As a sophomore in college, Avery Jukes said he didn’t have any plans to make the world a better place. His trip to Uganda changed everything.
Jukes was the guest speaker at Friday’s “Big Questions at the Blue House” event for the Center for Faith and Vocation.
“Big Questions at the Blue House” is an event held monthly for students, faculty and staff. Judy Cebula, CFV director, said the series features “salon style” questions to help one another find the answers in life.
“The key is finding some way to center yourself,” Cebula said. “I think it really means we’d have to use our minds and our hearts or else you will get overwhelmed.”
As the founder of his own nonprofit organization, Jukes for Kids, Jukes was asked to come and speak about the potential everyone has to make a difference in the world.
“His heart is really big,” Cebula said. “I’m really excited we get to hear Avery tell his story and his purpose.”
Jukes shared his story with students, faculty and community members.
Jukes first had contact with the Ambassadors for Children organization when some members made a presentation at a required event for his physical education class. He then joined his fellow students in their goal of raising enough money to build a primary school and travel to Uganda to volunteer.
“I always liked to travel to try different things and new experiences,” Jukes said. “I can travel, experience new things and do something I like—which is helping with the school.”
Ambassadors for Children raised $45,000 for the cause in Uganda that year and in June, several members traveled to the country to help clear land and begin preparing for construction of the new school they helped fund.
“There’s a lot of things you see on TV and a lot of things you hear—third world countries aren’t what you see on TV,” Jukes said. “It’s not as bad as everyone makes it seem,” Jukes said.
Jukes said he was immediately touched by the spirit and cheerfulness of the kids he met.
“Lots of them don’t have shoes and their clothes are dirty, but they’re still happy,” he said. “They don’t have even half of the things that you have, but they are still just as happy as you.”
While in Uganda, Jukes had the opportunity to visit other nearby primary schools and even volunteer as a pharmacist for a day when they worked with another organization to set up a local medical clinic for the village.
“We had the swab HIV test and seven out of the 25 people we saw tested positive for HIV—three or four of which were children,” he said. “It was pretty sad and eye opening and I will always remember how impacting that was to me.
“It’s a part of their culture that is very different,” Jukes said.
Upon returning to the states, Jukes said he knew he wanted to do something more for the people of Uganda, but that it was hard to know where to begin his efforts.
“It’s overwhelming,” Jukes said. “Where do you begin? You have to know what you have a belief in and what you want to help change—you can’t change everything and you can’t change it all in a day.”
Another struggle of where to start was how to make people in the United States understand his cause and why it was so important for them to support the cause, Jukes said.
Jukes’ original goal was to raise money to give students in Uganda scholarships to American or European universities for the chance to receive a higher-level education.
Upon learning that most students never finish secondary school and how poor the quality of education was for those who do, Jukes said he had to modify his goal to focus on raising money for the children of Uganda to receive better foundational educations.
“Its my goal to one day build our own secondary school, but that is a pretty lofty goal—around $200,000,” he said. “Hopefully in the future if we can become bigger and raise more money, we can start our own secondary schools and after that we can look to get college scholarships for students.”