We spent the morning preparing for our afternoon tour around the countryside to see some schools and a potential new site for U-TOUCH at the Awach Health Center. Before we left we stopped at the Center in Gulu and I walked into a packed class of 64 young people all participating in a Life Skills course being taught by Charles (the head instructor) at the facility. Deb was speaking with the kids when I walked in and she asked if I wanted to say something. For the next 75 minutes we had a dialog about what would make the biggest difference in their life. We talked about personal accountability, deciding what they wanted from life and how they can impact their community while helping U-TOUCH succeed. The session was extremely special.
Both Drew and Noah were there, as well as Ilise. Ilise was actively involved in the conversation and actually spoke to the young people twice. Those of you who know my wife might be surprised, but she was impassioned to tell these young people that we brought our children to Uganda to see the love and community that they have here. In Uganda they might not have much when it comes to “things,” but what they do have is extremely special. They care so much for their fellow man, they have a true sense of community, and even though we might have “more things” in the US we would trade for some of what they have. Our kids are very blessed to get this lesson early in life, we just hope it sticks when we get back to the “real world” in San Diego.
Once we were done with the students we headed off to Awach and a few other places. It started to rain as soon as we got in the car and then it became a downpour. The weather here changes pretty quickly and the rain turned the roads into rivers and lakes. It was pretty amazing that Moses, our driver for the day, was able to find his way through that mess. We made a number of stops, but the one that was most amazing was a local government college for potential teachers. This school was about 25 minutes outside of Gulu. Deb brought us to a few of the “dormitories” if you could call them that. They were so disgusting I wouldn’t let a criminal stay there. They were truly uninhabitable. The students were happy to show us around a concrete structure with dirt floors and clothes lines strewn across from one side to the other. One room had a bunk bed with two mattresses that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy to sleep on.
One of the students asked me for my email, so I gave him a business card. We will see if he reaches out, but the attitudes from these young men was extremely positive even surrounded by the filth. There was no electricity, no running water and no way to study once it gets dark. So, since we are right by the equator we have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness every day. That means that by 7 PM they can’t study anymore. How do you expect people to learn in an environment like this? How can they advance their lives and the economy of their nation with such poor infrastructure? This is such a sad sight, but this doesn’t seem to impact the attitude of the local people.
Earlier on our trip we stopped by the Health Center in Awach, a small village about 40 Km from Gulu. The health center had a few newly renovated buildings and Deb said that this was one of the top health centers in the northern part of Uganda. Now, if you were sick I couldn’t imagine you, or anyone that I know would even consider entering most of these buildings if you were sick, much less pregnant and ready to give birth. The maternity ward was just renovated with solar power but no running water and just a single bed, but the concrete walls were at least clean. Some of the other buildings seemed so dilapidated, but that is what they have.
I came to Uganda for a number of reasons and my experience has been pretty close to expectations. Even with that in mind, the hard reality of what these people have to deal with every day puts so many things into perspective. I know what I need to do moving forward and I know that focusing energy on bridging the inequity in the world is a piece of my journey. I look forward to helping to build an amazing team at U-TOUCH and making a huge impact in communities like this across Uganda and in the future, other countries around the world.
‘Til next time …..