We made it to Uganda! It was definitely a long 32 hours of traveling, but William and Peter, our BTC in-country partners were waiting for us at the airport and ALMOST all of our luggage made it through safely! Bessie had to last-minute check her carry-on of personal items, and we think it may have gotten off the plane by accident in Kigali, Rwanda. She’s handling it pretty well so far though. Hope we find it soon, for her sake! After dodging (literally) oncoming traffic for the hour drive to our hotel, everyone basically just crashed.
Our hotel is pretty nice tho! It’s much closer to the orphanage so commuting will not be such a concern this year, and each room has its own bathroom complete with shower. My closet is basically just a partition in the wall with no drawers, hangers, or shelves.. but that’s ok. Internet speeds leave a little to be desired, too, haha.
So, as is now custom, I woke everyone up this morning with “The Circle of Life” from the Lion King soundtrack :) Worked like a charm! There’s something about the first morning in Africa and waking up to “Naaaaaaahhh Tsevenyaaaaaaaa!!!….. badabiis addimo mo……” that helps everyone wake up really quickly, haha. A light breakfast, and then while Peggy and Judy met with Sr. Sylivia and the Archbishop of Uganda (BIG-TIME MEETING) to discuss the future at Nsumba Orphanage, the rest of us reorganized our duffle-bag supplies (now occupying an entire room) and then wandered off to explore the city.
Walking around town, you have to remember just to take it all in and try not to judge. There are the most adorable little children everywhere who yell “MUZUNGU!!!” at you as if getting your attention is crucial to future of the planet, then there was also the naked homeless man sleeping/passed out in a pile of trash where a sidewalk would have been had it been America. The smell of ripe mangos, bananas, and freshly hung goat meat mix with the smells of unregulated exhaust and burning garbage. But mostly, the people catch your attention, as a mix of all walks of Ugandan life abound throughout the city, from rich to poorest poor, and EVERY SINGLE ONE looks at you with a smile and says “HELLO!! How are you!?” Especially to Hunter and Shelby, haha. They got a lot of ‘hellos!’ today, lol. The exhilaration of boda-bodas whizzing by inches from you as you stroll down the side of a crowded dirt road.. There’s just something about Uganda. It’s so foreign. So exciting!
We exchanged some money, and for a brief while I was a multi-millionaire in Ugandan shillings. Then, with Peggy and Judy back, we packed up our vans and headed out for a quick trip to Nsumba Orphanage! This is what it’s all about! :)
Today would just be an introduction for the BTC team: meeting Sister Sylivia and some of her staff, seeing the children, and getting a tour of the grounds (something that had been missing in our previous trips). Of course, when we pulled up to 50 of the schools top students/prefects lining both side of the road and clapping for us, I realized that Nsumba was as anxious for us to arrive as I was to get there! Scanning the crowd, I immediately saw Josephine, one of a crew of girls whom I had gotten to know pretty well last year. I didn’t see Rose, or Sylvia, or Jackie, or Cassie, or Stellah though. At least not yet.
I should backtrack a bit. In case you haven’t read the blog entries from last year’s trip, I made quite a friendship with several of students at Nsumba, especially a group of 10-16 year old girls. Of course, having the job of trip-photographer meant that I got to hang out with the kids and wander quite a bit more than the rest of our group, so I like to think I made friends with a lot of the kids. During that trip I came to the realization that for these children, attention and friendship mean everything. Especially when it comes all the way from America! If you have time, I would highly suggest reading through last year’s posts.
But, back to the point, this group of girls means the world to me. I barely know them if I think about it, but I love each of them so much, and truly deeply care about their well-being. Last year we traded conversation, letters, hugs, and even a few tears during my time at Nsumba. They were ever-present and helpful in my time here, and since then, they’ve written me additional letters in February which were hand-delivered by Peggy and Judy after their visit. I even tried calling them Christmas morning, which didn’t connect directly to them, but I hear the message got through after all. My girls :)
Well, our group was met by this large procession of students at the front entrance. They gave a speech welcoming us to Nsumba, along with a speech by Sr. Sylivia thanking us sincerely for coming and listing a few of the projects we’ve helped on or that they would like to start. Peggy also addressed the group, thanking them for their hospitality and their work in school, which is what motivates us. Which is true. We want all of these kids to grow up to be educated and healthy, primed for success despite their rough upbringing, which is why we do what we do.
As the gathering broke, our tour of the grounds began with a swarm of children immediately joining us. Introductions, laughing, picture-taking, and hand-holding ensued, and oh the names and memories that came ringing back. Francis, the 2 year old from last year with a hurt toe, has grown probably 6 inches. Isaak is exactly the same ball-of-energy, wearing his pink rainboots we gave him last year and swinging from peoples’ arms. Josephine’s laryngitis is gone, Frederick is looking buff with his bow-tie, and in the midst of some pictures, Stellah and Cassie find me!!!
Stellah has new clothes, which makes me extremely happy, and has lost one of her front teeth. Cassie squeezes my hand, and I noticed she no longer has a cut we treated on her forefinger. Huge hugs and smiles are given, and then the girls are reduced to silence in what I assume is a mix of happiness and disbelief. As I bring up these small details and differences from last year, the girls turn to hide their blushing. The fact that I remembered them, and especially that I came back to Uganda, means the world to them.
Sorry sorry, I’m supposed to be including the entire group in these blog entries this year :) Everyone had a blast! Not just me! The tour was casual and oft-interrupted by pictures with the kids, which is exactly how it should be. The reason we’re here is the kids, after-all. Mason spun little ones in the air while Hunter and Shelby became linked to about a dozen each. We toured the medical clinic, and the dormitories and bio-gas cooking stoves, and walked past RUNNING WATER filling yellow jerry cans at the water storage tanks. That’s thanks to Be the Change, in case you hadn’t heard.
Of course, as today was only a short visit, we had to leave much earlier than anyone would have liked. But with the promise of returning tomorrow, we slowly wrapped up our tour and made our way back to the vans. It’s so exciting to be back! Tomorrow we’ll start our work at Nsumba, screening the newest children to create a medical record for each while Gabe and Nicole test the hearing of as many kids as they can. I hope I get to go around and take pictures and video all day, but I guess I’ll do some work too if I have to :)
I loved hearing the new BTC travelers speed-talk about the day after leaving the orphanage. This trip is incredible. Inspiring. Heart-warming. And hearing that everyone else is loving it as much as me makes me even more happy to be a part of Be the Change and this effort. It’s the most rewarding kind of trip there is, and worth every saved penny and vacation day I had to use.
Love the trip!
Safe and healthy and happy!