The orphanage in Uganda where Julie Roll works is 7,200 miles from Western New York, but location doesn’t matter, babies need the same thing no matter where they live – love, attention and care.
Julie, who graduated in 2009 from Alden High School and attended the Early Childhood Education program at Erie 1 BOCES Kenton Career and Technical Center, is spending 10 months in Uganda, Africa, working for an organization called Watoto Child Care Ministries. There, she works alongside volunteers caring for AIDS orphans in a holistic home environment.
“I love being another set of hands to this orphanage, being a part of the movement to give these babies a better life so that they can grow up to be great leaders,” said Julie. “I’ve always had a passion for caring for young children, and I always knew that was my calling in life.”
Ellen McKay, Roll’s early childhood instructor at BOCES, said she knew Julie would make a difference to the children she worked with, but that she didn’t expect it to be in Uganda. “Seeing what Julie is doing now in Africa makes me so proud to have been her teacher. She is an amazing young lady,” said McKay.
At the orphanage, Julie spends her days holding, playing and caring for newborns and young children up to the age of two. She bathes and feeds them. She changes diapers. She does exercises with them to help stimulate their brain activity; rubbing different textured objects on their bodies, putting them on their bellies to gauge their strength and showing them colorful picture books to see how well their eyes focus on objects. She provides them with human touch through massage and cuddle time.
Before traveling so far from home, Julie had been working in WNY at a daycare center as a teacher assistant. Her decision to leave was very difficult because she had come to love the children and had met many great people through her job there.
“I’ve always wanted to do a long-term mission trip and travel internationally,” she said.
Being enrolled in the E1B early childhood education class while still in high school was a great decision for her and she uses her training every day.
“I love how the early childhood education class was a two-year program. I got the educational part of learning all about early childhood development and then also being able to have hands-on teaching experiences by creating lesson plans, teaching preschool and doing internships,” she said.
“It’s nice to know what I’m doing with the babies in Uganda is really benefitting them. Being in the early childhood class has been such a great tool for being here working in the babies’ home. I’m having such an incredible time living here in Uganda,” she said.
“I think Julie is an inspiration for all of our students. They all have the ability to go out in the world and do something to make it a better place. Julie is making a difference in the lives of all of the children she is with and she is showing us that one person really can do big things,” said McKay.