Lauren volunteering to help children in Africa
ONE Warwick local has gone above and beyond to reach out, volunteering in Africa for children in need.
Lauren Bourke grew up in Warwick, attending The Scots PCG College from 2007 to 2011, and last year travelled to Africa on the journey of a lifetime between October and December.
She spent two months volunteering in Uganda with Watoto, a charitable organisation that works with orphaned and displaced children, before touring south through the continent.
"Watoto works with children who have been orphaned or survived abduction and relocates them to communal villages," Ms Bourke said.
"Ugandan women in these villages take on the role of their mothers and these houses close together take care of the children together."
Ms Bourke had previously travelled to East Timor for her first overseas trip, where she was a volunteer teacher.
She has since travelled through Europe and the UK, having well and truly been bitten by the travel bug.
"I would love to go back to Uganda," she said.
"But there's really nowhere I don't want to go."
She said that despite the challenges of volunteering it is the sort of work she wants to do long-term.
"The biggest challenge of the whole trip was constantly seeing such hardship and poverty and knowing there was only so much you could do," Ms Bourke said.
"Watoto is such an incredible organisation and I had wanted to volunteer with them for years so it was great to make it happen."
Watoto also has a program that helps women who have been widowed, abandoned or returned from abduction, and educates and empowers them, helping them to start their own small businesses.
For the past few years, Ms Bourke has run her own business as a qualified holistic health coach and is now working towards education qualifications.
"Education will always be a big part of what I do, whether it be women's empowerment or health and wellness, and I wanted the formal qualifications to back that up," she said.
Returning to her former high school, Ms Bourke shared her unique experience with middle school students.
"There is so much we can learn from them, the people in Uganda," she said.
"In Western terms they have nothing, materially, but they are so beautiful, so open, welcoming and joyous, and so grateful for everything.
"It's that gratitude that I talked to the kids about."
Ms Bourke said her time spent volunteering in Uganda had left a lasting impression.
"It really is something that is life-changing," she said.
"It changes your perspective and thinking about the world and people."
"I was really fortunate to have a block of time to make that trip, but if you can make that happen, do it - there's no way you can regret something like this."
The Watoto Children's Choir will perform in Warwick at The Scots PCG Assembly Hall on Tuesday April 7 from 7pm.