The Pearl Of Africa

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Spending two and a half weeks in Uganda was both incredible and humbling. The country is beautiful, but at the same time, straining from the pain of poverty, war and corruption. For those of you who don't know the exact reason for my trip I went with eleven other people from various churches in York to work with a charity called Food for the Hungry International. In the months leading up to our visit, the group ran several fund raising events and were able to raise enough money to pay for the materials to build two classrooms for the school in the community we were to stay with. While we were in Kyoga (name of the village, pronounced Chogga), we built the two classrooms with the help of the people of the community and also ran kids clubs for the children in the afternoons and taught the parents English, as this is a valued skill for Africans who wish to work in the big cities and earn money to support their families.

Although I was present on the building site every morning, I felt as though the main reason for me being there, was to help run the kids club, which consisted of an afternoon of teaching songs with actions (a good way of the children picking up English), playing games such as Cat and Mouse, Tug of War, Duck Duck Goose and other such exhausting pursuits, a drama performed by members of the team (mainly for the children to laugh at us) and then a craft activity at the end of each day.

There is a definite need for hope in the community of Kyoga, as FHI have been aware; in the several years of participation in regenerating the community they have understood that the native people are always encouraged by Westerners actually travelling to them and getting alongside them in everyday activities. However, it seems that despite the heart wrenching poverty and the terrifying prevalence of life threatening diseases, the people of Kyoga are resilient, defiant and amazing. They are vibrant, loving, joyful, caring, excitable, curious, faithful, hardworking and delightfully zealous for life in its fullness. We have much to learn. In comparison, we in the west are selfish, greedy, competitive, jealous, cynical, lazy and too fat. This is of course a severe generalization - but one which many will identify with, to one extent or another. It is only when one is wrenched out of one's own culture and comfort zones when we realise how much we have and assess our lifestyle.

If you think on nothing else today, apart from this then I will have achieved something... Do one thing that takes you out of your comfortable life. Buy a beggar some food, or even better, buy him a new coat, or even better, give him your coat. Buy a Big Issue, or even better stand and chat to the vendor who is hailing the title down the high street, and show him you care. Smile at people while you walk down the street rather than putting your head down and striding swiftly forwards. Do something different, and love your neighbour as yourself.


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