Jerry Ellis, Jr.
“Surviving The COVID-19 Pandemic & Understanding the Impact on Volunteerism Abroad”
If you were to ask me, what animal I would compare myself to, it would be the African Lion. Not just for the lion's majestic look pronounced by its mane, but for what lies behind that prestige. Just as a lion looks after his pride (family), I have the same responsibility to my community.
In honor of World AIDS Day on December 1, I would like to highlight the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project who was started by CNN Hero, Mr. Jackson Kaguri. Mr. Kaguri is another “African Lion” who began his journey on making a difference in his community back in 2001. It all started on a trip from Michigan to his home in Western Uganda. He was met with 52 children lined up at his door asking for school fees. Many of these children had lost both parents from HIV/AIDS, hence the name “AIDS Orphans”.
To understand the impact that COVID-19 has had on volunteerism abroad, I asked Mr. Kaguri a series of questions. He is the perfect person to interview since he travels internationally about 3 times a year. During his travels he has learned many things to protect himself and the more than 80,000 children his organization educates, feed and clothes, as well as the 20,000 grandmothers whom they live with. “The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly changed the way Nyaka provides its services to the community. Schools are closed, learning is taking place in small neighborhood groups outside, and supplies are being delivered to houses on motorcycles instead of in a community gathering. The ability to even enter the country was suspended for our staff during the first half of the pandemic. The ability to reach our communities due to the suspension of travel, for health and safety, significantly changed the way we operate
during COVID. Only now are we starting to reach our previous levels of travel for programmatic trips, fundraising visits, and community outreach. Further disruptions in how the world (and Nyaka) travels could further change how we serve the children and their families in our Ugandan community.”
Mr. Jackson plans to hopefully travel to Uganda about 3 times during 2022. He is hopeful to maintain the same level of health and safety for his community next year. Thankfully, there were only a handful reported cases of COVID-19 among the children since the pandemic began. To learn more about the organization, visit: www.nyakaglobal.org