Gulu Goodbyes

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We spent our last full day at the AMREF building meeting the sponsored students that the Plotkin family started working with in 2005. There were 18 children in attendance ranging in age from 10 to 23 years old. All of them are amazing in their own way and most of them are missing one parent and many are missing both parents. Their stories are touching and their attitudes were amazingly positive. Both Drew and Noah got up in front of the group to read a story and so did most of the sponsored students. In the end Ilise decided to write something which she read to the students. Below is what she read:

“Northern Uganda, Gulu a place of little money but love that runs through the burnt orange muddy streets. Boda/bodas that swipe by you on the wrong side of the road. No, that’s me on the wrong side of the road coming from a place where the values are upside down and twisted.

“Uganda, a world of we. We children who have lost our parents to the war, we children who are responsible for our siblings to clothe and educate them, we children who long for food in our bellies, clothes on our back and a roof over our heads.

“The US spells us, but it is a land of “I’s.” I want, I need, I deserve, I don’t care about what’s happening around the world it is all about me. Only I matter.

“Uganda, a land of strength – where mothers carry jerry cans of water on their heads so their families will have water. Children walk barefoot long distances for an education we take for granted. Beautiful faces that radiate warmth, trust, friendship and hope. A promise for the future and smiles that light up the world.

“We Americans thank you for showing us what you have here.”

I think that Ilise’ words say a lot about our experience. I know that we will never see the world the same and our children have been changed for the better. When Noah stood up for a second time in front of the students today he admitted that his asking for this thing and crying for that thing was unacceptable and he saw that it wasn’t right, Ilise started to cry. We have worked hard to mold our children to becoming the best people they can and some of our challenges stem from the society we live in, and seemed to be out of our control as parents. I look forward to these beliefs becoming part of our daily lives and not just living here while we are in Africa.

We have a few more days here in Uganda and then we start the vacation part of our trip. It will be a stark change from the conditions we are surrounded by going from Northern Uganda, dirty streets and cramped quarters, to a safari in the beautiful lands of the Maasai Mara of Kenya. It will be interesting to see how we all take in the past 12 days of our lives.

Walking down the street this morning with Deb I mentioned that this trip has been pretty much what I expected in so many ways, what I didn’t expect is how it would actually feel to see what I have seen. It has been uplifting and troubling all at the same time. Being able to separate my emotions from the inability to impact many of the people here, but in some ways they don’t seem like the want the help, they seem pretty happy with their lives. Lots to digest and consider as we near the end of our Ugandan journey. Tomorrow we will head to Kampala and a musical event that should be pretty special.

‘Til next time …..

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