We woke up early to pitch water, our regular morning routine, and once again I was shown up by the local Ugandan youth. I take a small amount of comfort in knowing they have been doing this their whole lives..but the competitive side of me feels the strong need to train for my next visit to Uganda : ) Today was the first in a series of days that we would be working on filling in the foundation for the new Hopeful School building. It took us about forty minutes to walk there. The walk certainly put in perspective the effort that the local students make just to attend and receive an education.
When we arrived, I was blown away by what I saw. Not only were a majority of the kids already hard at work, but their families were as well. Now I understand the extent to which this community values educational opportunities for the youth. It warmed my heart to know that while they all have many pressures at home, their priority was building the school. Now when I say they were working, I mean they were WORKIN'. The majority of the work was hoeing, digging, and loading up wheelbarrows and baskets to fill in the foundation. From the kids, to the parents, to the grandparents - everyone was so strong and relentless in their efforts. They probably found our attempts at this type of work extremely entertaining. Regardless, they were all so appreciative of our help and made sure to let us know throughout the day.
A number of individuals who work with the organization have said that we provide the people in the Masaka community with hope simply by being there and giving our time. Seeing the way this community banded together to build this school, gives me hope in the good nature and selflessness of people. The fact that, despite the poverty they face every day these individuals are able to unite for a greater cause, is a mighty good sign for humanity. I have been told that there is no such thing as true altruism, and that might be true, but I do believe that their actions are about as close as one could get. It brings up that old familiar feeling of who has it better off. I feel very privileged for having grown up in a loving household where there was always food on the table, a bed to sleep in, and so many opportunities to grow as an individual. I have always felt a strong pull towards a life dedicated to granting those less fortunate, with similar opportunities. Somewhere along the way I realized that those I would consider less fortunate have provided me with just as many opportunities as I have provided them. I have learned to see things from a different perspective, what real hard work is, to be light-hearted, and to truly appreciate each new day.
Three for the day - new friends, grass (i will never take all of our nice fresh state side grass for granted again), and inspiration - the many forms it comes in
Thursday was one of my favorite days. After doing some more work, we made visits to the homes of a number of the kids who attend Hopeful. We each gave 20,000 ugandan shillings to buy items including sugar, bread, soap, and flour for the families.
The first home that we visited consisted of grandparents taking care of their own grandchildren and other children who had been orphaned due to the AIDS epidemic in the area. The grandfather was blind and could no longer do any digging and the grandmother was obviously very old and had been fighting off a bad chest cold for the past few weeks. The conditions were very very poor with one small front room and a bedroom behind it where the "beds" consisted of nothing more than small mats on the floor. While the grandmother had been unable to join in on the building of the school due to her cold, John informed us that she is one of the most heavily involved in Hopeful. There were six kids living with them and I recognized a number of their faces right away. I was very humbled by the experience. As little as there was in external wealth, their love for each other and for the little they did have was tangible. That ran true in each home that we visited including the last one.
The final visit we made was to my family (everyone was designated a family). The second we pulled up I recognized both the little boy and the grandfather. The little boy was John, the first kid I interacted with on Tuesday when we visited Hopeful. The grandfather was one of the individuals I had been digging with at the school the day before. He spoke some english, which made the interaction much easier. I told him that his hard work was my constant motivation to keep working hard and he told me the same! Isn't it funny how that works. After giving many thanks and hugs, he mentioned that times have been hard and that it is difficult to cultivate the land as he is getting older and the children are still too young to contribute. I gave him some extra money in the hopes that it could make a small difference
The most eye opening part of the visits for me was seeing the kids in their homes. Just earlier that day, those same kids were just that - kids. In my eyes, they were carefree, playful and had smiles you couldn't wipe away if you tried. Interacting in that school setting, you would not believe the level of poverty they face at home. Although I was fully aware (even before the home visits), that the conditions in this area are extremely rough, it is so easy to forget due to the unbelievably positive nature of every single kid. After being invited into their reality, I had a whole new appreciation for their unwaivering resiliency and their never fading smiles.
With that, here are my three: optimism, hard work, and feeling at home in a new place
|first home visit|
|boda boda ride. nice n cozy|