I returned from Africa just over a week ago and even after a week I can’t seem to put to words what that time meant to me. How do I help you to understand what it was like to arrive at the Entebbe airport at 11 pm to a welcoming crew that had driven four hours to come and pick me up, hugs from everyone. How I was at a loss for words for most of the three hour trip home because I was so busy taking in every passing motorbike and roadside stand filled with people eating food cooked on fires, or the smell of those fires which fills the air and always reminds me of Africa or India. What words will express the feeling of meeting our team member Sharon for the first time and feeling like we were immediately sisters, and then spending the next two weeks with her and Dr. Isaac and Godfrey, acting like four siblings, teasing and laughing and sharing some of the most incredible moments and all four of us really “getting it”.
The team had our time together tightly scheduled so that we could do as much as possible in the short time I was there. This trip was meant for learning and I learned so much. We went from 9 am – 7 pm every day, visiting our community daily as well as seeing local organizations that dealt with things like malnutrition, jigger removal and care and working to keep families together. We also spent one day at the children’s hospital visiting the wards, distributing much needed supplies and learning what the biggest issues are (most things are secondary to malnutrition). We visited farms and farmers who shared so much information on growing successful gardens to feed our community, as well as farms who raised chickens for both eggs and meat. We learned about water storage, I saw first hand how far people in our community travel to fetch it, and now more than ever I see the importance of wells. We visited schools where we talked to children about their dreams and aspirations (and found that many children in our community don’t have dreams, but they are starting to!).
So instead of trying to give you the day by day report, I thought I would instead share with you some of the most special moments of the trip- moments that will stay with me forever and made me fall so in love with our project and the community we work with that I am going to do everything possible to make our goals a reality. I really wish you could all come with me, to meet these incredible, strong, determined people and see what I saw- that if anyone can bring themselves out of poverty and really difficult circumstances, it is this community. They are amazing. And they are just the beginning…
The welcoming party was filled with dancing, singing and hugs. I immediately felt embraced and a part of this community. They show their love and happiness by singing and dancing and it is a beautiful thing to witness.
Mamas- they were so quick to show their love, embracing me into their families, lifting me up when I was so very sad to leave. I felt so blessed to be surrounded by that kind of nurturing, not as a mama myself, but as a daughter. I miss hugging those wonderful women. These women are the strongest women I have ever met. I was humbled to be able to even attempt what they do every single day. They can carry a jerry can full of water on their head, a baby on their back and bags from the market in both hands. They raise not only their own children, but oftentimes their grandchildren as well. They left me inspired and I am already looking forward to the next time I will spend time with them.
This is Topista and I KNOW if we lived in the same city we would be friends. She is a mama of six, and she is always smiling. She is the definition of positive and grace. And even though she has a shy disposition, when she was asked to sing and dance for me, she put her whole heart into it. I watch the video below regularly to remind me of how special her friendship is.
I knew I loved Jussie before I even met her. I had followed her story through photos the team had sent me over the past year. This young mama is the same age as #1, with three babies of her own. She is an incredible mama and I told her that I would be so blessed to have a daughter like her. While I often talk about adopting a little girl from Uganda, what it is I really wish for is a daughter like Jussie, that I could tell all of the things I wish I had been told. And so I did- I told her she is an amazing mama who is so strong. I told her that she is smart and could do anything she puts her mind to. And I told her that I love her. Many times.
Laughter- these mamas laugh often- they laugh and tease and support each other. Laughter that comes from deep down in their souls and lights up their entire faces. Gorgeous, beautiful faces. While we didn’t share a language, we definitely shared laughter.
The men- Fred, Alenga, John, Moses (who am I forgetting) – men that step outside of the “normal” roles of men in this culture and work hard beside the women, being role models, stepping up when women need help, building gardens to teach others how to do it, then sharing starts with others to start gardens of their own. They helped build kitchens and latrines and whatever else is needed.
Holding babies- babies sleeping, babies crying, baby Mabel on my back- one of THE MOST special moments of the trip. It wasn’t just having her asleep on my back, it was working in a field, with a simple hoe, in the Africa sun, with a baby on my back. Those mamas are beyond amazing.
I feel so lucky to have had those two weeks. With the time there the team had a chance to really discuss where we came from and where we would like to go with this project. We have big goals and are so confident that this partnership is going to bring great things to this community. But our hope is that it will not only effect this community, but continue to spread throughout the area to other villages, bringing health and prosperity to people all over rural Uganda.
Soon we will be sharing an incredible campaign that we would love for you to be a part of. We are working with professionals to complete the plans and as soon as we have all of our information collected, we will be unveiling it to you! Stay tuned!