Uganda in all it's beauty
- 5th June 2020 -
By Kym Samuels
Before my visit to Uganda with World Vision in April last year, my assumption was that Africa was a dry, arid place with little water.
I had only heard the bad stories of war, theft and innocent people being murdered. It was to my surprise I found Uganda sits on the shores
of Lake Victoria, the second biggest lake next to America’s Superior Lake. The countryside was green, and the people were very friendly.
Uganda has over 40 million people, in a land mass smaller than New Zealand and they host 1,400,000 refugees.
Refugees have flooded into the northern regions of Uganda for the last 6 years, World Vision and other humanitarian organisations have set up reception centres where those fleeing for their life, get fed, have health checks, are allocated a plot of land and given the basic settlement and food to build a new life. The day we visited the camp they had 13,000 residents with 170 people arriving daily, in the peak of the South Sudan war they had up to 1,000 people arriving daily. It takes some very big pots to cook for that many people and it is all cooked over a fire. There was so much that moved me while in Uganda as they have so little, yet they know joy. Most people walk everywhere; the women carry everything on their heads. The main highway through the countryside has to allow for pedestrians, walking to get water or food. They do not have electricity and they do not have running water so both food and water need to be replenished daily. I asked the head of disaster relief in Uganda for World Vision “do the city residents have electricity and running water in their homes?” because they sure didn’t in the country. The reply amazed me! Most of the 40 million people in Uganda do not have running water in their homes or electricity. I couldn’t imagine living like this. It is very easy in our comfort to assume our lives are normal, they are not we are the privileged few.
World Vision is one of the main providers looking out for children in the refugee settlements. They provide foster mothers for the many children who arrive without parents due to being separated from their family or their parent being killed during the ward. 60% of the settlements are children. World Vision also provides child friendly spaces for the children in the settlements. We visited two of them, where the children played sport, were encouraged to join clubs to talk about safety, and the trauma they had experience through drama, dance, and music. One thing we saw wherever we went was singing and dancing. The children were drawn to us, particularly to our technology. My fit bit watch, as you touched the screen and the display changed caught their eye. I used my phone to take pictures of them and then showed them the photo. I’m sure for many of them they were seeing themselves for the first time.
One particular girl impacted me on our first visit. When we drove through the settlement camp she was waiting out on the road for our arrival. She followed the vehicles through the trees and when we stopped, she stood outside the door of our vehicle. As I got out of the car she grabbed my hand and didn’t let go of it for the entire one and a half visits. She had chosen me to be her person. Other children watched her lead and we found all of us soon had a number of children holding both our hands, for the entire visit. Two days later we visited another child safe program but not one child held our hands during that visit. No one took the lead, no one influenced the crowd. How did I feel to be chosen? I felt special, I felt connected and I felt wanted.
World Vision has created a program where you too can be ‘chosen’ with an opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life and their community.
I have seen the work World Vision is doing to help the most vulnerable children and their communities in Uganda. The money donated does get to the other side of the world to help feed, clothe and house refugees; it educates not only the children but the whole community, giving water access to communities that don’t have running water in their villages, and so much more. I have witnessed the work of World Vision.
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