The holidays bring the best out in us. ''It's the most wonderful time of the year'', says the song. And now, when they've passed, most of us feel a bit off-balanced. But, there is a great way to change that – by helping to those who maybe didn't have their most wonderful time of the year just yet.
One way to do it is by the new organization called ''Circle of love''. We caught up with one of the founders, a young girl from Dubrovnik – Nikolina Boro, who explained how Africa changed her life and what is the purpose of the ''Circle of love''.
-I met Lea Lesjak in February and we went to Kenya together. Our first goal was to teach English and Maths, but after around two weeks of lectures we concluded that that wasn't enough. We decided that we must help in other ways too – Nikolina says about the starting of their wonderful humanitarian journey.
A WHOLE DIFFERENT WORLD
Nikolina and Lea were particulary motivated by the stories of their students that quickly went under their skin.
-For example, one little girl named Benta who is just 11 years old has a mother that is a prostitute. She is often telling her that she needs to find a man or her life has no meaning. There is a child that didn't eat for three days – dad doesn't care, mum left him. There are many other stories similar to that – Nikolina explains, adding that their first goal was to help to those children that they met and that had no plans of making an organization.
So, they sent messages to almost everybody they knew, asking if they are willing to help with some donations. After just one day there was around 10 people who are more than happy to sponsor the children in need.
-We decided to interview as many children that we can while we are still in Africa, in order to find them sponsors when we go back to Croatia – says Nikolina. Before they came back to Croatia they had around 40 sponsors and raised around 10 thousand dollars! When they arrived back, they were joined by seven more young ladies and decided to make it more formal – an organization that will help the children in Africa.
Nikolina was overwhelmed with her experience and she admits that it’s really hard to say what affected her the most.
-The tragic stories are stuck in my head. There was one girl, Milka, who was 12 years-old and weighed only 15 kilos. She has HIV and got tuberculosis too. When you get those two, you are one step closer to death. Her father died because of HIV and her step-mother didn't take care of her. She was totally neglected. We interviewed her and a few days later arrived with food. She couldn't even eat it, she threw up everything. We took her to the hospital, where the conditions were terrible. She was given the wrong diagnosis at the start, so she got bronchitis too! But after some time it got better. Around a month ago she weighed over 30 kilos, she started recovering and we found her a sponsor. She is supposed to go back to school now in January – explains Nikolina and tells how hard it was to collect money for the hospital, which was a terrible experience, with syringes all over the floor and even chickens on the hospital ground…
Little Milka before and after
The founders of the 'Circle of love' had a really hard time with their first impressions of Africa and Nikolina admits that they often cried because they felt that they can't change a thing.
-But we got over it. It made us think – maybe we’ll make something if we inform as many people as we can. And honestly, we were surprised by the responses.
STARTING WITH BABY STEPS
The goal of the organization at first was to find sponsors for children. At first the collected money went to Kenya, especially to the school ‘Light Stars Academy’, where Lea and Nikolina worked at the beginning. The school was in terrible condition and after the donations has five new classrooms and now the new kitchen is being built.
Now, the ‘Circle of love’ is collecting money for an orphanage for sexually abused children. They are planning to make an orphanage for 30 children, which costs – believe it or not – only 2,500 dollars.
With this being an absolute priority, sponsorships for children are also available and every Kuna, Euro or Dollar can make a great difference.
-We have a future plans too, of course. We are planning to spread across Kenya and then Uganda. Our main goal is to protect the children that are HIV positive or abused. To give them a home – says Nikolina.
Nowadays a lot of people are skeptical when it comes to humanitarian organizations, because they are scared of being tricked.
-A lot of people asked – why? Why to make an organization, why are we doing it this way, why this, why that. But it’s completely different when you go there and see how exactly children can be helped – and they are not – says Nikolina.
The founders of the organization made sure that they are not tricked and that the money goes to right hands. They met Emanuel – African who has been a great help to them and has indescribable love for all the children and is something even willing to give all he has to them, rather than help himself. All donations get some kind of proof that they went to those who need it – videos, photos, report cards…
UNBREAKABLE BOND WITH AFRICA
Nikolina is sure that she will return to Africa. When – she doesn’t know yet, but is definitely sure she will. There is some sort of magic in this poor, but special country.
Many people thought that she was too sensitive to go there, but she made a decision and pursued it. Even though she admits she was scared, especially when she needed to get vaccinated before the trip.
-There is always some fear, which is ok, because you need to be careful everywhere. But I felt really safe in Africa because we had Emanuel, who went everywhere with us.
She says that she easily adjusted to life in Africa, especially because she had company – Lea – and they functioned well together. It’s always easier when you don’t have to go through that kind of experience alone. They had a lot of edgy situations and it wasn’t all roses.
-This experience might not be for everybody, but if you have a wish to do it – go for it! If you want to help – just do it! – says Nikolina, who was contacted by many of her friends that were considering going to Africa once in their life.
EVERY DOLLAR COUNTS
The one thing she really wanted to emphasize are so called ‘street boys’, because she never heard for them from the media. Children, aged one and up, are addicted to glue. It’s a sad story – when mothers can’t afford food for their young ones, they give them glue to sniff, so they lose any need for food. Then, children get addicted to glue, running around and asking people for help.
-It’s so hard to choose who to help, because you can’t help everybody. But education is the key. If they have an education, they have a chance to make something, to live a better life – says Nikolina, still heartbroken from leaving the children she created a special bond with, but happy because she knows she is doing everything she can to improve their life quality.
It’s interesting what you can do with just 100 Kuna (around 16 dollars) in Africa. You can pay monthly scholarship with one meal per day, cure malaria, buy a bunch of clothes and shoes for children – with money left for food too!Every donation is more than welcome and will be surely used in a good way – from orphanage to medical treatments (that can cost around 10 dollars – which many people can’t afford). There is no minimal donation and every dollar counts – so don’t worry if you can’t give much.
If you want to help, you can make a donation through the official page of the Circle of love, with Paypal or through the bank account
Erste&Steiermärkische Bank d.d.