Column by J1 Reporter Audrey VanDyke
“Don’t waste your food, there are kids around the world that don’t get food.” Many parents use this as a way to shame their children for not eating the meal they received for dinner that night, but for the most part they do nothing to try to change this issue of poverty around the world. That’s where my mom is different.
My mom, Karen Van Dyke, saw this issue and wanted to tackle it head on. In 2008, my mom traveled to Uganda, Africa on a church mission trip and she was blindsided by how many children were on the streets instead of attending school. Prior to attending this trip, she was oblivious to the insanely high numbers of children not actively participating in school. She knew she needed to make a change.
A few months after returning home, all of the right people started showing up in her life. She met a priest who lived in the same area of Uganda that she had visited right here in Omaha, that priest is now the Co-Founder of Educate Uganda. After working around the eight hour time difference, which was just one roadblock for communication, and with many long nights filled with laborious tasks, Educate Uganda was born.
At this point it had been about a year since my mom had initially visited Uganda. She knew it was time to go back to continue her work, and she was nervous to say the least. Everything that could go wrong was whirling through her mind throughout the duration of the 24 hour journey to Uganda. Upon arrival her stresses diminished and the eagerness to begin the work she came there to do flooded over her.
After visiting all of the schools she had been communicating and partnering with over the past year, she knew that this was her calling. Not only did she go back the next year, but she went back twelve more times. Never in a million years did my mom think she would have her nonprofit grow into what it is today. She has aided nearly 12,000 children to receive free schooling, because they were sponsored.
My mom is my biggest inspiration, she has such a passion to help other people and to make a change in our world. Anytime she encounters someone, she treats them with the utmost respect and kindness. She has a gentle touch, and an immense faith in God. No matter her struggles, whether it’s the breast cancer she fought through, her dad passing away, or just a bad day, she is selfless and puts everyone else’s worries before hers. I am lucky enough to call this role model of a woman my mom.