of an Indian family. A Brahmin priest and a Sannyasin became my friends. I completed my exams and, with an almost-expired visa, it was time to leave my beloved India. I sat on the balcony of my favourite café overlooking the mighty Ganges, reflecting on my life over the last 18 magical months. I loved the simplicity and spirituality of my life in India and knew this is what I would miss the most. Trying to fit back into the Australian way of life after all my experiences in India seemed futile. Living amongst poverty for so long had fundamentally changed the way I saw the world and I found myself in constant conflict. I needed a new challenge. A few months later I received the opportunity to volunteer at a Ugandan orphanage. What transpired over the next five months changed the course of my life. I arrived in the Ugandan city of Kampala to find a room full of children sleeping on the floor, with no mosquito nets, in a half-built house next to a swamp. Some of the children had endured more pain and hardship than I could even begin to imagine. The youngest child, only six months old, had been dumped in a rubbish bin by his mentally ill mother. Twin boys were found roaming the streets; their father an alcoholic and their mother nowhere to be seen. A three year-old boy had been left on the couch by his father, who was never seen again. What’s more, it didn’t take
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me long to work out that the orphanage had never been registered and donations intended for the children were being misappropriated. Seeing vulnerable children being mistreated and used as a source of income was beyond disturbing. I vowed to do whatever I could to help remove them from the situation. After five months, I ran out of money and returned to Australia. In exposing those responsible for the misappropriation of funds, and with no board of directors in place, I soon found myself caring for 39 Ugandan children. Family and friends donated emergency funds for food, medical care and mosquito nets, but six months later I was running out of favours fast. The orphanage faced urgent issues including constant malaria infections and likely eviction because of unpaid rent. I took regular phone calls in the early hours of the morning informing me that “there’s no food for breakfast”. All in all, the responsibility of caring for so many children 12,000 km away was taking its toll on me. I wrote letters to children’s charities around the world; each letter a little more desperate than the last. I approached over 40 charities, but to no avail. A week before food donated by the World Food Program was due to run out, a friend recommended that I contact the Forget Me Not Children’s Home – a small Queensland-based children’s charity, committed to giving vulnerable children a future. At that time Forget Me Not already had its
Some of the children had endured more pain and hardship than I could even begin to imagine.
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