Virtual volunteering event

World Children’s Day: How Simone’s Kids and ACOPP are shaping our future, one kid at a time

World Children's Day #GoBlue

World Children’s Day is held each year to promote international togetherness, awareness among children worldwide, and the improvement of children’s welfare. It began as Universal Children’s Day in 1954 and is celebrated every November 20.

We had the opportunity to interact with Simone Puccinelli, Founder/President of Simone’s Kids and Hakee Mitchell, Executive Director of ACOPP

Simone’s Kids exists so that the children in Nakaseke can strive for a successful future through quality education in a nurturing environment.

ACOPP provides resources and assistance to families, especially the children with an incarcerated parent.

Why is it important to work for child welfare in their formative years?

Hakee – Children are quick learners, and they are ready to absorb what we say to them. They are pretty much open to new ideas and suggestions. So that’s why it’s so important to grasp them at that stage and develop them in the direction we perceive is right. The impressions that we leave on their minds during those years will last for the rest of their lives and shape them as individuals.

Simone – Most of the study will show us that the ability to be compassionate and feel loved is formed in a child’s brain within the first six months based on how many eyes contact and how much they’re being held. It affects how well they can memorise, and we notice that the development of the brain happens so much in those first ten years. That’s where your core values are formed. And those are hard to break after those first ten years. So we should instil compassion, love, and respect in those children’s formative years to raise them as responsible human beings.

How does society play a role in impacting a child in their formative years?

Simone – Most of the children we work with in Uganda come from different scenarios, like a single parent or a grandparent. It’s like a deficit of love, from the ones who have been completely living on their own. And that causes a significant domino effect in society when we all think we have to take care of ourselves, and no one else will take care of us. And then we don’t look out for anyone else. We deserve a better society with empathy and compassion at its core foundation.

How are you helping children with your respective nonprofits?

Hakee – Assisting Children Of Prison Parents (ACOPP) is a nonprofit organization incorporated under Missouri statutes. We provide resources and assistance to families, especially children with an incarcerated parent, and restore communities to environmentally safe status. We facilitate all seminars/workshops by skilled professionals with accounting experience and knowledge of the subject matter. In addition, supervision of all youth sessions is conducted by experienced staff.

Simone – We worked in a village in Uganda called Nakaseke, and there are 1000s of children who live on dirt roads in fallen down buildings.

They have a public school system, but it has an insufficient capacity. So most children can’t afford to go to public schools. However, we believe education is a necessary tool for giving students a successful future. Therefore, our schools provide a rigorous program to prepare students for universities or vocational programs.

Simone’s Kids has implemented a feeding program that ensures proper nutrition for all students. We have also improved access to clean water at the schools, which is making a significant impact on the students’ overall health.

In Uganda, medical care is sometimes rare and undiagnosed.  But untreated illnesses should not prevent students from reaching their full potential. So Simone’s Kids has built an on-site medical clinic to test and treat both disease and sicknesses.

What were the challenges that you faced during the pandemic and how did you overcome them?

Simone – In Uganda, they’ve had a lot of lockdowns in the past two years. And essentially, the school has been mandated to be closed for almost two years. They are reopening in January. So the biggest thing that we are faced was how to reach these kids that don’t have power, water, or educated parents.

So we started a feeding program where we delivered dried rice and beans every two weeks to the families in need.  And then, as time passed, we realized the school was going to be out for a while, so we implemented a Home-Based Learning program. Our teachers were having one-on-one sessions, which increased work for the teachers, but we are doing what we can.

Now we’re just waiting for the Uganda government to let us know what they’re going to do if they want all the kids to start back where they left off or push them forward. And we’re just trying to adapt based on the government laws that they’re implementing.

Hakee – Dealing with children who have incarcerated parents is extremely difficult. I do the best I can with the small team working without getting much paid because it’s mostly volunteerism. It was hard for us to find children in need due to lockdowns and lack of communication. They couldn’t reach us even if they wanted to as most of them didn’t have internet access, and that’s the most challenging thing we faced during the pandemic. We tried our best to expand our reach and help as many children as we could.

What are some myths about kids you’d like to bust?

Simone – One of the myths which are prevailing in our society is that kids can be controlled using dominance. Adults use dominance to keep children from speaking to teach them authority and discipline. I would say most parents have raised their voices at their children, and that’s just a tactic of intimidation. So, it’s hard for kids to speak up, even if they want to.

Hakee – It is a myth that children don’t have a voice, and they don’t contribute to society because of their age. And I don’t think that we are fully aware of the reality. There are children whose IQ levels are off the charts, and they have ideas and opinions to share out in the world.

Any message for the potential volunteers to encourage them to come forward and join hands with your organization?

Simone – I would say you can make a difference in the trajectory of a child’s life. And sometimes, it could even be about life and death. And when you volunteer and get outside of yourself, you think less about yourself and your life problems and focus on someone else. You end up being a happier person and less self-focused. I would encourage that volunteering impacts you, the children, and your community altogether, making the world a better place.

Hakee – My message to everyone who may want to become part of my cause is to do more good than bad in the world. Try to leave a mark on this world where your presence made a difference to somebody.

We need to build a society where we accept new and open ideas from children without dismissing them because of their age and parental status. Millions of children need our help, and together we can combine our small efforts to create a massive impact in their lives.

Celebrate World Children’s Day with Simone’s Kids and ACOPP and Goodera

Goodera empowers nonprofits such as Simone’s Kids and ACOPP through brand advocacy, fundraising, and long-term volunteers.

We hope that this interview helped you get a glimpse of problems faced by children in underprivileged communities and how Simone’s Kids and ACOPP are trying to make their lives easier and access resources.

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