you can retrieve clean drinking water and have the option for it to be hot or cold. Now, imagine all of those water sources have vanished and map out in your mind where the closest stream, pond, puddle, lake or natural water source is. This is your only water source, your life source, and you have to visit this source multiple times a day to have enough water to cook, clean and bathe with. Also, when you are thirsty, there are no water bottles in the refrigerator to grab and you have to walk back to this far away source to quench that thirst. Sadly, this source does not produce crystal clear water, instead it is dirty and gives you diarrhea, typhoid or cholera; but you drink it anyway because there is not a better alternative. Open your eyes.

The water crisis is real. 

800 million people lack access to clean water in our world.
Water related illnesses kill more people than all forms of violence, including war

I have witnessed the water crisis first hand. As a Field Volunteer for charity: water, I am responsible for visiting villages in rural Northern Uganda and report on previous water boreholes charity: water has implemented. With an assignment of 70 villages, I was bound to encounter villages whose clean water sources have been broken, been stolen or have slight malfunctions. And I did. The whole purpose of my assignment was to get a pair of eyes to the villages and to gather information so we can get mechanics out in the field to fix these issues.

As I was searching for one of the charity: water sites one day, I came upon a group of people collecting water from the ground. I was 2km away from the site on my list, however I was very compelled to speak to this group of people who seemed very curious why a mazungu was in their neck of the woods. I ended up spending a good hour with the amazing people of the Adwil Village. In that hour they explained that there is a water pump 800m away from their village, however they are not allowed to use it because it is over crowded and has large wait times at all parts of the day. So, the 100+ families of their village drink from this contaminated water source.

This hole in the ground produces water that is not suitable for anyone to drink.

Gathering water is given the highest importance in many villages over things like education, family time or social development. Children like Patricia Okoi spend the time they should be in school fetching water 7-8 times a day. She is 12 years old and has stopped attending school because she is so accustomed to collecting water that she does not prefer school. My driver also explained that schools are very strict about their 7:30 AM start-time in the morning and if students are late, they risk being punished or beat. Many mornings the lines at a water source are outrageously long so children cannot guarantee making it to school on time.

This scene right here is exactly why charity: water exists. No human being should be forced to resort to drinking contaminated water like this.

This grandmother says she wishes every day that her grandchildren could have clean water and could have more time to focus on the more important things in life like education and family.

The path to a water source is a frequently traveled path. When was the last time you had to take your bicycle to get a glass of water? This is one of the most common ways to carry water in Uganda. Little kids slowly take on more responsibility and graduate from their 10L jerry cans to 20L jerry cans that weigh over 40lbs.

Luckily, Patricia's brother was there to help her lift this jerry can on top of her head. Usually, this is a feat people conquer on their own.

Carrying water on your head is the most effective and easiest way to transport water according to the people I encountered in Uganda. Women and children can balance almost anything on their heads from crates of bananas, to water, to stacks of tree limbs.

This 11 year old girl is Akullu Sabella. She has so much potential ahead of her and having clean water would help her immensely reach that potential.

The most beautiful thing I have learned from working with the people of Northern Uganda is that even though things are tough and resources are slim, life is still something to enjoy and appreciate. These three children from the Adwil Village may lack some of life's most essential necessities, but they are still some of the happiest people I have ever met. Remember, life is a beautiful thing. I am confident that some day all people will have access to life's most basic need, clean and safe water. My confidence comes from knowing that organizations like charity: water are devoting everything they have to making that a possibility for everyone.

If you want to help end the water crisis, consider starting a charity: water birthday campaign at https://www.charitywater.org/birthdays/

From the field,

Lucas