Charles’ Journal

October 7th, 2017

Habibah, Margaret, Patricia, Sarah, Charles and Faith outside Bujuuko High School

Day 1 July 12-13, 2017

In May I heard about this trip for the first time. Now, two months later, I’m in Kampala, Uganda, writing in this journal in the worst (or least nice) hotel I’ve ever stayed at surrounded by mosquito netting. In two days, I’ve visited two new continents and made my first trek outside of America.

So far, the trip has been both enjoyable and mind opening, yet sometimes jarring. I’ve seen the splendors of the African countryside and the great lake Victoria. Along with this I have seen Ugandans living in poverty beyond anything I’ve seen before and listened to Ugandans discuss political issues in their country that are so far beyond what I know. I’m excited to see what the rest of the trip here will bring along with what other new experiences I will have.

Day 2 July 14, 2017

Visiting Bright Kids Uganda today was quite an experience. It’s easy to distance yourself from poverty when it’s only on TV or in a book, but it’s impossible not to be moved when a disabled African orphan grasps your hand and smiles up at you.

It was equally amazing to see how one person with so little can accomplish so much. The lady who founded and runs Bright Kids, Victoria, began in poverty herself yet managed to climb out of it and devote herself to helping save others. Meeting her was like meeting a living Saint. It was one of the most inspiring moments of my life.

I also learned I love jack fruit and all the dogs look the same in Uganda.

Day 5 July 17 2017

I am astounded that the students at Bujuuko manage to accomplish so much with so little. The state of that school is so far below what we have in the United States, yet the students there do so much and behave with such discipline.

I was also amazed at how warmly they welcome us and the appreciation they showed for what we’re doing for them. Students in America, myself included, take for granted all of the luxuries and privileges we receive. I’m curious to see what work we’ll actually get done here and what it will be like once we get to know the students better.

I’ve also decided that: Passion fruit juice > pineapple juice > mango juice

Day 6 July 18 2017

Work at the high school was interesting, especially getting to interact with the students. I continue to be amazed their diligence, perseverance, and enthusiasm despite their circumstances. One student, Nicholas, talked to me about his aspirations to be a lawyer and how hard he had worked and planned to work to achieve this goal. He also said that he someday hoped to travel to other countries, as I was doing, to help others. I was humbled. My life has been so much easier than his and yet I cannot imagine having as much optimism if I was in his position.

I was further amazed at the resourcefulness of the Ugandans. They reused old nails and went out to chop wood from trees as needed. I am continually astounded at how the people here do so much with so little.

Day 10-11 July 22-23 2017

I didn’t manage to write in this journal yesterday, though considering how busy we were I think it is understandable. We journeyed to the Ssese Islands yesterday to learn about the sustainable development projects and the issues they are facing on the islands. The trip alone was amazing. We finally got to see the famed Ugandan crested cranes, the national symbol. The scenic landscapes of the islands themselves were breathtaking.

Trouble boarding the ferry on time led to a four hour delay in getting to the islands. It’s fascinating how time is treated differently here in Africa and how long it seems to accomplish even the simplest things. Doing things on time is simply not a priority here. Which is somewhat understandable, due to the hectic and unpredictable nature of so many things here. Still, I see how this lax treatment of time hampers business and contributes to the economic and social problems Uganda faces.

Despite these delays, our trip to the islands was amazing and we observed a number of intriguing projects. I was especially impressed by the micro savings program. The program itself is so simple, yet has enabled participants in it to accomplish so much. Again, I’m amazed at the ingenuity of Ugandans and how they find opportunity where it seems none exists.

The AIDS clinic was also an interesting stop. And while a clinic seems like the obvious solution to the AIDS problem on the islands, the culture and social climate again hampers the intended goal. Villages are small and a visit to an AIDS clinic would soon become town gossip. This fear of social stigma prevents many islanders suffering from HIV from ever seeking treatment.

I was additionally amazed at how damaging the palm oil plantations are and how widespread they are on the islands. I’m reminded of similar situations at home in South Carolina where large farms are buying up rural land including near my family there. Such farms destroy the natural landscape, among other problems. While the situation at Kalangala is far worse due to the poverty and lack of regulation on the farms, I find it fascinating how the same problems persist both at Uganda and in the United States.

I was further impressed at the generosity of Dr. Emma. He has accomplished so much on the islands, both in managing the micro savings group and other projects. I was touched by his generosity towards us and how warmly he welcomed us into his home.

Also, while I love jack fruit, there is such a thing as too much jack fruit. On the islands Dr. Emma gave me a whole one, and it proved quite the challenge to eat even a small portion of it back at the hotel.

Day 15 July 27 2017

Another day at the school. This morning we had our second to last workshop and it was the most insightful so far. We discussed how asset based development compared with traditional community development. We concluded that traditional development merely treated the symptoms of the problems while asset based development treated the actual problems. While dropping aid on a community may help them in the short term, only by improving the skills of the community to solve their own problems and helping them use the assets they already possess can real sustainable development be achieved.

Day 17-18 July 29-30 2017

I missed another Saturday journal entry, but yesterday was a rather lax and uneventful day. We went and did a little more souvenir shopping at African Village and a few supermarkets. The only real cultural highlight of the day was getting caught in the rain at African Village. I spent the storm in a shop conversing with a shopkeeper named Remi. She was from a more rural area in western Uganda. She said that life was nicer in the country. She told me it was cleaner there and the food was much cheaper. However, there was more money to be made in the city. She also asked me many questions about my life here. She also told me she’d traveled around some, but had only ever been to Kenya and Uganda. It was fascinating to be able to put a story behind the face of what would have been just another shopkeeper.

As for today, not much to report as it’s still only 7:10 a.m. I don’t expect much to happen today as we’re to spend the day beginning our journey home. We are planning to have lunch with Dr. Sadhat and his family. I know I have not mentioned them much in this journal, but meeting them and getting to know them has been one of the highlights of the trip. They welcome us into their home and treated us like family. I was touched by their generosity and warmth. It was also fascinating to hear from Dr. Sadhat about his perspective on the issues Uganda faces, given he spent an extended period of time studying in the United States. It was also wonderful getting to know his wife, Mandy. Her take on life in Uganda after having grown up in the States has been quite intriguing.

It’s hard to believe that this trip is nearly over, I feel as though it has just begun. I have learned so much from my time here and from the amazing Ugandans I have had the privilege of meeting. I could go on and on about my experiences here, but to keep it concise I’ll list three major points that I learned here.

  1. You can do so much with so little. I have been astounded every day at how much people do here with what little that they have. I have met well spoken, intelligent, and hardworking high school students who accomplish more in a shack with secondhand books than what high schoolers back home accomplish with so much more.
  2. One person can make a huge impact. People I’ve met like Victoria, Robert Katende, Sadhat, Job, and others are all individuals who manage to impact and change the lives of countless others. It is inspiring to see what a difference a single person can make in this world.
  3. The last point is hard to put into a single catchy sentence. But I have learned to be humble and appreciative. In America, I complain about small problems. I worry about a single grade in school or other trivial matters. In Uganda, people overcome incredible poverty and hardship with a strength and optimism that has humbled me. Also, they appreciate things that I take for granted. In America, I frequently complain about my food or the small problems with my apartment. In Uganda, people frequently lack basic resources and are content with rice and beans and having even a small shack to live in.
  4. And, though I limited myself to three points, I have one more I cannot go without mentioning. Faith. I have been so impressed with how faithful and trusting in God the people here are.