This blog post for #KFUgandaTrip2017 was the hardest for me to write as it marks the end of an amazing journey. We’ve heard back from many of you – alumni of previous trips, friends, families and supporters about how much you’ve enjoyed our posts from the field. Thank you for this positive feedback. It was important to us to capture each day’s experience in order to preserve the memories and to help us process our emotions coming from each day’s activities. I consulted with the team during our last “highlights and lowlights” session (conducted at Cafe Javas on the way to the airport and just before digging into Sharon’s birthday cake) if they thought a final wrap-up blog post was in order; they all agreed we should do it.
The previous blogs were based on the first eight days of the trip spent with the Kain Foundation projects – current, past and prospective. We spent our last two days visiting Murchinson Falls National Park and Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Both are highly recommended stops and offer breathtaking views of nature and animals. We purposely chose not to write blogs for these days to allow the team to take a break from technology and recharge before coming back to Australia.
So, back to the first eight days of the trip, here’s a recap of our most memorable bits.
That’s a wrap for the 2017 trip. We hope these blogs have encouraged some to sign-up for future trips and for all to continue supporting these great projects.
Kain Foundation Commercial Manager
(On behalf the of the #KFUgandaTrip 2017 Team: Evan, Sharon, Nick, Michael, Madelaine and Scott)
As the 2017 Uganda trip draws to a close, it is only appropriate that we returned to one of the original projects the Kain Foundation supported in Uganda. It is Sunday and that means (at least) two things in Kampala: a plethora of people in their Sunday best attend church services and the traffic is ‘as good as it gets’ (it’s possible the two are interrelated). For our group, it means a trip to Watoto in Suubi and a cultural performance at night.
Watoto is, in short, a school facility for vulnerable youth, but it is so much more than that. Over three campuses at Suubi, Bbira and Gulu, Watoto cares for newborns, school aged children and tertiary students. These children are orphans, abandoned, in child-headed families or in other vulnerable positions. They are found by Watoto social workers – or sometimes referred to Watoto from the Police – and brought to the campus to be housed and educated.
What struck me most about Watoto is its holistic approach; the administrators put their considerable resources towards ensuring that each child is given the best chance to succeed in life. Watoto aspires for its graduates to become future leaders (in whatever capacity) of Uganda. How they go about doing this is constantly evolving. Philip, our Watoto guide for the tour told me that he feels like they are learning to fly while piloting the plane. An example he gave me of one of their current challenges is how to best go about transitioning their young adults (some of whom who would have only known Watoto) into the real world.
We toured the junior, senior and vocational schools. One of the early teams from the Kain Foundation to visit Watoto built an ablution block and some group homes on site; I’m pleased to report that they are still standing! We finished with lunch at two group homes with the students and house mothers. The kids were very switched on and driven, but a little taken aback when I fessed up to not attending church and even more so when I said I didn’t have any children!
A current thread of this trip has been about the importance of sustainable projects. This view has been shared by the majority of the local project leaders with whom we have interacted. Watoto is well funded – with each child having 8 to 10 donors on average – and it shows. The facilities would put some Australian classrooms to shame. Nevertheless, the Watoto leadership are putting in place plans to become about 50% self-sufficient by upskilling their older students in technical skills and selling student handiwork in the market.
The resources and facilities of Watoto stand in stark contrast to the other projects we have visited. It shows what can be achieved on a grassroots level once support meets local drive.
As for the cultural performance, all I can say is that my very limited experience attempting Ugandan traditional dance left me very impressed with the skill and athleticism of the performers. Uganda is a country of many nations, with their own languages and traditions (and dances!). The performers’ exhibition of the dances drove home this fact. Combined with some cow-based comedy from the MC (who fabulously was also wearing a friesian hat and shoes) and a boogie on stage with the performers, it was an excellent way to close the trip.
The past week in Uganda has really put things in perspective for me. It is easy to take the simple things in life for granted and it is only once you are on-the-ground in a country like Uganda that you realise just how lucky we have it.
In Uganda we have seen firsthand the challenges that families face to be able to put food on the table, access a clean source of water and provide their children with the education needed to further their lives.
However, nothing has put things more in perspective and confronted and challenged me personally than our visit to the Missionaries of the Poor today. The women’s missionary, located in the slums of Kampala, provides a home for orphans and disabled people that others can’t or won’t care for in an unforgiving society.
We were given a tour of the home by Brother Gabriel, one of seven Brothers in the Missionary, and introduced to the young and old women who battle so courageously with disability.
I have no doubt that the Brothers in the Missionary are the most kind-hearted and caring people that I have ever met. They have dedicated their lives to serving the most vulnerable people in society and do it with a smile. They were very generous with their time and I can only hope that the Kain Foundation’s donations and our time spent with the kids is of some help.
What really hit me was hearing the story of a young girl from the Democratic Republic of Congo. She had witnessed her mum and dad being shot and killed by a rebel group and was left with a serious disability when her family tried to escape the war torn country. It’s hard to even imagine the pain that she has to go through on a daily basis and you can only be thankful that she is now in a safe place at the Missionary.
It is hard not to leave the Missionary as a changed person and I wish that I could have done more.
In the afternoon, we visited Kids for Africa founded by Asimwe Marvin a young Ugandan man who, at the age of 24, has created a platform for educating children through sport. It was obvious that the kids saw Asimwe as a role model and it was amazing to hear how Kids for Africa has provided disadvantaged kids with an enthusiasm for life-long learning and achieving their dreams.
The final chapter of the day involved the prestigious Kain Cup. The Uganda “trippers” were divided into different teams and partnered with students. Unfortunately my famous Lions team lost the final in a penalty shootout which meant that Michael “Gazman” Garry’s team of Rhinos were victorious. It is unknown whether match fixing was involved, however investigations have begun. We approach Gaz for a response; he declined to comment, however, we understand that preparations for a defamation suit have begun.
One week in and the Uganda trip has already been everything that I could of asked for and more. It is definitely the trip of a lifetime and I can’t wait to see what is planned for the coming days.