Vision Trip 2020
When my dear friend, Ann Carter, asked me to go to Uganda with the KamuKama Foundation over a year ago, I felt this nudge inside and immediately said “yes!”. I knew it would be an amazing opportunity to see another part of the world, but I had no idea it would change my heart forever and give me a new perspective on love, faith and the gift of education.
Uganda is truly the most special place with the most beautiful people. When I returned home, I struggled to put into words the love, sweat, tears and PURE JOY that I experienced every day. However, I will try to share a few of the simple moments that added up to a lifetime of change for me.
On our first day in Bwindi, our car slowly pulled off the dirt road into Victory School and my eyes filled with tears as we received the most glorious welcome. Children and teachers waved and cheered and from the moment I stepped out of the car, my heart swelled with instant love. We were asked to sit down and enjoy a special song and dance they had prepared for us. Through their cultural dance they sang us their national song, thanked us for being there and gave us the cutest lesson in saving the environment. For the remainder of the trip, our group would be singing and performing the dance moves to “Wonderful, wonderful environment, Wonderful, wonderful environment, Let’s join hands, conserve it”
The following day we arrived at Ebenezer school up on a beautiful green and lush hillside. We went to the local church to register the students for school, since the new Ebenezer school is still under construction. We also got to visit the new site, and I was in awe of the newly built classrooms the children will get to enjoy! As 250 children waited patiently to walk up and get their name tag, take a school picture and receive their letter from their sponsor, time completely stood still and I was so incredibly present in the moment. As I watched the children waiting for their name to be called, I noticed how calm, excited and happy they were to wait hours to have the opportunity to go to school. They value and treasure their education so much, and repeatedly said thank you to their sponsors who were present in Uganda and those back in the United States. They were proud and excited and as I greeted each child, I didn’t want our moment together to end. It was probably only about 20 seconds as I said hello, smiled and found their name tag, but I hugged each child and wanted each one to know I saw them, loved them and was so excited for their educational journey. Now that I am back home, I can’t stop telling my children how lucky they are to receive an education.
Another special moment that I will always remember was the energetic PTA meeting at Ebenezer school. Approximately 100 parents were present with their children. Everyone was dressed in the colorful Ugandan fabrics and it was truly the best school/parent meeting I have ever attended. To kick off the meeting, parents performed traditional dances and song for us. They were so proud to share their Ugandan heritage with us. A few parents spoke (via a translator) about their gratitude to the sponsors who have provided their children an education, a school uniform and 2 meals a day. It made me realize that these parents may have less material items than we do and often struggling to find a job or food for their family, yet they have the exact same desires for their children as we do ours: love, health, education, safety and nutrition. We are all the same. While we all shared and danced with one another, I learned firsthand the true meaning of building of community and exactly what Jeanne and Carol meant when they said: “it’s not a handout, it’s a hand across.” I realized we are all in this together and it truly “takes a village” to raise children. This day will be forever ingrained in my heart and mind, as each parent came forward one at a time and presented us with a hand-made gift, showing so much respect and gratitude, that my heart burst wide open.
As often as I found joy and elation in being so present in the moment, I also experienced moments of heartbreak. When a young child is sitting on your lap with a distended belly, you just want to nourish them. In those moments, I wanted to care for them and help them in any way I could. But the irony was they were helping me. Their bright smile and spark in their eyes reminded me to be grateful for what I have in my life and not to miss the little things that are so important. All I need to do now, is look at my phone and see their precious faces and my heart is immersed in gratitude.
Other moments I will always cherish will be returning back to Gorilla Forest Camp each afternoon and sharing with the group our highs and lows of the day. Just being able to process our feelings from the day was so helpful and nourished my soul during such an emotional time. We also started our days off with a devotional that always centered my thoughts and brought peace and clarity to the start of our day. Being surrounded by natural beauty all around us was so healing. I feel so lucky to have been a part of this group of incredibly smart, compassionate and faithful women. We may not all live close to each other, but we are bonded together by the incredible experience in Uganda.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t share the special moments I witnessed all week long from the most compassionate, intelligent, articulate, and kind KamuKama staff: Ian, Peter and Robert. I observed each of these men exhibit so much compassion and warmth daily, that I felt like I was in the presence of a modern-day Mother Teresa. Their words were full of comfort as they held a child’s hand or guided a teacher to their seat. When they spoke, everyone stopped and listened and hung on every word they had to say. Their gentle spirits taught me to slow down, observe and listen and I will hear what God is calling me to do.
I am forever grateful for the opportunity to visit Uganda and to represent the KamuKama Foundation. I was given the gift of friendship and unconditional love. I lived in the moment every minute of every day. I danced like no one was watching, I recaptured my childlike spirit, and my heart will never be the same.