Along with Madlyn Carew and Marie Woodford — two other Newfoundland women who have also previously travelled as volunteers in Uganda — the charity H.O.P.E. was created in 2016: Helping Orphans Prosper through Education.
“The poverty is so severe there,” Williams told The Telegram during an interview on Tuesday. “When children are living in an orphanage, they have next to nothing — no food, no water, no medical attention … and they have a caregiver, but she can only do so much with that many children.”
“We felt that putting them in a proper boarding school would enrich their lives so that they wouldn’t have to live in such a way. You can’t take an education away from someone. Once you’re educated, you have the empowerment to move forward in a positive light.”
Before H.O.P.E. came into the picture, Williams said the children would have to walk to school for a couple of hours a day with no electricity, no homework, and no way of studying. By the time they got home, she added, they had chores to do — depriving them of any aspect of a good education.
Since her last trip, Williams says that 10 of the 25 children are now in their first year of boarding school — something she can’t wait to see for herself when she returns to Uganda this spring.
“In a day where everything just seems so bleak, with all this white-supremacy and hatred, I think it’s time for people to realize that we’re not all like that, and the world isn’t like that! There are some wonderful people out there who believe that we can make a difference, and we can! We are — I know we are.”
Last year, H.O.P.E. had a myriad of teddy bears knitted for a garden party fundraiser, where guests could pay to sponsor one of the bears as it prepared to head to Uganda to be given to a child in need.
“Everyone even wrote their own personalized message to the child that the teddy went to. So when we got there and gave out the bears, we read the notes out and it was so hard to do it without crying because it really came from people’s hearts, and the children absolutely loved it.”
Williams says that every now and then, when the older kids in school are able to access a computer, they send messages to H.O.P.E. that tug on their heartstrings even more.
“It was never only the money, they really knew and understood that people are there for them, and I think it gives them strength!” she said. “We know that they know that we’re there for them, and I think that gives them the empowerment to succeed.”
In previous trips, H.O.P.E. has bought chickens, goats, cows, and new beds for the orphanages. They’ve also built pens for the animals, and they helped build a new school in 2016.
“We bring school supplies, medical supplies, toys, shoes, pillowcases, you name it.” They also purchased three sewing machines last year, teaching around 24 girls to make their own sanitary pads — something that’s in high demand in the far-away country.
“They would take the hard part of a banana leaf, fold it over and clip it to their underwear with a safety pin. They are desperate for them.”
“When you see it on TV, it’s so far away, it’s hard to feel it,” Williams told the Telegram. “But when you’re there and you can see their lives, and you can reach out and actually touch and feel this sick, hungry child … Oh my god.”
Williams says that the charity fundraises whenever possible – hosting garden parties with ticket raffles, selling homemade greeting cards, painted Newfoundland rocks, et cetera. Most of the funding, however, comes from personal donations from family, friends and businesses.
H.O.P.E. is affiliated with L.I.T.A., another Canadian charity that works to ensure the safety and support of orphaned children in Uganda. “Anyone who makes a donation to H.O.P.E. can do it through L.I.T.A., and they’ll get a government tax receipt for that donation,” Williams explained. “We are hoping to get individuals, families and businesses, to sponsor the children in order to for them to go to boarding school. It is such an easy way for people to make a real difference in these children's lives. It is so nice when you close your eyes at night knowing what a difference you have made.”
“If we help 25 children, we’re helping 25 villages, and that’s the start.” Williams said.
“That’s how this all happens — that is how the world will become a better place.”