Reaching Out To A Colombian School Destroyed by a 2011 Flood
By: Yasmin Uddin. A graduate of University School, Davie, Florida
Caring for others is a moral principle I hold very close to my heart, especially when it comes to children in need. In April of 2011 a major flood occurred in the town of Utica, Colombia, destroying its local school and leaving hundreds homeless. My mother heard about this devastation from family that still lives there. When she told me that the children of Utica were left with no school, I decided I wanted to go there to see the damage and how I could help.
Last year I visited Utica and witnessed the destruction with my own eyes. The school was uninhabitable. The government set up a temporary school for children on more elevated ground, where the old train station used to be. However, the school was left with no computers, no textbooks, and no supplies. That’s when I decided to initiate “Mission Utica”. I collected the information that I had gathered from my trip and started writing letters asking for help from different agencies, friends, and family.
I made a presentation to an organization named Friends of Humanity International Inc.. FHII is a non-profit organization that helps the homeless and people who have been through natural disasters. They helped the people in Pakistan after a huge earthquake which destroyed many homes. They also helped Haitian residents after the earthquake. Recently they sent supplies to schools in Trinidad that were in need. FHII donated $7,500 to Mission Utica. With this money and the money that I was able to collect from other donors, I was able to buy 1000 pounds worth of school supplies such as pencils, journals, folders, etc… I was also able to buy math and science textbooks for grades 6 through 9. With these supplies I planned a trip to revisit Utica.
I arrived in Bogota, Colombia’s capital, last August. Shortly after we loaded a van with all the supplies and off I went to Utica. Utica is approximately three hours from Bogota and you can only get there by road. I stayed in Utica for one week while I delivered the supplies as well as taught English to the students. When I arrived in Utica, the local firemen helped me transport the supplies to the school’s gymnasium, where I presented my donation in front of the school’s students, parents, teachers, principal, and the town’s mayor. The presentation went great. I was greeted with open arms. A table showcasing what I had brought was set up so everyone could see. These kids couldn’t wait to get the supplies! I also raffled Mission Utica t-shirts to the children so they could wear them to remember this grand occasion.
Throughout the week I visited every class and taught English. I started with 1st grade and worked my way up to 11th grade. I wanted to make the class enjoyable for the kids, so I made up games to play that would be educational as well as help them learn a few phrases in English. The last day I was at the school, I distributed the kits I made for the children. My favorite moment happened when I was in the 2nd grade class about to leave, and a little girl gave me a thank you hug, then a little boy came, and the next thing I knew the whole class came to give me a group hug. It was definitely a moment I will never forget!
Seeing how happy the children, teachers, and the administration were, made me both feel great and want to continue helping the school. I am planning to revisit the school in December with the hopes of gathering more donations to buy more textbooks and supplies. I thank Friends of Humanity international Inc. who made my trip possible, and urge other organizations and individuals to get involved. If you would like to donate or know of any organization that helps those in need, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a check made out to FHII, RE Mission Utica at 833 shotgun Road Sunrise, FL 33326.
Pictured: Yamin’s favorite moment of her trip, when the 2nd grade class gave her a surprised group hug!.