In the fall of 2016 my wife invited me to attend a fundraiser with her for a non-profit group called Jajja Kids. I had heard her talk about this program as she had held Skype sessions with them from her Albany, NY, classroom to children in Kampala, Uganda.
Due to the power and emotion of those speaking at the event, I was far more engaged than I thought I would be, and when she asked me during Thanksgiving to travel to the group in February 2017, I had little hesitation in agreeing.
I was very excited and curious to see Jajja’s Kids operation in Africa first hand (it’s not every day you spontaneously agree to travel half way around the world!)
Three months later I arrived at Jajja’s Kids house after our group of six volunteers suffered a rollercoaster ride in a rented van down a washed out clay road to the rented home. 19 children greeted me, all with huge smiles on their faces and with open hearts.
After struggling with the many new names to learn, I soon found myself becoming immersed in everyday life with the children. We played soccer and danced to drums, but also worked hard carrying out important and crucial repairs to their home.
We installed doors on the outside showers and toilets for privacy, we made repairs to the water supply, we painted the garage to make it into a library, and we covered exposed live electrical wiring and installed electrical outlets.
On every project those smiling faces were there to help, some running to the local ‘hardware store’ to pick up supplies, some helping with the toilet door assembly.
Every single person involved in Jajja’s Kids was a pleasure to get to know – the honesty and transparency in everyone was a joy to behold
As well as all the work we accomplished we took time to enjoy a few excursions with the children. For example, going to the huge buffet was unforgettable – no a child was hungry that day! After 2 weeks I knew this experience had changed my life, and had made me a better person.
Two years and two trips later I can put names to those smiling faces that greeted me – Ashim, Daphine, Kayondo, Muko and Shaffic (+14 more!) – all of whom are working hard at school and contributing to their household. I am now a member of the board of Jajja’s Kids US and am working on a plan to purchase a home in Uganda and move the children from their rented house into their own home
Oh, and did I mention, we played a little soccer! All kids teams, then kids plus adult teams. Great fun!
Mark Saker, Vice President, Jajja’s Kids, Inc