This weeks charity spotlight is Imprint Hope, an organization in Uganda run by one of my friends and colleagues, Clare Byrne. Clare always has the warmest hugs, the craziest, out of the box ideas, and her free spirit makes me giggle like a child. God Bless you, Clare, for creating Imprint Hope to help children with disabilities and their families. You are such an inspiration! Read our dialogue below to learn more about Imprint Hope.
Q. Clare, we sat near each other for 3 years at Seton Hall University studying Occupational Therapy, both passed our state boards and became Occupational Therapists – what led you to Uganda and ultimately starting Imprint Hope?
A. I always wondered what happened to children with disabilities in other countries who were not blessed with social, medical and rehabilitative services. I wondered how children and families got by without Early Intervention; I wondered what hospitals were like; I wondered how children with disabilities were treated in other countries. When I was studying for my boards, I applied for jobs all over the world, but I also applied for a year-long volunteer experience through an organization called, Catholic Medical Mission Board (CMMB). CMMB is a non-profit organization that sends medical professionals all over the world. After graduating from Seton Hall University in 2012, I worked in Newark, New Jersey, USA for 6 months and then was sent to Uganda in 2013 through CMMB.
During my year of volunteer work with CMMB, I worked at an orphanage with over 300 children with disabilities. Being the only medical professional with the most severely disabled population of children I’ve ever seen was overwhelming, however the most challenging part apart that year of volunteer work was learning that 85% of the children at that orphanage actually had biological parents. These family members abandoned their child with a disability because they were overwhelmed by the challenge of taking care of a child with a disability with no social or rehabilitative services. Thus the dream to launch Imprint Hope began.
Q. What is Imprint Hope? What made you start this organization?
A. Founded in 2016 in Uganda, East Africa, Imprint Hope envisions a world where all children with disabilities are appreciated for their unique talents and provided an opportunity to actualize their full potential. The organization works to eliminate the neglect, abuse, abandonment, and death of children with disabilities in Uganda by educating communities on childhood disability, providing medical and rehabilitative services to the children affected and educating and empowering caretakers to care for their child and earn a living wage for their families. In doing so, Imprint Hope strives to raise awareness, break down barriers, and overcome the stigma that children with disabilities face on a daily basis.
To support and encourage families of children with disabilities, Imprint Hope’s team – social workers, a physical and occupational therapist, and a human rights advocate – identify and meet with families coming from rural areas of Central Uganda. The families who are invited to join Imprint Hope’s program begin a journey of discovery, enlightenment, and hope.
During the live-in 6-week program, Imprint Hope children receive daily physical and occupational therapy, orthopedic equipment and nutritional and medical support. While their child is being cared for, Imprint Hope families embark on a journey of their own, participating in daily classes on the types and causes of disability, proper hygiene, parenting techniques, and human rights of children with disabilities. In addition to learning about their child’s disability, families participate in vocational training in agriculture and tailoring to be better equipped to pay for their child’s medical expenses upon their return home.
Upon discharge from the program, Imprint Hope’s team conduct regular follow-up with children and their families at home, providing further education, equipment, and support.
Q. Tell us a little about yourself – what do you like to do for fun? What do you miss about living in New Jersey, USA?
A. My heart always yearns for adventure. Moving and living in a third world country has drastically shifted my daily routine, however, I still get up with the sun and go for a run down African dirt roads, do yoga and bake incessantly. My favorite parts of a day are interacting with the families at our center and spending quality time with two little boys I’ve adopted. Watching children grow, learn, laugh and develop for the first time in their life is a beautiful thing to see every day.
New Jersey will always have my heart because of my family. I’ve learned from living in Africa that home is where your family resides. I miss them so much and I hope for the day I can see them again!!
Q. What is a typical day life for you at Imprint Hope? What are the living conditions? Who else do you work with?
A. A “typical day” at Imprint Hope is watching the sun rise over the Nile River, getting my two adopted boys ready for school, and meeting with Imprint Hope staff members to plan for the day. I work with a Ugandan Physical Therapist all day in the therapy room. We provide one hour of individualized therapy to each child at our center during that day. This is where we work with the mothers and show them exercises to do with their child throughout the day and educate them on their child’s condition.
Along with a Ugandan Physical Therapist, Imprint Hope’s Staff includes a social worker, who provides an hour of counseling to the families every day. A Ugandan Human Rights Advocate, who teaches our families about the human rights of children with disabilities in Uganda. A cook, who prepares all of the food for the families. As well as a Day Guard, Night Guard, and various part-time teachers on nutrition, hygiene, parenting, disability, agriculture, tailoring, and business development.
Q. How do I get involved with Imprint Hope?
A. The motto of Imprint Hope from the launch is “it takes a village.” This means that we need a village in Uganda and a village in America. It was an abundant privilege
to grow up in America and not have to worry about where the next meal or set of clothing was coming from. However, I’ve learned from living in Uganda that this is not the reality for people in other countries of the world. If we are going to “imprint” a mark in Uganda we all need to work together and pool resources to help these desperate.
Any help in the realm of supplies for the center, monetary support or volunteer work over here in Uganda would be so transformative for the mission at large and a tremendous blessing to the families and children we serve.
Q. What do you need the most help with from Realm of Vibes readers?
A. If Imprint Hope’s Mission tugs at anyone’s heartstrings, please spread the word about how children with disabilities are living in other countries. Please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how you can get further involved. Through spreading awareness and educating people, I know we can transform the lives of so many families in Uganda. #Ittakesavillage
Q. Give Realm of Vibes readers some final thoughts…
A. Children with disabilities are very special souls to me. Witnessing firsthand the disparity, rejection and challenges children with disabilities in Uganda experience on a daily basis compels my heart to action. Witnessing their joy, perseverance, and compassion they exemplify to everyone has transformed my outlook on life. I know in life we receive so we can go. We feel loved so we can love. We witness hope so we can be beacons of hope. These moments have given me renewed purpose in life and it is too good of a gift not to share with others.
If you have a non-profit organization that you would like featured on Realm of Vibes, contact email@example.com.
I am obsessed with blankets. I love cuddling up on the couch with a good book and hot cup of coffee. I met Connie from a local garage sale site on Facebook. I think I was collecting donations for Caring Canine Connections, and we engaged in friendly conversation. She and I shared a common interest, helping those in need. Connie sent me a beautiful fleece gray and pink elephant blanket for my almost-here daughter, Emilia. She knows some of the struggles that I have faced during this pregnancy like I know about the hardships she has encountered dealing with her mom going through chemotherapy for cancer treatment. In a cold world, it’s nice to have someone to talk to, confide in, and help you get through another day.
Connie started Creative Chaos CMP, a project of passion where she helps create blankets for people and/or animals in need, one stitch at a time.
Read our interview below:
Q) Your mom having cancer and undergoing chemotherapy treatments inspired you to start making blankets, and ultimately starting Creative Chaos CMP… so where and how did you learn to sew?
A) When I was 12 or 13 years old my Aunt Gee took me under her wing and gave me a couple lessons. Since I didn’t have a sewing machine I lost touch with the skill.
About 3 years ago my husband bought me a sewing machine and I re-taught myself. Before I knew it I was off and sewing! I started by making stuffed bears then progressed to making my own clothing and blankets.
Q) You have helped patients undergoing cancer treatments, dog rescues, and Imprint Hope, a charity for disabled children, what makes these organizations meaningful and purposeful to you?
A) Sometimes something as simple as a blanket can help. At the end of the day, I wanted to give someone or animal something to call their own. Something to snuggle into and forget about how hard life can get.
Q) What is your favorite blanket print?
A) I really don’t have a favorite print but my favorite fabric to work with is fleece.
Q) How long does one blanket take to make?
A) One blanket (1 yard) double-sided takes me about 15-30 minutes. What I like about my blankets is I can customize them to people’s preferences. If a child likes Paw Patrol and unicorns, I can make a two-sided blanket with those prints.
Q) What could others do to help you give more blankets?
A) I would love for them to share my webpage to increase brand awareness. If they know anyone they think would benefit from a custom blanket, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q) What are the next steps for Creative Chaos CMP?
A) My ultimate goal is to inspire others to spread hope through positivity.
Q) What do you tell people who want to start doing charity work?
A) Follow your heart and give what you can, when you can. It’s not about your income, it’s about what is in your heart.
Give Realm of Vibes readers some final words…
The past year has reminded me that life sometimes sucks… But, when someone thinks of you and does an act of kindness it resonates with you, and life can seem a bit better. I thought, maybe, if I can make someone smile and brighten their day, that person will pay it forward and we can start spreading kindness through the world. I know I can’t change everyone, however, if I can make a least one person smile, then it’s worth it.