Skyline High School grad helps orphans in Uganda

May 10, 2011

By Christopher Huber

Kristin Klein longs for the day when she can teach in Africa.

Skyline High School graduate Kristin Klein (top) is selling shirts to support an orphanage in Uganda. She and her classmate Amanda Cook are traveling there this month to teach English, science, sanitation and HIV/AIDS prevention to children. By Garrett Richardson

The 2009 Skyline High School graduate and current sophomore at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego has committed herself to the youths of Uganda by organizing a fundraiser for its orphans.

On May 23, Klein and her classmate Amanda Cook will travel to Uganda to teach English, science, sanitation and HIV/AIDS prevention for six weeks at the Hope Child Care Program in Bulanga, Uganda.

Once in Uganda, they will purchase mattresses, bedding and mosquito nets for the orphans who live there, Klein said.

Next, they will travel to an orphanage in Kenya for five weeks, helping with teaching, cleaning and cooking.

The two women have already acquired the $4,000 needed to travel to Africa for 11 weeks, but they are still collecting donations for their fundraiser; raising $7,220 to buy bed sets, nets and pillows for orphans.

Klein, Cook and friends have spent the past months networking with organizations, galvanizing students and promoting their cause by selling $5,000 of “Love Uganda” T-shirts. Though they have sold out of T-shirts, they are still collecting donations, trying to raise $2,220 before they leave May 23.

“This girl is so driven,” said Sarah Rainwater, a Skyline world studies teacher. “We need more people like her.”

Klein said she clearly remembers when she was inspired to travel to Africa to help children in need.

During her freshman year at Skyline, she watched a presentation and video from the Invisible Children organization and was convinced she needed to do something.

“My dream was always to go to Uganda,” Klein said. And when she went to Kenya in 2010, “it was the best experience of my entire life.”

She recalls people’s absolute joy, despite having next to nothing, materially. She later learned that 30 of the 150 children at the child care program still sleep on the floor and without mosquito nets.

And many of the mattresses the center does have are urine-saturated, she said.

“It really hit me,” Klein said. “Why should I get a bed (as a volunteer) while there’s kids sleeping on the floor?”

The drive began as a small idea to sell T-shirts, but blossomed into friends helping with designs for the shirts, and others offering to make personalized pillows for the children.

“She really is about making a difference,” said Rainwater, who has started an in-class service-learning project at Skyline because of the Klein family’s passion for service. “It has this kind of ripple affect.”

Klein and friends designed their own graphics for the T-shirts, took their own promotional photos and have created Web videos and blog entries about the cause. Klein attends classes full-time and works two jobs, but makes time for her cause.

“We just went for it. You just have to trust that it’s all going to work out,” she said. “It’s been crazy. I’m just so passionate about this that all the business and hard work is worth it.”

The Ugandan center’s founder eagerly awaits his two volunteers.

“Last year, we had two volunteers in May and their contribution led to the good academic performance of the children,” Fred Matovu, the center’s founder, said from Bulanga, Uganda. “As far as Kristin’s voluntary work is concerned, it is going to be a blessing to HCCP due to the fact that she is going to contribute towards the welfare of the kids.”

The fundraiser will do more than lift the children’s spirits and provide physical comfort at night. The mattresses and nets will reduce the risk of infectious diseases, like scabies, malaria and allergic reactions that the youths contract while sleeping on the ground, Matovu said.

“I know it’s going to be the best day of my life when I go this summer,” Klein said. “People think I’m going there to change people’s lives. But really, I’m going there to change my life, too.”

While Klein plans to finish her studies to become a teacher, she dreams about when she returns for good to teach and be with the African youths.

For now, she is going to press on with the task at hand.

“I truly believe that you can make a difference in the world. It doesn’t matter how old you are. Every day, I honestly can say I am thinking of Africa. It has such a special place in my heart now. I can’t help but respond and help,” Klein said. “People will join you if you express your passion. You just really have to go for it. If you sit and think about it you’ll never do it.”

On the Web

Watch Kristin Klein’s video online at www.youtube.com or www.facebook.com by searching for ‘Love Uganda T-Shirts.’

Read her blog or donate online at smallthingswithgreatlove.weebly.com. Learn more by emailing Klein at kristinklein2013@pointloma.edu.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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