A year ago I was in Uganda with World Vision learning about the work they are doing to protect children and help communities. When I got on the plane in Seattle heading towards Uganda I was both nervous and excited wondering what we would find on the ground.
Little did I know that a year later I would be thinking about this trip almost daily. That the things I saw and learned in Uganda would change me as a person and change how I handle life today.
Going into Uganda I thought I was a world traveler who had an idea of what to expect. I had this pre-conceived image of life in Uganda that I had created in my mind from what I had seen in the news, heard from other people and just made up to resemble facts in my mind.
You guys I WAS WRONG! I was so WRONG!
The images I had in my head were not even close to what we actually experienced.
A lot of times we see African countries portrayed as hard, corrupt, and frightening worlds far from our suburban lifestyles. We rarely see photos or videos that portray love, caring, hope, or joy.
I honestly had nightmares leading into the trip as my anxiety peaked and I worried about safety, food, and where we would go to the bathroom.
What I found in Uganda was a mix of the nightmares I had before the trip and also so much love and caring.
I am not going to lie some of the bathrooms we experienced were nightmares compared to our American bathrooms but we survived them.
Using those bathrooms that were honestly just holes in the ground surrounded by brick walls taught me that I take so many life things for granted on a daily basis.
I learned that toilet paper, flush toilets, and running water are blessings we should appreciate a lot more than we do.
Trust me on this one! I am going to save you from seeing the photos of the bathrooms we used but know that they make a rest area or campground bathroom look like it is five star.
The teams we met from World Vision are so passionate about the work they are doing to help THEIR local communities. The teams are filled with local and regional residents who are passionate about the work they are doing.
They literally put their lives on the line at times to protect children and make sure they can go to school and have proper nourishment. We met team members who have been threatened and called horrible names because they are working to stop child sacrifice.
We met team members who pour their heart and soul into making sure young girls can get to school safely.
We sat with World Vision team members and heard the pain and joys they have experienced trying to help their communities.
It is so hard to put into words the feeling of sitting under the warm African sun watching young girls talk about how important their schooling is to them. At a young age, they realize that going to school is protection.
Going to school means they are not alone, they are not working in fields at a young age, they are hopefully not sold into early marriage and they are protected from being raped.
Kids in Uganda are joyful to be in school! I keep seeing posts on social media about friends kids throwing fits because summer is over and they have to go back to school. How angry they are that they are forced to go to school and it is so different from what we heard in Uganda.
Children fight to be in school. They help raise money to make sure their classmates can afford to be in school.
Young boys and girls meet after school to sew sanitary pads so girls can go to school once they start their period. They are proud of the work they are doing together to make sure every kid can be in class.
We met with communities that are working together to create farming co-ops with the help of World Vision.
They work with World Vision to make sure they are planting food not only for their families but for their communities. They work together to build a farming business that is sustainable for years to come.
We saw so much joy as the farmworkers expressed their excitement over learning which beans would provide nourishment for their children. They showed us how by working together they are keeping their kids well fed, in school, and making money as a community.
The part of my trip to Uganda that I think about often is meeting Shanita our World Vision sponsor child and her family. This moment is something that I will always cherish.
Going into working with World Vision I honestly didn't realize the impact that letters from sponsors mean for families. I didn't realize how excited I would be every time a letter from Shanita arrives in our mailbox. I didn't realize how much of my heart I could give to a family around the world from me.
Just yesterday we received a yearly update on how Shanita is doing with a new photo. I am going to admit that it made me tear up a bit. In this year's picture, Shanita is smiling with so much joy and happiness.
She looks healthy and happy!
The letter shared that over the past year she has learned how to protect herself from getting sick during health education classes. She has learned about good hygiene, life skills, and problem-solving.
World Vision has helped support 750 parents and caregivers with farming tools to help produce more nutritious food in the area Shanita lives. 3,960 children across 22 schools benefited from new textbooks, learning charts, and flashcards.
345 community members learned how to protect the rights of children and seek justice for abused children.
This is just part of the work that World Vision is doing in Shanita's community and around the world.
It has taken me a year to process my World Vision trip to Uganda and I honestly think I am still processing it.
A month after the trip I wrote a post about how Uganda Changed Me and I honestly feel the same way today 11 months later. I can't put into words how grateful I am to World Vision for making this trip happen and truly changing me as a person.
A year later I feel like I am finally at a place that I can share some of the stories we heard in Uganda and do it in a way that hopefully shares the joy, love, and mission of World Vision.
I hope that you will take a moment to visit the World Visions website and learn how you can help children and families not only in Uganda but around the world.