What a place! The last week has been nothing short of outstanding. Each child and person I have met has amazed me and stolen my heart. I am having trouble even deciding what event to write about, because every interaction I have had is one that I want to share and remember forever. These children are remarkable. I have been so lucky to spend most of my time here with the senior girls and more recently the senior boys. With these kids as my travel partners and tour guides – from the first day I loved Uganda, and I loved them. #ugandaloveit has become the title of my trip.
Scoiva and Alpha as my guides from the airport and through the school the first couple of days was perfect – it felt like a first day or school for me – I was so excited and a little nervous that the girls would not like me. But Scovia and Alpha changed that in less than a minute. Grabbing my hands and introducing me to everyone – I had two new best friends that were going to be my security blankets for the entire trip. Through these two beautiful girls, I met the senior girl class, and felt like a part of the clique. Over the next few days we shared so much – and what I wanted most was to learn about their plans for the future. And each girl has a plan and a dream. With their determination and the support of Change the Truth, I can see each of them reaching their goals.
Having a few days here with some extra time, I wanted to see Uganda and I wanted to see it while getting to know the kids of SMK better. With a trip to the beach with Rose, Claire, Evalyn and Rebecca - just a few hours splashing and a soda or two later, we had plans to teach me a dance, a debate over David Blaine’s ability to breathe underwater, and a mad dash back to school for a performance.
Scovia and Alpha also were so gracious to accompany me to Mbale, a 4 hour drive away (which turned into 5), where we visited a Jewish village, met with the Rabbi and were shown the community. While this was something special for me, the girls were interested at every minute. We turned the 7 hours drive home into an excursion of its own – with a stop by the Nile in Jinja, a couple of tire changes with the awesome Ambrose (driver of the year) and a late night dinner and photoshoot. The girls heard Rabbi Enosh showing me his welcome sign, reading “Shalom” – saying he wishes people to come in peace and leave in peace. Later in the car the girls asked me about this word – and by the end of the conversation I had sung them a little song that is a part of my Jewish life called “Od Yavo Shalom Aleinu” – a song about peace around the world. And today – the girls had taught ten of the young ones the song and made a dance. The performance had me in tears. Hearing these girls sing something that meant so much to me and having them work to teach it to the other children – made my heart beat so hard that the people sitting next to me could feel it. #ugandaloveit.
In the past, I have traveled with the mission of providing health education abroad, most commonly HIV education. So with the relationship built, and with the encouragement of Melissa, I gave a few sessions on HIV and health. Each session was mind blowing – the amount of knowledge and inquisitiveness coming from both the girls’ sessions and the boys’ sessions were higher than I have ever experienced. But even though these conversations are hugely important to have – they served another purpose for me as well. I got to know the kids even better. After my session with the boys, we decided to take a trip together like I had been doing with the girls – hang out and maybe visit a clinic and teach them even more about healthcare and HIV. I could feel my face light up when they asked me. It gave me the courage to approach some of them one on one to talk like I have been with the girls, asking about their future and talking about what they can do to help themselves reach their goals. And let me just say – this place might be producing some of the worlds future artists, music producers, journalists and so many more. With the impact each of these kids had on me – I can imagine the impact they might have on the world’s stage!
More than one individual has found me on their own to take me aside and thanked me for talking to them about HIV, or thanked me for just being here and listening to them – showing me that SMK and CTT have raised children that are intelligent and grateful.
I have three more days here at SMK, and I can’t believe the time has gone as fast as it has. I find myself thinking about my next trip already – hoping to come and see these seniors take the next steps in their lives and #ugandaloveit.