|Lillian, Tina, Dawn and Claire Faith|
In just under 2 1/2 months, I’ll be returning to Kajjansi, Uganda with a volunteer team from Kansas City-based Change the Truth. My teenage daughter is coming with for her first trip to Africa, and we’ll be spending part of the holidays with the children of St. Mary Kevin Orphanage Motherhood and other Ugandan friends. We’re ticking off items on our to-do list, including travel vaccinations, applying for our visas, and deciding what activities we’ll be doing with the kiddos.
Since it’s my second trip, I have a much clearer idea of the opportunities to learn from the children as well as the potential to gain a greater understanding of Ugandan culture, even during a short stay. There are plenty of things that I missed on my first trip in 2011, and my earnest hope is to make as much of a genuine connection with the wonderful, sweet souls who reside in that small village as we can.
Amazingly, the power of the Internet and the worldwide reach of Facebook allow me to be a 21st-century pen pal with some of the older children at SMK. We exchange Facebook messages about my upcoming visit, we ask each other about how our day was, and sometimes we get to exchange very critical information. Here’s an example, a Facebook chat I had last week with young Kato Abasi:
Kato: Hi how is the USA? For us in Uganda we are okay and St. Mary Kevin is good.
Me: Glad to get your message. Thank you! We are good here. You know I am coming to visit SMK in December! I will bring my daughter who is 16 years.
Kato: Does she know how to play football or any game?
Me: She does not know how to play football but she can try! She likes other games. Maybe we could play Frisbee again or jump rope.
That was all the chatting we were able to do, probably because Kato’s time on the computer was up or it was time for bed. But this short exchange made me smile because I recalled how fanatical the kids (really, the boys) at St. Mary Kevin are for FOOTBALL (soccer here in the USA), particularly the English Premier League teams. I had taken a couple of
soccer football jerseys from a particularly
popular EPL team with me on my first trip and I gave them to two of the boys
who did not have any type of “sporty” shirt. (I relied on one of the SMK
staff members to help me select which boys received the coveted shirts…no way
was I going to make that call.)
An even more vivid memory was being allowed to play “keeper” (goalie) for a few of the pickup games. There I was, the only female, certainly the only mzungu (white person), kicking around on a red dirt field, watching in awe the athletic skills of even some of the youngest boys. I marveled that most of them weren’t wearing shoes, and the pitch wasn’t exactly a pristine grass field. I’ll boast that I wasn’t scored upon, but only because I made the two best defenders promise me they wouldn’t let a hard shot on goal come anywhere near me. No pictures exist of my time on the field (and that’s no accident or oversight).
Playing football or Frisbee, drawing pictures or reading books, holding a hand or sharing a laugh—all of these create the connections that let a young person know they are loved and that they matter, no matter what their circumstances are. It’s a privilege to have these experiences and share a bond with these young friends. I’ve missed them.
This was first posted on Dawn's Red Dirt blog. If you haven't checked out Red Dirt yet, please do so now!!