Volunteer of the Year Awards Recipient - Cara Lawler
Cara first arrived in Kenya as an IVHQ volunteer in September 2013, and has since worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the children at the orphanage where she worked. In 2014, Cara launched the non-profit SAWA (Someone A World Away), in an effort to continue supporting the local community and children of El Shadai Orphanage. “When I arrived at El Shadai, it was obvious that there was PLENTY of work to do”, Cara reflects. “There was no roof over the kitchen. There were only 3 mattresses for 12 girls, 3 mattresses for 10 boys, no pillows, and only a few blankets for their beds. The kids all had partial school uniforms, and no school bags.”
Cara explains how far SAWA has come since the launch of the non-profit: “Over the past year, several volunteers and I have been able to improve the conditions drastically. We have also found sponsors for the 4 children who attend secondary school. We have done some great work, but the best is yet to come!”
After being announced as a finalist for the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year Award in 2014, Cara launched into two weeks of solid campaigning and was eventually awarded the title of ‘IVHQ Volunteer of the Year’. As a result, Cara was awarded with US$5,000 from the IVHQ Fund to assist in developing a project that would bring long-term and sustainable benefits to El Shadai Orphanage in Kenya.
Shortly after being announced the ‘IVHQ Volunteer of the Yea’, Cara self-funded a return trip to Kenya where she met with IVHQ’s local team to determine the best way to utilise the award money to further assist the children and community surrounding El Shadai.
“We were able build 3 new classrooms at the El Shadai Grace Learning Centre, allowing their partnering orphanage to acquire more students, and therefore support an additional teacher to improve the learning conditions for our children and all those attending our school. As the school continues to grow, it will attract new fee-paying students which in turn will aid the sustainablility of the school and adjoining orphanage.” shares Cara.
As the building began, Cara documented the journey on video:
Cara continues her work with SAWA, focused on her long-term vision of providing El Shadai Grace Learning Center as a means to sustain the centre and surrounding community.
“I want the staff to be sure that they can pay their bills every month. I want the children to have space to study, with desks and electricity. I want them to have bedrooms with enough space for each child to have their own bed and closet so that they can keep their clothes and shoes in good condition. I want them to have a proper space to PLAY, without disturbing the other tenants on their plot or the work of the staff. I want them to have proper cleaning and bathing facilities. I want them to have a kitchen suitable for a family with 25 children and for them to always be fed with proper nutrition. I want them to walk to school with their heads held high with clean, smart school uniforms, shoes and backpacks,” says Cara.