Most teens struggle to successfully juggle their schoolwork, social time and extra-curricular activities. Junior Anna Soane and sophomore Caitlin Soane, sisters, have found time in between soccer games and basketball practices to keep their grades up, spend time with family, maintain their friendships and start a fundraising organization. Yes, you read that correctly. The two Glenbard West students started their own fundraising organization, called Teens4Uganda.
Teens4Uganda spawned from the sisters’ deep-rooted desires to help others. The entire Soane family does various community service/volunteer activities every year. Among said activities is the family’s own sponsorship of a Ugandan child, Mugeyni, through the Children of Uganda charity group.
Children of Uganda is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to, “Address [an] unmet need by providing education and support to AIDS-related orphans and vulnerable children, while at the same time promoting global awareness of the effects of HIV/AIDS,” according to the website.
According to UNICEF, HIV and AIDS is a primary factor contributing to the civil conflict within Uganda, claiming nearly half of the estimated 2 million orphaned children’s parents.
According to Anna and Cate’s mom, Micia, anyone can help through Children of Uganda.
“The difference with this organization is that there’s a lot of ownership and interaction with those you help. Other groups are good and accept donations to help people, but with this group you can actually communicate with those you’re helping,” Micia said.
Teens4Uganda began as an idea dreamed up by the sisters. They thought if their family could support one child, why couldn’t their friends? So, the girls set off to approach their school for support for the group, but its lack of funding prevented administrators from approving it as a school-sanctioned group. Because groups like the Key Club focus on all-around volunteerism, the Soane’s avoided that route.
“We wanted this to be just about Shamin and supporting her and to not get side-tracked by other good causes,” said Anna.
Shamin is the 16-year old Ugandan girl that Teens4Uganda supports. She resides in the same orphanage as the Soane family’s friend, Mugeyni. Born in 1994, Shamin is currently what they call an S1 student, the equivalent of eighth grade in the States. She attends school at the Kabaale Ssanje Senior Secondary School. Shamin has one sister and their parents both passed away from the AIDS virus. The girls had one uncle, who was 17 and unemployed at the time, who spared what he could to provide food for the two girls, but he could not afford to house them. Because of this, both Shamin and her sister were sent to live at the orphanage.
Life at the orphanage is mush different than what we experience here in Glen Ellyn. It only costs the equivalent of $1,000 per year to support these children. That’s less than some of us make in a week, let alone what we spend in a month. This is what drove Anna and Cate to form Teens4Uganda and want to help Shamin. The girls communicate with her via letters and Shamin, in turn, sends them photos of her and her friends, letters and report cards.
After their plans for school support didn’t work out, the girls created a group on Facebook, inviting friends and family to be a part of the group and help raise the money for Shamin.
Cate advised, “When we first started the Facebook group, we had about 65 members immediately. It was awesome! We only have about 10 regularly active members, but that initial response was encouraging.”
In order to get their group off the ground, the girls raised Shamin’s first year of finances by themselves. Family and friends helped, their younger sisters brought containers into their classrooms and collected change that added up to $400! Last year, they even trick-or-treated for donations. The girls are so committed that they waited for almost 10 minutes for a 7 cent donation. Every little bit counts!
The Soane sisters said that they’re hoping to get a group of teens together to volunteer at the orphanage in Uganda in the summer of 2012 as well
Already halfway to their $1,000 annual donation amount, Teens4Uganda recently organized another fundraiser that they’re hoping is a success. Both girls work at Out on a Whim—the pottery place at 435 Duane St.—and when store owner Gretchen Hoenecke heard their fundraising plight, she offered her store as an ideal location.
From April 14-17, each $6 sitting fee collected will be donated to Teens4Uganda. The group will also be hosting a bake sale to help raise additional monies. So stop by Out on a Whim, create some potted works of art with the kids, snack on some sweets, and help the group support Shamin.
To keep updated on Teens4Uganda’s progress, visit the group’s blog here (www.teens4uganda.posterous.com/children-of-uganda-teens4teens)