volunteering overseas

Meet our winner Kirsten

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Meet our winner Kirsten

This year’s winner of Umoja Writing Competition, Kirsten Leggett generously donated back her prize money. She did receive the first prize trophy and on receiving it said, “Thank you again for such a wonderful opportunity to write for others and share in something that benefits those less fortunate than we. I am humbled to be this years winner of the Umoja Writing Competition.”

About Kirsten Leggett 

Kirsten lives and writes in Tasmania. A writer of short stories and poetry, she writes for both enjoyment and for a deeper understanding of what it means to be human. ‘The Tiny Teacher‘ was Kirsten’s first short story. Most recent published writing includes ‘Interloper’ (101 words.org) and ‘Pear Infused with Jasmine’ (Flash Fiction Magazine).

Umoja Thanks You

Kirsten is a worthy winner and we congratulate her on the wonderful entry ‘The Tiny Teacher‘. Along with Kirsten’s generous donation our second placed, Denise Krklec also donated her prize money back to Umoja. She said, “I worked as a volunteer in an orphanage in Bolivia, and appreciate how difficult it is to source funding – that’s why I entered the competition – and while I’m over the moon my entry was considered so favourably, I’d like to donate my prize money back to the orphanage.” Isn’t that a wonderful conclusion to this year’s competition!

Umoja Writing Competition winner Kirsten Leggett
Kirsten Leggett is the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015. Here she is with the winner’s trophy.

Thanks also to; our founder, Cathy for the wonderful work she does for Umoja Orphanage Kenya; literacy consultant Deborah Lawrence for donating the winner’s trophy and judging; writer Martin Knox for a generous funding donation; Umoja communications officer Shanyn Limpus for judging and of course all the writers who entered Umoja Writing Competition 2015.

Next year’s competition will be run in a slightly different format (still to be advised). We are considering a smaller entry fee to entice more entries and more focus on entrants considering sponsoring an Umoja Orphan. If anyone has any ideas about how to make next year’s competition a fundraising success for Umoja Orphanage Kenya, please contact me through our contact page.

Last word: Unite your writing with a worthy cause to feel the realisation of your words flowing towards a better world.

The winner is – ‘Tiny Teacher’ by Kirsten Leggett

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Today we announce the winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015. It is both exciting and sad to come to this point in our competition. Exciting because our winner is about to find out, and sad because this year’s competition is over.

We’d like to thank everyone who entered to help make this fundraising and literacy venture a success. Though entrant numbers were down, we still managed to raise valued funds for Umoja Orphanage Kenya, and the wonderful work Cathy and her team do. We thank you all and hope you enjoyed crafting your story and entering our competition.

This year we allowed African entrant the chance to enter free, so they could enjoy the process of entering the competition. The competition has been designed to help Kenyan literacy levels and provide funding for the orphanage that will also have classrooms.

African Special Mention

We’d like to make special mention of our highest ranked African entrant, Nancy Lindah Ilamwenya from Ethiopa. Her entry ‘Of Nice and Mean’ was a beautifully crafted entry. Continue your writing, Nancy and we wish you the best of luck with your life goals. We will post Nancy’s entry and the winning entry on the blog in the coming days.

The Winner

Okay here we go with the drum roll. Now for the overall winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015. The winner is Kirsten Leggett from Tasmania, with her wonderful entry ‘Tiny Teacher’. Congratulations Kirsten.

Please return to see these entries. Now you be the judges when these four entries are posted let us know what you think of them. Give only literary feedback, thank you.

A quick thank you again to our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya.

Please visit the orphanage Facebook page to see the latest information on the volunteer group who have just visited Kenya with Cathy. If you are interested in volunteering overseas you couldn’t find a better place to go.

The countdown continues

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The countdown continues to our winner of Umoja Writing Competition 2015.

We’ve already announced third and it was Judith Howe’s ‘Cup of Water’. Hopefully you’ve already read and enjoyed Judith’s entry. Now we announce second place. The quality of entries was very high and again we’d like to thank our judges Deborah Lawrence, teacher and literacy consultant (and also the sponsor of our trophy) and Shanyn Limpus, communications officer for Umoja Orphanage Kenya. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to judge our entries.

Another drum roll please (African drums), ta da da!

Second place: WINTER by Denise Krklec.

A big congratulations to Denise from Rochedale, Queensland. Here is her entry:

Winter

The fireman shut down their hoses and trudged through the whiteness to stow their equipment. The snow was already masking their trucks, blanketing the scene quickly as if to cover the horrors of what sizzled and spat behind them. There were no words between the men as they went about their duties, just as there would be no more sounds from the bodies found in the smoking ruins of the house. There was nothing left – just irregular hisses and crackles as the house succumbed, groaning its last words.

There remained one fireman in the snow, rolling the last hose, numb with cold and sorrow. It was a small community and he knew the house, the driveway, the letterbox, and the family. As he turned in salute a final time toward what now ceased to exist, he heard a noise that didn’t match the destruction before him. He went to investigate.

His torch penetrated the darkness, searching under beams, exploring the ruins, casting light on devastation. He moved toward the sound, unsure of its location or origin. An animal? Perhaps a kitten? It was a boy. A boy with melted skin and frozen limbs and no words.

Six weeks later the boy still had no words. All he had was loss – a mother, a father, sisters, toes, fingers, muscles, eyebrows, ears, lips, hair, and all his vitality. Body parts not burnt by the fire were frostbitten from lying in the snow. He wanted to be held, with arms outstretched and tears snaking down damaged skin but there were too many wounds, too many bandages, and dressings, and tubes. And the wrong people. His eyes continued searching for the right people even after the professionals explained his loss in three-year old language. He was stuck in memories of winter, under the window, in the snow, a burning house behind him, and dad rushing away from the window towards screams.

He entered my domain unannounced, in the arms of an aunty. She had confused the appointment time and arrived as I was switching off lights, ready to return to my world of no words. A world thousands of kilometres away from heartbreak and emotional torment that still fitted like a glove. At least I could escape to a new world of new friends, new activities, and a new job, but one look at the boy and I knew he couldn’t escape anything. Even surrounded by the love of his extended family his eyes remained disinterested. I, to him, represented more pain, more trouble, more work and no compensation for his loss at all. We were both far from home – I, travelling the world on a working holiday, and him, with only the hospital to call home – and yet our paths had crossed.

We set a recurring appointment. Twice a week the boy taught me things I was not prepared or willing to learn. He forced me to examine my cloak of issues and to decide what was worth fighting for – what things were worth keeping wrapped around me, and what could be discarded and should be discarded forever. I taught him how to move again despite his scars and fears and pain. Together we found our words.

A three-year old taught me that despite losing everything, you could still smile. Sometimes the smile was through tears as his skin stretched and his muscles fatigued, but it was still a smile shining through the scars. I discovered it sometimes really hurts to be stretched and you want to kick and scream and yell ‘no’ to the things that make your life hard, but if you have someone you trust with you through the stretching there are opportunities for smiles.

He taught me that even though your arm won’t bend and you don’t have all your fingers, you can still give high fives. It was just a matter of adjusting thoughts and patterns. While the losses were still present and keenly felt, there were times when a high-five was required. No question asked. An accomplishment, something to be proud of, something deserving a kind word, or a victory dance with what did still work. Followed by a high-five.

The boy showed me that even if you trip over your swollen feet, you could still run to find the prize. The prize wasn’t big or even valuable but to someone who had lost so much the prize was worth every ache, every tear, and every effort in the fight to gain the prize. Even better if the prize was something the boy had chosen – a goal to work toward, something again to live for and strive for, damning those losses to a place only examined at the appropriate times.

I learnt from the boy a hug still means ‘I love you,’ even if you can’t squeeze tight, or lift your arms high enough, or maintain your balance while reaching out. A hug meant that we were in it together even through the pain and the tears and the yelling. A hug meant all was forgiven. A hug meant despite the losses there was still the capacity to love, to experience, to communicate, and to receive.

Our words taught me the value of friendship – despite the differences in age and life experiences, and despite what the future might hold. Our words right then meant the world.

Come back to see who takes out FIRST place.

See more about Umoja Orphanage Kenya.