This October, our nonprofit partner Convoy of Hope teamed up with the O'Reilly Center for Hope at their annual Hope Connection event. Taking place in Springfield, Missouri, Hope Connection is a nonprofit collaboration that provides important resources to people struggling with homelessness. Like many events this year, big changes were made to the event but Convoy of Hope and other determined nonprofits were still able to deliver much-needed aid despite the ongoing pandemic.
Typically, Hope Connection is a one-day, one-stop event for individuals in homelessness to gain immediate access to essential services such as housing, education, healthcare, employment, and aid for homeless veterans through Veterans’ Stand Down. This year the event was a little different, where instead of a large one-day gathering, it took place over three days in order to maintain social distancing guidelines and keep all attendees safe. This is LuminAID's second year partnering with Convoy of Hope to support the event.
With over 50% of the population in Uganda under the age of 14, it is difficult for all children to have access to quality education. That’s why in 2012 the Kikulu Foundation decided to focus on serving students in rural Uganda, recognizing the power educating youth will have on influencing the future of the country. They do so by providing students with scholarships, books, and school supplies and by supporting teachers with training and necessary classroom resources. Since 2012 the Kikulu Foundation has dedicated over $200,000 to educational initiatives in Uganda to support their mission of giving all children access to quality education.
Like many other nonprofit organizations, Kikulu has encountered additional challenges this year because of the pandemic. Alisha Robertson-Stephens, the Founding Director of the Kikulu Foundation, explains how their focus has shifted in 2020.
“Our students, like many students around the world, have had to shift their normal school routine during COVID-19. Instead of being in classrooms, students have been living and learning full-time at the children’s home with the help of onsite tutors. We’ve spent the last six months ensuring each and every student has “school-from-home packets” with books, supplies, and the resources they need to continue their studies the best they can.”
Adapting During COVID-19
Community Events Project Manager Dianna Mulheron elaborates on some of the changes that were made this year: “For the last 10 years, we have done the Hope Connection event at a large venue to accommodate 600-800 guests as well as 300-400 volunteers and providers. Due to COVID-19, this year we decreased the size of the event for the safety of those participating. Our goal was to connect people to as many resources as possible despite the challenges.”
An important aspect of Hope Connection is its “outcome-oriented” goals. Not only does it provide participants with information about resources available in the community, “...but a day for people to make changes and have immediate access to essential services,” explains Mulheron.
The Impact of Solar Light
One resource Hope Connection shares with its attendees is portable, solar light. Having light is especially important for individuals struggling with homelessness because it can help relieve some of their stress and fear when trying to find somewhere safe to sleep at night, especially in remote areas. Mulheron notes that “The reaction received when the lanterns were distributed was priceless. It was obvious that the guests were extremely excited to have such a precious gift, solar-powered light. When demonstrating its capabilities the recipients were in awe. The gift was so appreciated.”
Convoy of Hope spoke to many guests at Hope Connection about the resources they received. “Patrick came to the O’Reilly Center for Hope, where the event was held, looking for assistance. He said he needed help with finding a job and permanent housing. He expressed his gratefulness for the groceries, socks, hygiene items, and the LuminAID lantern he received from Convoy of Hope. He especially liked the lantern, sharing that it would help since he lost everything while on the streets in homelessness.”
For many students, light is a necessary part of those “school-from-home packets”. Robertson-Stephens explains why: “The government here often turns the electricity off in our part of the country. I can estimate that the students are without power over 40% of the night time hours. Even with electricity, our children need good lighting to read and study in the evening to protect their eyes from strain. Often they get up in the predawn hours to study. They have been trained by the culture that they retain more when getting up at 4 am to read their notes so their lights come in handy in the wee hours of the morning. Even though most students are now studying from home, they still use their lights on a daily basis for reading and take-home study assignments.”
Another attendee expressed his excitement about getting light. “Tony shared that he currently lives in a tent. He had received a LuminAID lantern at the last event in 2019 and said he used it a lot. He had lost it somehow on his journeys and was so excited to be receiving one again. He found it very helpful and shared that having light at night in a tent was extremely valuable.”
While the pandemic makes it much harder to provide humanitarian aid, persevering organizations like Convoy of Hope are ready to rise to the challenge and provide much-needed relief to the populations that are hit hardest. LuminAID is proud to partner with Convoy of Hope as they continue to give light to those who most need it.
About Convoy of Hope
LuminAID has been partnering with Convoy of Hope since 2016, and the organization has distributed LuminAID lights in 13 countries to date, including Lebanon, Haiti, and Peru. Our co-founders, Anna and Andrea, also traveled with the team from Convoy of Hope to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, and the trip was featured on a Shark Tank update that aired in 2017. Learn more about their work at convoyofhope.org