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Oundo Jane is a woman living in Uganda with HIV. She was one of eight children born in a small village to a schoolteacher. At the age of 17, she dropped out of school and married because she was pregnant. Her husband died from AIDS, and not long after, their youngest of four children also died from AIDS. She was left alone with three children and HIV. She moved to Kampala, Uganda and worked as a waitress for 55 cents a day. Her children were sent to relatives to be taken care of while she lived in a shack slowly starving to death while her HIV was left untreated.
But, Jane has a success story. She was enrolled in the beading program for BeadforLife (BFL), a non-profit organization that trains women to roll beads that are sold to generate income while providing entrepreneurial training. After she became a beader and learned the ropes to running a business, she went on to become a successful entrepreneur. She used the money from her business grant from BFL to start her restaurant in Uganda, “Tusimwa,” which means, “We appreciate our customers.” She now has five well-paid employees and serves customers a hearty meal. Her children are now in school, and she is thriving in a house of her own.
Stories like Jane’s should be celebrated. So, BeadforLife, along with many organizations worldwide, has partnered with the International Women’s Day organization to celebrate women’s achievements and bring awareness to those still looking for their path to success. Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a global celebration of women.
As a volunteer at BeadforLife, I have heard many stories like Jane’s about the success that women find with this organization. My heart has been broken by the extreme poverty that many of them faced before, but my spirit is uplifted that I can help make a difference.
Volunteering has brought me so much more than I ever imagined. I still can’t believe what only two hours a week at BeadforLife can do for my soul.
My freshman year at CU was nothing short of amazing. I was literally blown away by the wind and figuratively by the college-experience. However, just before Thanksgiving break, I was in a slump. Struggling with the death of a high school classmate and the broken hearts of my friends back home, my mind slipped back to Minnesota. Overwhelmed and defeated, I occupied a state of self-pity.
As I sat waiting to board the plane to go home for break, I flipped through US News magazine. I landed on an article by Angela Haupt titled, “Volunteering does a body good: For the heart and the spirit, experts say, give a little and you will get a lot back.”
“A variety of studies over the years suggest that, no matter where they begin health wise, volunteers reap physical and emotional benefits, including less stress and depression, and longer lives,” Haupt wrote.
That alone was enough to convince me that I needed to add volunteering to my list of things to do.
Haupt introduces the importance of “organizational support,” and said, “That translates to volunteers finding their work interesting, feeling that they’re being used effectively, and receiving positive feedback.” What I didn’t know at the time was how vital the “organizational support” was to making a difference for me.
It took me nearly a year to find my niche in the volunteering world, but now that I have it, I can’t imagine life at CU with out BeadforLife.
Korri Roach is the BFL Volunteer Coordinator, former BFL volunteer, and a part-time graduate instructor in the department of writing and rhetoric and English. Roach said advocacy goes hand-in-hand with many issues organizations work to address, and that there are three key steps:
1) To be aware of the global world we live in now
2) to figure out what course of action to determine you have to take a course of action
3) once you’ve chosen the way you want to give back then do that. Many organizations are making it very very easy
“The work that each person plays is vital,” Roach said. “There is not a job that is unneeded or unnecessary in terms of what we ask volunteers to do.”
Therefore, I know I am making a difference in the lives of women in Uganda like Oundo Jane and thus supporting women halfway around the world. After reading any of the Beaders’ stories, my spirit is renewed.
There are so many different ways to get involved with world issues in Boulder. I found my place in the BeadforLife bead circle, but others have found theirs else where.
Take CU senior Anna Taugher, majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology (EBIO) and art history, for example. She is now the Alternative Breaks Coordinator at the Volunteer Resource Center. She found her place during her freshman year.
“I met this community of people,” she said. “Even though I wasn’t partying in Mexico, I was still having a good time while doing something meaningful.”
As she summed up alternative breaks, she said, “It’s like literally the best thing I’ve done on campus.”
In celebration of International Woman’s Day, I encourage you to find your volunteering community and to make a difference not only in the lives of others but in your own too.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Editor Mandi Meek at Amanda.firstname.lastname@example.org.