More than 1000 volunteers from across Australia make up the backbone of KwaYa. Ordinary but extraordinary human beings take time out of their busy lives to keep the dream alive enabling us to continue to support the education and mentorship of countless children and young adults in Africa.
KwaYa is a not-for-profit incorporated association. We are audited and report to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission annually.
100% of every dollar goes towards the project for which it was raised.
We genuinely care and seek to make a positive difference.
We admire and appreciate different qualities.
We recognise the value of all individuals regardless of gender, age, ability, income, education, race or religion.
Our collective strength leads to harmony.
Keep on working to achieve our goals.
We are all here for each other.
Lush vegetation springs from the red soil. Big-bottomed ladies stroll leisurely along the pot-holed streets with large yellow, water-laden gerry cans atop their heads. Rusty sheets of iron stand as the walls and roofs of their makeshift homes, quickly erected upon their arrival after fleeing their war- stricken villages fifteen years prior.
The bus slows as we approach yet another pot-hole. Rolling from side to side we manoeuvre our way through the two-foot deep cavity.
I look back at the faces on the bus. Thirteen thousand kilometres from home, wide-eyed and tense, they are as excited as I am. They have been anticipating this moment for months now. They have fundraised in their communities for children they have not yet met. They have begged from friends and borrowed from families. They have gone without. They are the courageous ones. Brave enough to trust, fearless, hearts full. Now they are here, ready to give, ready to embrace an experience like no other.
Smiling inwardly, I know what is to come. I know that in fourteen days they will be forever changed. I also know that this experience is deeper and more profound than any five- star personal development retreat offered to the stressed- out privileged in the first world.
I am the lucky first to receive the one hundred hugs, to bathe in the love and the appreciation. I am the first to soak in the wide smiles, the happy and eager faces. They are thrilled that we have come. I am beyond grateful to be here.
We relish the rare gift of being with them and to eat, sleep, and work alongside of them. We have been given the opportunity to make a difference, to immerse ourselves in dance, song, craft, art, and drama workshops with the kids. We will pour our energy into a renovation project at the nominated Music for Life slum school, until our muscles ache and our bones creak.
Our faces wet with tears, we deliver donations to the orphanages; for the baby rescued from a garbage bin that morning; for the toddler clinging to our bosoms hungry for the human touch.
We dive into a culture vastly foreign to our own. We rejoice in the differences and gleefully drown in the love they bestow upon us and each other.
Privately, we sob in shame for a beautiful people, their wants and their needs so basic. Things we blithely discard at home they cradle in their hands deep in gratitude for the having.
Small arms encircle my leg. Rags hanging from her body and snot running from her nose, she shyly looks up at me. I search the curtained doorways of the nearby hovels wondering where her family might be, if she has one. Or is it a sibling just a few years older that has her life in his hands? Where is he now whilst she is digging through a rubbish bin to find the one morsel of nourishment she needs to survive this day?
Kneeling, I take her in my arms; she does not resist. A smile warm enough to melt an iceberg spreads across her face. She leans in to me, her arms hugging tight around my neck. My heart yearns for the day when she will have food and an education.
Today we bring money and gifts to the overcrowded school in her slum. But those gifts and money are not enough to reach this little girl or her brother, for she cannot afford to attend the nearby broken down school with mud for floors. Nor are our efforts enough for the thousands of her friends and neighbours living in this particular ghetto or the millions living in similar slums throughout Uganda.
When I bend to release her, she clings tighter. It is heartbreaking; I want to take her with me back to my privileged life. What I throw into my bin in one day would feed her and her brother for a week. How can I keep doing this? How can I walk away from her knowing that her future is fraught with hunger, suffering, illness, pain, and death.
“Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
"It made a difference for that one.”
Marsha Gusti - President and Founder - KwaYa Australia