Around seventh grade, I fell in love with the idea of traveling internationally. I am not sure what set off this thinking – the furthest my family had traveled internationally was the Canadian side of Niagara Falls (back in the days when you didn’t even need a passport to cross the border). Fast forward to the summer before my senior year of high school, my youth group took a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. Though this trip did very little to help the Dominicans we were visiting, seeing the extreme poverty found there changed all our views of how much we have been given. It also challenged my thoughts of how much I can help those struggling to survive.
Shortly after returning from our trip to the Dominican Republic, I began writing admissions essays to various colleges. The prompts for each school required you to explain your main goals in life. Though I wanted to get a degree in Accounting, I wrote that my main goal was to own and operate an orphanage. I have always loved children and seeing them struggle is one of the only things that brings tears to my eyes.
It still amazes me of the seemingly small instances God used that led to me arriving in Uganda for the first time. My freshman year of college was spent at High Point University. At that time, I was double majoring in Nonprofit Management and Accounting. We had to do a research project on a nonprofit of our choosing. While looking into this particular nonprofit, I saw that they had an international finance internship for college graduates. It was right up my alley! Three years later, I was accepted as a finance intern and was packing to go to Uganda!
During my five months in Uganda, I fell in love! (I will write a blog about this soon). I could really see myself opening an orphanage here. One of my Ugandan coworkers and I began hanging out. At one meal, I shared my dream of opening an orphanage. She started asking me some very hard questions:
“Where do you think, these orphans come from?”
Me: “Their parents die, HIV/AIDS is prevalent here.”
“Both parents dying from HIV happens less than you think. Even so, why should a child not go to live with their extended family?”
Me: “I don’t know.”
“The problem is more than you can see or imagine. 80% of the children in Ugandan orphanages have either one or both parents living. Most children in Uganda end up in orphanages due to poverty. If this is the case, why not empower their families to sustain themselves rather than adding more problems by opening an orphanage?”
I began thinking about these questions more and more. For those of you with children (and those of you imagining you have children one day) imagine you and your significant other both dying in a tragic accident. What will happen to your children? You probably came up with a list of 10, maybe even 20 or 30 people that would take your children before they ever ended up in the system. Why do we (myself included) expect differently of those living in poverty? Why does your income dictate whether your child should live in a family setting or end up in an orphanage? It shouldn’t!
And that long story is how I ended up quitting my job in corporate America and moving to Uganda for a second (and more permanent time)! Please see my first blog post or the About page for more information on the vision for a nonprofit.