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Brian Turindwamukama
Project HappinessRose Parade

New country, new direction

Brian Turindwamukama was nervous as he stepped onto the grounds of Wildwood Hills in St. Charles, Iowa. He was scared that he wouldn’t make any friends. Scared he wouldn’t know what to do during meals or social hours. Scared about being apart from his Kiwanis sponsor. 

Only a few months earlier, Brian had been living in his hometown in Uganda. Now he was a freshman at Scattergood Friends School in West Branch, Iowa—and attending a Key Leader weekend at the invitation of Byron Tabor, the Kiwanian who sponsors him. Brian at key Leader

During the weekend, Brian found a community of acceptance. Other attendees showed interest in his life back in Uganda and his new experience as an American high school student. By the end of the weekend, Brian had made dozens of new friends. In addition to developing his leadership qualities alongside his new friends, he learned more about American customs for almost everything—including helping others.

“Here, people are willing to ask you if you need help,” he says. “They ask how you’re feeling, if everything’s okay. In Uganda, unless you ask someone for help, you won’t know they need it. That’s different for me.”

Also different for Brian was seeing how others serve their communities. After meeting someone who collects money for various charities, Brian began thinking about how he could contribute to people in need.

“It made me think more about what I was doing, because he’s just one guy with a passion to help,” he says. “I felt like I benefited from meeting him, so I thought it would be important for other students to benefit from me in a similar way. I felt like I could give back.”

The next year, Brian returned to the Key Leader weekend at the camp as a student facilitator with the goal of helping other students realize how they could make an impact on their communities. As he led other students in group activities, he made a discovery of his own—what kind of adult he wants to be. Now a junior, he plans to work in human rights or the medical field after college.

“It changed me in several ways—the way I help people, even the views I had about wanting to go to college,” he says. “I know I have to make my career in something where I can help other individuals.”