At the beginning of 2017, I expressed my interest in joining the trip in November. I had seen friends go before, and I must admit I was slightly jealous. When I learnt the fundraising amount was $5,000, I immediately drew back. I couldn’t do that! I was a nobody! Not to mention that many people in my circle already supported Love Mercy, and I couldn’t possibly expect them to give more. I didn’t reply to Cait for a while, trying to process and work out if I could actually make this happen.
One night, thinking and praying over it, I felt I just had to go. I could not miss this opportunity. Specifically in regard to raising money, I remembered that this was not about me and I should never put a limit on people and their generosity. Not. About. Me. This is about the men, women and children on the other side of the world that needed me to help give them a way to survive. In a nation ravished by war and poverty that seeps into people’s lives, tearing apart their will to live and covering them in a blanket of shame, I had the opportunity to do something about it, and I sure would
I thought of a hundred different ways to raise money, all I needed was to commit to a few. I needed to spread the word far and wide, and make sure I could take people along for the journey. Standing at the starting line of the City to Surf, I quickly checked my profile. It showed that we had just tipped over the $2.5K mark. I was brought to tears, knowing that everyone who had given had done so in belief in my passion, but more than than, believing in the work Love Mercy is doing.
Fast forward 2 months and I was on my way to Uganda. As soon as I stepped onto that red earth, I felt at home.
Over the course of the next 24 hours, I met around 14 other people who would become friends, bonded by experience and passion.
I looked out the window for 8 hours on our trip to Lira town in the north, the bumpy red dirt road stretching far, far ahead. The sights outside the van window never ceasing to amaze me. With 5 of us in the car, conversation was never in short supply.
Red dirt | Green fields | People walking everywhere – where are they walking? | Sunflower fields | Babies in Mama’s Arms | Mud huts | Babies on Backs | Yellow Jerry cans | Small, sweet bananas | Every single life with a story to tell
Julius and Eloise run each morning at sunrise. Being my stubborn “I can do anything” self, I thought I would have a go. Let’s just say I enjoyed a nice jog at the back of the pack, while the two Olympians were miles ahead. A unique experience in it’s own right – I waved to passersby, listened to the frogs, and watched the little town of Lira wake up. The chickens and cows, people emerging from their homes, the glowing golden sky lighting up the red dirt roads.
The women at Barr Village welcomed us with open arms. They danced, sang, laughed and smiled. They sat and talked and we tried to understand just how much Cents for Seeds haas changed their lives.
My heart poured open here. I clearly remember brimming with tears, and not quite realising why. On reflection, the women of Barr Village expressed just how thankful they were that we had come, that we were in their home, all the way from the other side of the world. They couldn’t stop saying it. “Thankyou for coming, thankyou. Tell your friends about us. When they know, tell them to come, come and visit us”. I was blown away, for I thought that my own gratitude at being there was immense. It turned out to be incomparable.
Their expression of how much Cents for Seeds has impacted their lives is not restricted to words. They wear bright colours, they smile, they have food. They have opportunity, they have the ability to provide for their family, they have contentment and their joy overflows. After this, I had never been so sure of Love Mercy and their work.
The car rides are bumpy, and usually the places where the best conversation happens. In such close proximity for a long time, you can’t help but chat, discover, learn.
Some things are a surprise, for your to experience and write your own memory of. One of those is the annual Julius Achon fun run. It was the most overwhelming, tiring, exciting, exhilarating and plain fun day. Nothing will prepare you for the amount of faces that you will see, each one living a life, hoping for a future.
Then there are the small things that make it special: Morning yoga at 6am, attempting to brew an aeropress without a cap and burning someone’s hand (sorry Simon!). Trying chapatti for the first time, overtired laughing about something ridiculous, head nods, eyebrow raises, being covered in 60% deet, 20% dirt and 20% sweat.
Hearing Julius speak to his community and watching them listen in respect and love was moving. Julius longs for change, impact and empowerment, and you can see it in the way he speaks and carries himself. I was honoured to see him there, amidst his people he is so passionate about helping.
I will never forget arriving in Awake Village, Julius’ home village. The women gather under the large mango tree, the only source of reprieve from the glistening Ugandan sun. Children played around the outskirts of the mudhuts, slowly creeping closer to the big group of white people. We had brought Eunice with us from Barr, a member of the Cents for Seeds program.
We introduced our friend Eunice. One of the elderly women of Awake went to stand. She resisted, and fidgeted in her seat. Again, she went to stand up from her seat, but sat down. A third time, she almost stood, but remained seated. Soon enough, she couldn’t take it any more. She stood and walked over to Eunice. With open, loving arms she welcomed Eunice to the village of Awake. The ladies clapped and cheered. They loved her first, made her feel important, welcome, valued. This display of community, love and acceptance was overwhelming. The tears were real. It reflects impact that Cents for Seeds is having. You see, before C4S started in these villages, the attitude was largely every man for themselves. The trauma of IDP camps meant that people looked out only for their immediate family. Slowly, Cents for Seeds has encouraged and given grounds for the women to trust their communities. That standing together will indeed help you go further. I wondered – imagine if we had that courage here, in our everyday. No-one would feel unwelcome.
The last part of the trip is special in it’s own way. All I will say is the view of the Nile is one of the most spectacular landscapes I have seen. I can still hear the hippo’s on waters edge, marking their territory, large enough to keep us a hundred meters away. Every now and then, an elephant will come into view, the giraffe’s poke their head out of the trees and the monkeys swing from the branches. We needed this time, to recover, to adjust.
You quickly learn that many things in Africa are vague… very vague. “It is over there” “It is on that side” or “It is not there”. What isn’t where? The other side of what?!
I left vowing to stand alongside them in any way i could, to support, encourage, speak life ad send hope back to my new friends on the other side of the world.
In a turn of events, I am now the Fundraising Manager at Love Mercy Foundation.
If you have ever had a felt a niggle, go. Don’t wait. Go now. You will get tired, exhausted even. What you will see will make you laugh, cry and feel everything in between.
But I guarantee, your life will change.