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UGANDA 2017 UnforgettaBle

"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign."

Robert Louis Stevenson

at the edge of the nile river

This past summer, myself, along with three other Atlantic Canadian youth, were selected on behalf of the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation to partake in a three week Leadership Tour to Uganda. While in Uganda, visited Mennonite Central Committee partners who are working within the capital, Kampala, and smaller towns, such as Soroti, Kamuli, and Kiryandongo to bring about a positive change through peacebuilding initiatives. This page shares my once in a lifetime experience with you and gives you the opportunity to learn about projects rooted in peace in Uganda

speaking to kasambira high school

AIDS EDUCATION GROUP FOR YOUTH

After arriving in Uganda, we traveled four hours by bus to Kamuli, a small town in the eastern part of the country. AIDS Education Group for Youth (AEGY) is an organization working within the community to promote the education and the de-stigmatization of HIV/AIDS within the town. They provide support groups, school courses, radio talk shows, and health services to people needing them, with funding provided by Mennonite Central Committee.

Uganda opened my eyes to a new way of thinking about architecture. While working alongside local community leaders, what surprised me most was their home building concerns—not only the importance of sustainable architecture, but the priority they placed on the role that architecture can play to support health within their community. We built eco-kitchens from recycled materials and clay which allowed for proper ventilation to reduce the risk of lung related illnesses of people living with HIV. This unique architectural consideration in a simple family dwelling not only made their homes safe, but gave the community a sense of ownership, pride and self-reliance. My first impression was that the substandard housing made of mud was less than ideal and certainly not what I was used to in Canada. In actual fact, this structure, although simple, had a deliberate and purposeful design.

After building the eco-stoves, we were invited to Namasambya 1 Village Savings and Loans Association. We were welcomed by singing and dancing and they provided us with a delicious traditional meal.

Traditional Meal which includes pumpkin and matoke
All soda's in Uganda are produced and served in glass bottles

One of the most memorable moments of this trip was in the afternoon of the first day. We were invited to play football (soccer) against a team from the local school. Words can't explain how much fun I had. When I missed the ball, the over 1000 spectators laughed, which caused me to laugh, and then our full team. It was an incredible experience, one that I will never forget!

Photo by Leah Ettarh
A few photos from my few days in Kamuli (Photos with myself included are taken by Leah Ettarh)
bottlecap earrings made by artivists 4 life (photo credit - leah ettarh)

ARTIVISTS 4 LIFE

After arriving back in Kampala, we spent the following morning at Artivists 4 Life. This organization fuses art with activism and creates a positive impact on members in the community. They use song, art, and dance to raise awareness about community issues as well as provide meaningful employment for youth.

At Artivists 4 Life, I learned how to make bracelets from magazine paper as well as bottle cap earrings. I purchased a plate made from paper and a few bracelets and earrings for friends. During my school presentations, people are amazed on how a simple sheet of paper can be turned into plates, bowls, and even jewelry.

a visit with sister sophia at stella matutina

STELLA MATUTINA SECONDARY SCHOOL

We were welcomed with open arms at Stella Matutina All Girls Secondary School in Kiryandongo. This school was founded in 2001 during the reign of the Lord’s Resistance Army and provided a safe-haven and an education to girls affected by the war. Under Sister Sophia’s leadership, students performed a comedic spin off of Cinderella and a somber, more informative play about malaria and its effects on the community. We enjoyed a meal together that included rice, potato and chicken, and spent the afternoon playing volleyball, soccer, racing Sister Sophia in a 100m dash and teaching the Macarena to the girls- a truly wonderful way to spend my last few days in Uganda.

Our visit landed on a more somber day at the school. Cecile, an intern from Burkina Faso, was finishing up her one year internship at the school. During her time at Stella, she acted as a mentor, teacher, and friend to all the girls. Our visit ended with song and a long goodbye. I could really tell how important Cecile was to the girls.

rumps program - aegy

OTHER PROJECTS

We were also privileged to visit other MCC initiatives while we were in Uganda. Feel free to read more about these important projects in my essay, "Africa through a new lens" on the MCC Ottawa website. As well, feel free to visit the ACGC YouTube account to watch more videos highlighting our time in Uganda.

kampala at night

THANK YOU

A huge thank you to the Atlantic Council for International Cooperation for providing me with this once in a lifetime experience and allowing me to share my experiences with the world.

Thank you to Mennonite Central Committee for inspiring thousands of Ugandans each and every day through your initiatives.

For the leaders, Louise, Leah, Thomas, and Muigai, thank you for always being there for us and for making sure we were so well looked after.

And to my lifetime friends, Julie-Pier, Kardeisha, Jade, Andy, Aidan, Rebeca, Alisha, and Iman; thanks for making this trip the best. Without you guys around, it really wouldn’t be the same.

And to our bus driver, Ronald, who skillfully guided our bus Rosa through the rugged roads of Uganda. I don't think we would have made it past the parking lot of the airport if I was driving. It was certainly an adventure every day

If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together

Kenyan Proverb

Created By
Patrick Handrigan
Appreciate

Credits:

Patrick Handrigan, Leah Ettarh (some photos), Louise Hanavan (some photos)

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