The special feeling of sharing was something only those who have shared could understand
I grew up in Seoul, one of the most populated metropolitan cities in Asia, and grew up surrounded by skyscrapers and technology. For high school, I went to a boarding school in a small town in New Hampshire where the petite boutiques and quiet parks gave me the space to appreciate another kind of beauty. When I went to Uganda at the age of 17, hearing the stories of children who had lost their parents to war and disease changed everything.
There, in Wakiso District, I breathed and shared the living space with the orphans, realizing that they, too, should have the right to dream. I imagined how well some of these children could flourish—I could read it in their eyes, the passion, the drive, and the hope.
For three weeks, I taught them math and English, and they taught me about their stories, how they play ball, and how they looked at the world from where they stood. I realized how precious clean water was, and I learned that a place was called home not because of a door, a roof, or four walls, but because it’s where life came back every evening. I saw how people danced to music from Uganda and Korea like there was no border or language. I saw that even as a 17-year old, maybe there was something I could do to help them get closer to their dreams.
Volunteering starts from a place of wanting to help. But to me, volunteering was also a path to self-discovery. I found out more about myself than I had ever before, realizing how selfish, how kind, how cold, how warm, how idealistic, and how jaded I could be. I realized that “I” was made up of the love and care of so many around me, and that the special feeling of sharing was something only those who have shared could understand.
My volunteer work doesn’t stop at providing long-term education or a loving family. It’s now our work, to allow our staff to be self-sufficient, to provide the community with lasting impact, and to give others the chance to partake in a very special experience. 6 years has passed since I began this journey, and I’m always grateful of the world it has allowed me to see and share.
You realize that we lost a lot of good things from a more pure life in our rush-and-always-buzy lifes.
1. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Anke Mostmans. I’m from Belgium and 23 years old. I finished my Masters degree ‘Soci-Economics’ last year September. Since then I started travelling around a little bit. Discovering the world, learning and gaining a lot of life experience. I’m passionated by horses and horse riding. Further, I do some running and cycling and I love to spend time with friends and family.
2. How did you get to know RUN?
When I was spending my last weeks in Malta, doing an internship there, I started thinking about what to do next. I felt like spending some more time going around. Volunteering looked very interesting to me. Like that I started searching the Internet and contacting interesting organisations. Like that I came in contact with Haley and had a Skype meeting with her. Hearing more about the project, I decided it was something that really fitted me.
3. What made you decide to volunteer at RUN? Any special reasons?
The opportunity to combine different interest. First of all, the experience of travelling to Africa where I never had been before. Secondly, the work I was going to do. Focussing on the development and sustainability of the organisation is someting that is really close to my educational and professional area. So it is a great learning opportunity as well.
4. What do you personally gain from this volunteering experience?
A lot of friendship and love of the children and staff. A great life experience by spending 2.5 month in a culture that is so different from home. Adapting to a life with frequent power cuts and without streaming water, makes you realize how easy things are at home. You learn to appreciate things more, but you also realize that we lost a lot of good things from a more pure life in our rush-and-always-buzy lifes. The life here follows a more natural rhytm. People are greeting each other, you only eat fresh thing (which are locally available), people are more community minded, supporting and helping each other wherever they can.
Also the professional experience of working in a total other context. Networking, exploring funding opportunities, structuring the local organisation… it is not always evident in this context but very interesting to see how things work here.
5. Please describe some parts of your experience at the RUN Orphanage. Any memorable experiences with the children?
The first day I arrived at the orphanage was very impressive. After a long travel, I was welcomed very warmely by Betty, the rest of the team and the kids. The kids were singing and dancing for me and they showed me around the house. After a little bit of a rest I wanted to go for a walk through the center. Brian guided me and we decided to visit the primary school where the kids are taking their classes.
The walk alone was already memorable. Everybody staring at me, kids laughing and shouting, people waving and welcoming me… At the school I met the director and I was introduced in every class. The excitement of everybody because a Muzungu was visiting them, was really overwhelming. It is something I never really get used to.
Some of the kids are Muslims, other are Christians. After the Ramadam period, we organised a party for all kids to celebrate. This party was bigger than I expected. In the morning everybody was busy preparing: putting on their best clothes, preparing a wonderfull lunch and installing the music and speakers. We had a delicious lunch and also for the kids the cooks prepared a wonderful meal. All kids also recieved a soda which they hold like a real treasure. Then the music started and kids from the whole village came gathering around. Some of the orphans gave a performance, showing some traditional dances. People packed around them singing and shouting. The place was crowded and filled up with African rhytms.
6. How would you recommend to others about volunteering at RUN?
If you want the real African experience. Living in a small village, where being a Muzungu is a big thing. Living in a context so differently with goats and cows walking around freely, music playing everywhere and women wearing colourful dresses. For me it feels like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity which will have a big impact on me.
The staff is very nice and will do everything to make your stay pleasant. You have a lot of freedom to do the things you are interested in. Living and working in an orphanage also means there is always something to do or to see.