July 3rd and July 4th, The Awaited Arrival: Austin

In the afternoon of July 3rd the group finally arrived in Uganda. Though they were a bit tired from the journey, I could see excitement in their eyes as we regrouped in the parking lot of the Entebbe airport. I arrived about a month before the group. After graduating from William and Mary in the middle of May, I went with the choir from William & Mary to South Africa. We visited various parts of South Africa, learning, visiting the sites, and singing concerts. On May 31st I arrived in Uganda and spent the next 15 days helping out at the Matugga home, the Gateway Youth Ranch, and the Buwala home. I had the pleasure of introducing my good friend Lindsey to the children and ACCT’s projects in Uganda. She loved the kids and the programs we are working on. We taught school lessons with the kids, and worked on other projects around the homes. We also spent time just hanging out with the kids and building relationships. It is important that our work in Uganda is based in close partnership and relationship with the people we are trying to serve.

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I was also able to pick up a bunch of supplies for the children’s homes. We helped to purchase 40 mosquito nets for Buwala, and 25 mosquito nets for Matugga, a variety of school supplies for Buwala because their supply was running a little low, some toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap, some towels, bed sheets and mattresses. I asked Paul what happened to the handwashing stations we had left with them last year, he said the nozzle for two of the water jugs were broken and they were saving the 3rd one for special occasions. Though I appreciated Paul’s planning for the future, handwashing should not be something reserved for special occasions. It needs to be something that happens multiple times everyday. Lindsey and I took the water jugs into Jinja and got them repaired. It only cost a few dollars.

After working at the three children’s homes for a few weeks, I spent two weeks volunteering for the Youth and Community Health Counseling Initiative (YCHCI), a community based organization in Kawempe, which is focused on educating communities about health issues, particularly HIV/AIDS. I did some mosquito net distribution, home visits where we were doing malnutrition screening and health education, and an outreach to a secondary school where I taught a lesson about sanitation and hygiene.

On Monday morning, I had a meeting with Victoria from the Child’s I Foundation. The Child’s I Foundation is an NGO that focuses on foster care and reunifying orphans and vulnerable children with a family member who can take care of them. It was a very useful meeting. We talked about what the Child’s I Foundation does, and how we might be able to partner with them. Someday it seems that we could improve our reunification programs with Amahoro by hiring a trained social worker who would focus on reunification programs. After the meeting, I drove to the airport to meet the team. We crammed all of our bags and ourselves into the bus. It was a tight fit, but we made it work. We dropped of our things at the Entebbe Guest House and then went to the botanical gardens in Entebbe. The gardens have a lot of beautiful old growth trees, and lush green plants. We had a lovely dinner prepared by Chef Steven, a friend from our time in Uganda last year, who is also an exceptional chef. We spent the rest of the evening organizing medicines for our upcoming medical clinics. I knew it was going to be a good team because they were willing to work on the first night, even after a really long journey from the US.

On Tuesday, we stopped by an agricultural store for some things for the goats, and then went to the Days for Girls office in Kampala where we introduced ourselves and our work with the Amahoro Children’s Homes. It was a very fruitful introduction, and they agreed to come out to Matugga and Buwala to teach the girls about women’s health and how to sew the feminine hygiene kits.

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We spent the rest of the day at the Matugga home, and we toured the new school, went down to the goats, and spent time hanging out with the kids. Some of the children had made posters and drawings about the 4th of July. It was fun to celebrate this holiday with them. The new school is amazing and it will be beautiful when it is finished. We have some major details to work out for the school, but I am excited for this new project!

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In the evening, several of us went to the Rotary meeting in Wobulenzi, a town just north of Kampala. The rotary meeting was different than any that we had experienced before. Ugandans like celebrations and formality and acronyms. The guest of honor was the bishop of Kasana-Luweero diocese. At the meeting they were inducting a new president for the next year. Traditional Ugandan culture is fairly patriarchal, so it was wonderful and slightly unusual that the new president was a woman. We enjoyed the meeting a hope that we can strengthen our partnership with Rotary International.

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