Uganda United, one of Burlingame’s humanitarian clubs, is unique in one of its main functions: writing letters to students in Uganda.While forming new friendships, club members also develop a valuable perspective about life in Uganda.
“Writing these letters helps to just to have a sense of that deeper connection and let them know that there are faces and voices behind what we’re providing... We want to know about their world and lessen the divide that a lot of people perceive to be there,” Co-president Courtney Rosales said.
Each club member regularly writes to his or her pen pal.
“A lot of it is just that I feel like I’ve already been able to form a friendship with my penpal. It’s really fun to not only hear about their lives and what’s happening with them in Uganda but also share things about myself and really be able to form a bond with them,” Co-president Neha Patkar said.
Every two months, club members receive letters back from their pen pals.
Most of Burlingame’s numerous humanitarian clubs tend to focus on broad issues, such as combating poverty or advocating for animal rights. On the other hand, while Uganda United does revolve around helping underprivileged students, the club focuses its efforts, interacting with an individual school.
“We’re specialized, and I think that because we are so specialized we get more done, and I enjoy that aspect,” senior Lilli Hirth said.
The Burlingame branch of Uganda United arose when Patkar attended a USC summer program, where the professor, one of the founders of Uganda United, gave students an opportunity to expand out into smaller organizations at individual schools.
“It was about partnering with a primary school in Uganda and then again part of the expressed intentions was to help support children afflicted with HIV or AIDS… So we thought that was something important to shine light on,” Rosales said.
Currently, the club partners with local restaurants, and in directing customers to the businesses, the club receives a portion of revenue. Last year, the club held a Pizza My Heart fundraiser.
“Sending off the money was a really satisfying experience in that hearing that they’d received it and were planning on buying books and supplies … made me really happy,” Hirth said.
During club meetings, Patkar and Rosales direct brainstorming discussions to plan for new fundraisers. Some ideas that are in the works include holiday caroling and various walks. Patkar and Rosales place emphasis on being aware of current issues in Uganda. For example, at their last club meeting, the co-presidents presented an article that highlighted the significant impact of donating bike parts to Ugandan kids, as bikes are hard to come by, but provide a huge advantage in getting around. Patkar and Rosales implement a habit of discussing a current-event article at every club meeting.
“We want to be well-versed in the current events in Uganda to deepen that connection and make us more vested in it,” Rosales said.