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05-Dec-2016  Düsseldorf / Germany

Employee volunteering in Uganda

“Every helping hand is urgently needed”

Everywhere in the world, volunteers put a smile on people’s faces with the work they do. We would like to introduce you to one of them today, as it is International Volunteer Day: For over two years now, Henkel employee Gabriele Haak from Düsseldorf has been volunteering as a helper in the three orphanages of the Christian “Sonrise Ministries” initiative in Uganda – more specifically, in Jinja, a city located in the southeast of the country. This December, she is flying to Africa again to spend Christmas with the children there. She tells us why her work in Uganda is more than just social engagement to her in an interview.

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Open Slideshow Gabriele Haak with one-year-old Betty

Gabriele Haak mit der einjährigen Betty, die im Sonrise Baby’s Home lebt. 

Open Slideshow

„Manchmal hat man gar nicht so viele Finger wie sich Kinder an einem festklammern wollen“, erzählt Gabriele Haak mit leuchtenden Augen. 

Open Slideshow

Die gesammelten Kleiderspenden aus Deutschland werden von Gabriele Haak und den Betreuern nach Größen sortiert und danach an die Kinder verteilt.  

How did you come to volunteer with Sonrise Ministries?
When I was in school, I wanted to become an aid worker. I lost sight of that plan for a while, but the desire to do something for other people remained. Colleagues of mine first told me about the initiative “Make an Impact on Tomorrow”, or MIT for short, through which Henkel supports both current and retired employees’ volunteer work. When my 14-year-old niece was giving English lessons as a volunteer in Ghana a few years ago, I said to myself: “If a young person can do it, then I can, too.” A volunteering agency helped me find a placement. The hardest part was deciding on a project – you can hardly tell who is most urgently in need of help. That’s why the Sonrise orphanages were initially a random choice, but the friendly and open-minded people I met in Jinja immediately convinced me I was in the right place.

How exactly do you support the project in Uganda when you’re there?
Every helping hand is urgently needed here. A new extension is currently being built for the Sonrise Children’s Home to offer more children a home and an education. I take care of the smaller tasks and help the construction workers lay bricks or paint walls. In the early mornings, I usually help Auntie Peace, a 62-year-old lady who selflessly cares for the smallest newborns in the Sonrise Baby’s Home. The kitchen needs a hand, too: Lunch is usually rice and beans. With so many children, things can get really chaotic at lunchtime. In the afternoons, I help the children with their homework. I think about the project every day, really – even when I’m in Germany. I stay in touch with the caretakers through phone calls or texts all the time. In my spare time, I also collect money and clothing donations.

You’re traveling to Uganda again this month. What are you looking forward to most?
I’m currently involved in a project that is particularly dear to my heart: the construction of a well that will ensure the Sonrise Baby’s Home has a constant supply of clean drinking water. I am already excited about seeing how far the construction work on the various projects has progressed. But most of all, I am looking forward to seeing the children. They and the caretakers have become like a second family to me.

In Social Engagement Feature you will find the full story on Gabriele Haak’s volunteer work as well as more stories, picture galleries, videos and interesting facts about Henkel’s social engagement activities.