June 03, 2014, 1:00 PM
(Schoolchildren in Murchison Bay Primary School in Uganda plant trees as part of Sewa Day)
Vikas Pota, founder of Sewa Day, recently visited URI Great Lakes’ office in Kampala, Uganda to present the Sewa Pioneers Award for a series of coordinated voluntary service events.
“Sewa” or "Seva" is the Sanskrit word for “selfless service.”
URI’s Great Lakes region led URI's participation of Sewa Day with more than 100 URI Young Leaders in seven different cities (Kampala, London, Sarajevo, Caracas, Manila, Lima, Santo Domingo) who worked together in early October of this past year.
Despina Namwembe, URI Africa Regional Coordinator, and Hannington Wako, URI’s Young Leaders Program Associate for Africa, were there to receive the award from Vikas Pota, founder of Sewa Day.
“In Africa, our bonds are very strong; we believe in communities, so this model [of Sewa Day] is very good for us—giving back to the community with acts of kindness,” said Hannington. “In the absence of effective governments, social systems and safety nets, societies—mostly youths and people of faith—often have to rely on local means to survive by helping each other.”
For October's Sewa Day events, young people and volunteers from URI Great Lakes visited Murchison Bay Primary School in Uganda and planted trees, teaching the youths about environmental stewardship and preservation efforts to benefit future generations. The group also used the opportunity to offer peer mentoring and career guidance to students who were preparing for their national Primary Leaving Examination.
For Sewa Day 2014, Hannington envisions free festivals with music, school clean-up projects, prison visits, and tree plantings, “This gives us a platform to bring the message of what Sewa means,” he said. He would also like to find corporate collaborators to involve more people with skills to Sewa events.
Matthew Youde, Young Leaders Program (YLP) coordinator, said:
“This award recognizes URI’s approach of local focus with global connection. For me, it celebrates the voluntary service of our young leaders all over the world who took part in Sewa Day. With young people in Uganda taking the lead in showing how people from different faiths can work together to give back to their communities, we hope to make URI’s involvement in Sewa Day 2014 even larger!”