-- A Texas housewife connects with Uganda

Jayne Cravens is now the Coordinator of Volunteers for People With Disabilities, Uganda (PWDU), overseeing the work of more than 75 other online volunteers from all over the world. After more than a year of working as an online volunteer with PWDU, Laurie recently made an on-site visit as a short-term UN volunteer to Kampala, Uganda, to meet the staff of the organization she had known only through the Internet until now.

In her own words, Laurie explains how she became interested in online volunteering: "My husband and I had just moved to a small town in Texas, and I was somewhat restless. I graduated from Boston University with a BA in East Asian studies and was very interested in graduate work in anthropology or international law. I had always been very career oriented and was eager to begin. Before those plans got off the ground however, my husband and I had our first son. I postponed graduate school so I could stay home with the baby. I am now the mother of two young boys, and I am fortunate enough to be able to stay home to take care of them. However, I was desperately longing to stay in touch with some kind of international work. Then I saw a commercial for NetAid and logged on to check it out. I am so glad I did. It has truly changed my life!"

Her first assignment was with a Peruvian NGO, locating potential vendors for a locally-crafted textile product.

"I was able to do research on the Internet and learn about fair or alternative trade. From there I made several contacts and eventually located several interested merchants. This was a fun and interesting assignment. I gained a new interest in the people and cultures of Peru as well as the plight of indigenous peoples, and I became aware of the value of fair trade."

Her next assignment was helping with fundraising efforts for People With Disabilities, Uganda (PWDU).

"As more and more volunteers began signing on, the director of PWDU asked if I would help to coordinate their activities. I gladly accepted the challenge and am now directing and organizing the efforts of over 75 active volunteers around the world. Our volunteers range from high school students to PhD's, 'stay at home mothers' to record producers. They represent approximately 25 countries, on six continents."

These online volunteers that Laurie, an online volunteer herself, is managing are engaged in several fascinating projects for PWDU, including: designing and developing their Web site designing, writing, and publishing their newsletter creating print and multimedia promotional presentations composing an original song, dedicated to PWD working with a music producer in Brazil (who wrote the above mentioned song)to create a benefit album for PWD writing grants proposals for several projects.

Because of her experience, Laurie is now considering starting a American-based nonprofit to benefit the children with disabilities in Uganda.

"Prior to this assignment, I would not have been able to quickly locate Uganda on the map. Now, I enthusiastically spend my time working for the people of Uganda and learning about their way of life. I am also learning about many other regions in the world, via my contact with other volunteers. This has been a wonderful experience, and I recommend it to everyone I know!"

This testimonial was written by Jayne Cravens, and originally published by the International Symposium on Volunteering.