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Kids of Africa: Middle School service learning groups support a locally based charity
By Liz Jewitt, Middle School Personal Development Coordinator

In the words of Burkhard Varnholt, the founder of the Swiss charity Kids of Africa "like a stone thrown into the water, it is all about the ripple effect". When Burkhard sat in the Keller at the Zug Campus last month, enjoying the company of our service learning groups from across the Middle School, he spoke of this philosophy and how the reality has played out over the last fifteen years. Burkhard initially responded to a cry for help, offering a relatively small donation to a young Ugandan man with academic ambition, and through this humble beginning has now had a positive impact on the lives of many Ugandan children, young people and their families. Our students listened attentively as the story unfolded. We carry Burkhard's philosophy into all our charity work as we strive to pursue long term projects with far-reaching impact for the communities we support.
 
Our work with this charity has taken us on a journey from supporting the original Kids of Africa Children's Village to helping with the construction of the Kids Pioneer School, adding the football pitch, the dormitory and the library as well as sending 5,000 collected and restored books from our community.
 
We then supported Burkhard as he developed a much-needed school for Nkosi Island in the middle of Lake Victoria, and more recently with the development of the Awekiparo School in the war-torn Alebtong region of the country. This school, intended for 200, is now open and educating some 800 students. We are currently raising money to provide a well and sanitation system for this school. We plan to install a 50-metre borehole to provide clean water, and a solar powered pump system to feed directly into the sanitation system. We are delighted to be fairly close to our required CHF 28,000, thanks to the work of our current Grade 8 students who raised over CHF 16,000 this year and to the generous CHF 6,000 contribution from the ISZL Parents' Association.
 
Our connection began back in 2008 with our first Kids of Africa Nearly New Sale, which raised a little under CHF 200 for the Children's Village. The biannual Kids of Africa Nearly New Sale is now one of the best-known charity events in our school and one of our most vital connections with the wider local community. The event is now eagerly awaited by many. Over the last few years, each sale has raised between CHF 5,000 and CHF 7,000. 
 

With tremendous personal investment each year from our Grade 8 students, unwanted children's clothes and toys are collected from our community and processed for selling. For the sale this May, an incredible 2,500 tags were printed, hand-cut and attached to the carefully prepared items for sale. With the initial publicity drive, poster and flyer production and community-wide advocacy campaign, this equates to an enormous undertaking for our students well before the sale arrives.
 
Following the recent sale in early May, some thirty large bin bags of unsold clothes were collected by the organisations Licht im Osten, which transports directly to the Ukrainian refugee camps and by IG Familie 3plus, which provides for some of the most desperate Swiss families. Many unsold toys and books also went to the Frauenzentrale in Zug. When our students reach the end of the long and exhausting day of the sale and witness the distribution of all stock to such worthwhile causes, they become acutely aware that not only have they raised funds for our Uganda projects but have witnessed a hugely successful demonstration of the power of recycling in the most authentic form!
 
Our students are not only impacting the lives of many young people in Africa but are also embarking on a powerful and personal learning journey. As always with our service learning programme, the motive behind the student involvement is to nurture self-development, focusing on the essential life skills; leadership confidence, collaboration, initiative, critical thinking, problem-solving, adaptability, creativity, imagination and compassionate attitudes. The skill set, always valued, is now critical for success in the 21st century.
 
For the students at the start of the year, Uganda seems remote and Kids of Africa far removed from their privileged lives, but with compassion and the determination to make a difference, connections grow fast, and many end the school year longing to head to Uganda at the first opportunity. This year, as always, as the school year draws to a close, we evaluate the impact of our labours. The students' analysis of lessons learned and skills acquired, and their realisation that through their incredible work, they have truly impacted the lives of so many in Africa leaves all involved touched and inspired to continue.
 
Burkhard seized an opportunity, not knowing where the adventure would take him. In his words to our students, "When an opportunity comes into your life, embrace it. We can all make a difference. In relation to the global issues out there, these schools we have built are nothing, but they are absolutely everything to those students in the schools. Every coin you collect here is helping these students and helping them to grow. Each of their lives is directly impacted by what you do, and these impacts transfer to their friends, their families and well beyond".
 

To learn more about the charities mentioned, please visit their websites:

 
 

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