This wise and insightful post was written by Hannah. I think I'm going to make it required reading for all prospective CTT team members!
"The other day I was asked by another SMK visitor, Monique, what I would take away from being in Uganda. As this trip has been closer to ending, I have been asking myself the same question. I came up with four themes that represented my stay at SMK.
When you think of family, those are the people that are closest to you. They are those people who support you, love you, know things about you that other people would not, know how to cheer you up, and even how to push your buttons. As I came to Uganda, I knew I would make new friends, but was never in the mindset of leaving with a new family.
On the first day of teaching, SMK had a Parade (school assembly) where our team was introduced to the students. At the end of our introduction, Moses, the headmaster of the school said something to us that resonated with me. 'You come in as strangers, but leave as family'. How amazing is that?! Complete strangers willingly opening their hearts and homes to us, not just as visitors, but accepting us as a part of their family. However, that’s how it is here at SMK. Every staff member and child has welcomed us with an open heart and mind. Melissa has been a true blessing to us! She has let the Strings for Uganda team take over her home and has been amazing. I understand why the children here call her Mama Melissa. The people here have now become my family in Uganda. I know that if I came back 5, 10, even 15 years from now, they would still welcome us just as they have done now.
Coming to Africa has been a dream of mine, even before Strings for Uganda was ever an idea. As a teenager I participated in many missions trips and felt that Africa was a part of my future. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be here 15 years later and on top of that, to teach violin. But that has become the reality and I am grateful. Until this past year, Africa was only within hands reach of a computer, rather than something I would actually experience. Being at SMK has brought upon new perspectives of all areas in my life; the way I live, interact with others, work, feel, etc. My life at home is so busy and there are many times that I forget to 'stop and smell the roses'. However, being in Uganda has brought that into perspective. I forgot how there are so many simple things I should appreciate. For example, time is so important in my life. Everything is on a schedule and there is a deadline for everything and most of my time is taken up by work. I have found that in Uganda time is not always a priority. Things run late, a simple hello turns into an extended conversation, hugging a child becomes a play date that can last a day. Back home I feel that sometimes we take the quality away and think of quantity. How much time can I spare? How long will it take? I only have 10 minutes. We tend to forget about what you will take away from that experience with someone or something.
I feel very fortunate to have always had my needs met. I never went without, whether it was food, toys, clothes, being loved, having an education, etc. However, at SMK I have found myself being fulfilled in a way that is difficult to categorize. The feelings I have come from the people I have met here. There is a presence of genuine hopefulness, positivity, and joy. Through every smile and hello, you can tell that it was meant for you. It’s not just a general statement or action made out of obligation. I think of the first time I met Mama Rosemary. When you see her, you see an older woman in her 60s, but as she begins to talk and move she carries the presence of someone much younger. She exudes positivity, love, energy, joy, and she seems to glow. As she approached our team, she did not hesitate and gave each one of us a hug, rather than shake our hand. She shares how grateful she is to have us at SMK teaching students the violin. Her voice and demeanor are genuine and you can’t help but smile from within and reciprocate the feeling. That’s the fulfillment I get from the people around here. You can’t help but smile and feel a sense of joy.
Uganda and SMK will never be finished in my heart. I will forever carry them wherever I go. I can’t imagine leaving here and not coming back. There will always be another project to work on or begin and kids to see and love. I plan on taking my own experience and sharing it with my family, friends, and students in Kansas City. I have already created lessons and fundraising ideas to begin once I get back home. I have family here now, and that family is forever.
FAMILY. FORTUNATE. FULLFILLING. FOREVER."
- Hannah Ho