"I thought it was time for me to give back to the community that actually supported me."
Saved from a life in the streets, Pat Robert, 20, of Kampala, Uganda, now is helping to provide the same services to the next generation of homeless youth.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Pat: I have participated in a lot of voluntary work as a street boy. I abandoned the street to join the youth choir, where I have served as a member of the pastoral committee for the last five years and trained a few youth in the center. I have been given the responsibility to manage the Youth Encounter the Saviour (YES) Center, which basically is a library for youth, with games, movies, and plays, all free of charge and to keep them busy.
Through my own experience as a street kid, I underwent a number of problems because I was forced out of Gulu, my home district in northern Uganda, as a result of the current war there. Despite all of this, I have managed recently to open up a community-based organization to help address the problems faced by this vulnerable group of people who donít have any support.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Pat: Sharing Youth Center and Youth Encounter the Saviour (YES) Center are both located in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. My own project, Youth Empowerment, is based in Gulu District in the northern part of Uganda.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Pat: The major beneficiaries are the traumatized youth and children from the war-torn zone of northern Uganda, especially those who donít have immediate relatives to look after them. We help them gain access to some relief services, provided mostly by volunteers.
What inspired you to get involved?
Pat: I never intended to be on the streets. I had nowhere to go, so after finding a place to stay, I thought it was time for me to give back to the community that actually supported me. Later, I got a sponsor who has been able to bring me up to where I am now.
What is/was the hardest part?
Pat: Itís hard to see other innocent youth and children suffer like I did. Many are suffering under the Lord's Resistance Army rebels. Searching for services from people is very hard because some donít receive the request with the right attitude and demand a lot of these youth.
What was the biggest surprise?
Pat:I never thought of ever stepping into a school, but I was surprised when a man broke the news of taking me back to school. I am happy because I am now in my final year of university, taking information technology courses. I hope to share my knowledge with my peers free of charge as long as the resources are available to facilitate my effort.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Pat: I think they should believe in community work and service for others. There is great happiness because you become broad-minded rather than selfish.
© Foundation Center
All Rights Reserved.