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Knowledge Leads to Understanding: Getting to Know Uganda

By Debby Farrington

Women’s Opportunity Network (WON) supporter Debby Farrington and her 16-year-old nephew Matt Statman contributed this final post about their trip to Uganda, summing up the unforgettable people they met and places they saw on their journey. 

The Mighty Nile River

Debby: Uganda is a beautiful country: Winston Churchill described it as “the pearl of Africa” because of its green hills, the shores of Lake Victoria, and the Nile River, which flows north through the country. When we had the chance to see the Nile we were amazed.
Matt: There were powerful wild rapids that added to the impression of the river’s wildness and power. We also had the chance to observe wild animals on a game drive with our (male) guide, Grace. At dusk, we went to the river to look for hippos and there were two young boys fishing right next to them. We asked Grace if this was dangerous because we know hippos kill more people in Africa than any other animal. He said, “They have no choice.” He meant that they had to fish near the hippos or they would not eat. 

We met the children of the Bright Angels School in Kampala.

The People of Uganda

Debby: The Ugandan people are lovely. I enjoyed our interactions spending two full days with mentors and students from the nonprofit Educate! and the local staff and clients of Opportunity Uganda. We shared four meals with our Ugandan hosts and guides, and so I felt we got the chance to have real conversations with them, and got to know them in a deeper and very unique way.

Matt: I was so excited when we visited the kids from Educate! and found out they were learning the exact same thing I was in my public speaking course this summer. They were being taught in a different way though, and I think it was better. They were given the opportunity to critique their teacher and that really helped them learn all of the things you need to be a public speaker.

When we visited the http://www.opportunity.org/our-work/trust-groups/Trust Group[/intlink] meeting for Opportunity, I was surprised at the location. I didn’t expect it to be in an outdoor shack that was actually a restaurant. It just shows how determined the members are to improve their lives. They were very smart about their businesses and asked the loan officer and my aunt some very tough questions. Their determination to improve their lives, and the lives of others, is going to help them succeed. 

Ugandan people return to daily life in Kampala after the bombings during the World Cup.

In the Wake of Violence

Debby: At first, I was concerned about security because of the bombings in Kampala during the World Cup, just one week before we left on our trip. After all, Matthew is my responsibility and his safety is important. But all of the people involved in planning our trip–at Educate!, atOpportunity International, and our travel coordinator–sent us frequent updates assuring us that we would be safe. And they were right–we always felt perfectly safe. 

Also, I felt it was important to show support for the people of Uganda during this difficult time. As a New Yorker, I know the gratitude I felt after 9/11 when the world offered us sympathy and shared our outrage over the destruction of the World Trade Center. Everywhere we went in Uganda, people seemed delighted that we were there “to stand with them” in their time of tragedy. 

Challenges for Ugandans

Education is so important to the people we met. We found this little girl determinedly reading in her dark doorway.

Debby: The Ugandans are deeply concerned about poverty, corruption, inequality, and the economic development of their country. Education is important to them and they have a growing number of schools, including universities. But the problem for graduates is finding good jobs: only one-third of university students have a job when they leave school. Unemployment and underemployment are widespread. 

An Unforgettable Experience

Debby: Matt and I have more work to do to support Opportunity International, immediately through this blog post and our recent posts abouthttp://www.opportunity.org/blog/be-inspired-a-traveler-meets-opportunity-ugandas-microfinance-clients/Trust Groups[/intlink] andhttp://www.opportunity.org/blog/meeting-ugandan-students-reflections-of-an-american-teenager/education[/intlink], and in the longer term as well. We had a wonderful, special time and came away with affection and appreciation for the Ugandan people, and their hopes for their lives and for their beautiful country.
Matt: For me, this trip was eye-opening. We met so many people and saw them working hard to get themselves out of poverty. I have started a fundraiser for Uganda too, so check it out and support Opportunity’s work there. The trip was amazing and I would definitely love to go back to Uganda soon.

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