I had to write a blog post as an assignment for my PR portfolio class to show my ability to write a blog post, but I wrote it like I was talking to you, I thought I’d share it too 🙂
I have to be honest and say that while I love giving back, I’ve never been someone who was all about nonprofits that benefited causes overseas. It’s not that I’m selfish or I don’t like foreigners. On the contrary, I love them! However, the U.S. has so many children who still can’t read or write, who are hungry, families who need significant help and I felt that if we can’t help our own people then how can we help others?
Now if you knew what I’m doing in my PR portfolio class right now, you’d think I was contradicting myself and I am, but it’s definitely changed my outlook on giving back. Right now, my portfolio class is special. It’s a small group of us of about 13 that signed up to specifically work with a client. Sometimes in these classes, you have a client and in some classes, the clients are hypothetical. Our class got a grant to work with this client so we’re excited about the things we can do for the Arlington Academy of Hope.
So what is the Arlington Academy of Hope?
It’s a program that has built a school in rural Uganda to help bring the U.S. education system to Africa. John Wanda and his wife moved to Arlington, VA from a small town in Uganda in 1995. After seeing their children’s experience in the VA school system, Wanda knew that he wanted to bring those principles (good teachers, strong curriculum, healthy lunches) to his hometown. You have understand that in his hometown, government schools rule the education system and most don’t go on to secondary school because teachers don’t show up, the kids are starving and just can’t learn.
Fast forward to 2004 when Wanda opened the Arlington Academy of Hope in his hometown community in Uganda, enrolling the first 78 students. Now there are over 300 students in the school with hundreds more on the waiting list from the surrounding communities.
But what makes this school so special? How is it different from another school?
This is a tough question because there are many education efforts abroad. I might be biased, but the first thing is Wanda really cares about these kids. It sounds cliche, but he was right in their shoes growing up there. He knows what it was like, but wants to make it better for those kids now.
Every child gets a uniform, materials like paper, pencils, book, etc, breakfast and lunch, and the ability to get medical care at the clinic that was built near the school recently. Many students walk to and from school and the number 1 killer was malaria. Kids would walk to school and never walk home 😦 Now those kids (and their families) can get medicine.
The second major difference is what I’ve stressed in small bits throughout this description is the stress on family and community. Many of these families want something better for their kids but just can’t give it to them. To be enrolled in the program, the parents must provide something to the school in return to pay for part of the tuition whether it’s money, sewing for uniforms, cooking for school meals or something related to their trade. This way the parents are not only involved with their child’s education, the school is helping to bring the community together and sustain their local economy.
While Wanda goes back at least once a year, he would love to solely see his community and the neighboring communities in rural Uganda find a way to sustain themselves so they could still get a good education and healthcare for the future.
So what’s our goal this semester?
Our goal is to try to raise as much money as we possibly can so AAH can build another school for those kids on the waiting list. While Oprah spent about $40 million to build a school for women in South Africa, AAH can continue to do it’s mission well with only $250,000. We’re going to try to get as much of that as possible.
The organization is also always looking for volunteers, especially college aged or young adults, to go over during the summer or for the year to help with the education and healthcare practices.
Each child who goes through the program is also on a scholarship. Yes their family is involved with their tuition, but they definitely can’t pay for the majority. For $300 a year, you can send a child to through this program for a year. That’s less than a $1 a day.
I don’t want this to be a pitch to you about trying to give back to another cause. Everyone has their specific cause that’s important to them like eating disorders and body image for me, but that was until I met John Wanda. How much he loves these kids, his hometown and what he’s doing is remarkable.
Yes, this is for my class. Yes, I want to do well. But not just for me. For them. Education is so important and when you see these kids faces light up knowing that they can learn and have a future, who wouldn’t want to help?
For more information, visit their website here.
To volunteer, click here.
To donate, click here.
To sponsor a child, click here.