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Our trip: A personal reflection

Caitlin Barrett Walter and Myself – my sponsor child. There is always a lesson to be learned in Africa… not […]

Caitlin Barrett
Walter and Myself – my sponsor child.
There is always a lesson to be learned in Africa… not that that is the reason that we go, but each time I have been to Uganda I have come away with a clear and distinct lesson that I have learned, and that has changed me in some way. On the plane trip home from our January trip, Eloise and I wrote each other 15 questions and asked for answers then and there. Reading through them on this side of a 30-hour plane trip having overcome severe jetlag, I I have found a few coherent themes.
1.Highlights. (in no particular order)
The first time we went to Africa, we went with a group of about 13 Aussies. This time, it was just Eloise and myself. The highlight for me of this trip was being part of an African family. We had two babies in our group, and Eloise and I were expected, like everyone else in the family, to play our role and help out with the kids. Luckily we were more than happy (desperate in fact) to cuddle the kids at any given moment. We also felt this sense of brotherhood with our new friends Samuel and Quinto, our quasi body guards who were hired on with the instructions to “come running if you hear us screaming.” They took us under their wings like we were their sisters. We felt like we were a valuable part of an intimate family, made up of brothers and sisters, adopted children, stepmothers and grandfathers and new wives and new babies. It reminded me of what I already know – family really is so incredibly important, no matter what it looks like.
Monique being checked for Malaria by her adopted step-mother. Her birth mother is trying to run a business in Lira, so Monique is cared for by her new family
Julius’ father Charles, the head of our family, with his Grand-daughter Grace
Eloise and Myself, With Grace – the wife of Julius and their son Jayden, and Florence, the wife of Jimmy and their daughter Grace.
 Development: the way it happens in the books I read.

Development can be a scary word  – I remember learning at university that if you do it wrong, you ruin peoples lives. The newest buzzword in the development scene is “participation.” Every project needs to be design and run with the participation of its stakeholders. Of course I agree with this, but it is easier said than done. From a professional perspective, our first meeting with the women in Barr village was so fruitful. We watched as they came up with brilliant ideas that we would never have thought of on our own. They really are an incredible group of women and I am so excited to be working in a place where authentic, organic, grassroots development is happening.

The ladies from Barr welcoming us
Speaking at Barr village
Feeling comfortable, like I was at home.
I had a few moments in Uganda where I was so happy, so relaxed, and so comfortable, I forgot that I was on the other side of the world in a place where I was an outsider. Walking through the streets, buying jewellery from the side of the road, riding motor bikes. All of these moments made me feel comfortable, and despite the many staring eyes, made me feel like I was at home.
Lowlight: a blessing in disguise
The lowlight of the trip involved the breakdown of our car… but this was really a blessing in disguise, because it meant that instead of being like every other white person that visits Lira in a big four wheel drive, we were forced to do what everyone else does- Walk!
I saw so much more, understood so much more, and felt so much more connected to the people on foot than I would have from a car. With that said, whilst I love the connection I felt with the place on foot, I also loved the separation that being in the car offered, where I could be a spectator on the lives of the people we passed. I love observing daily life from this perspective; the people walking along the road, the little kids on bikes that were way too big for them, mums carrying babies, kids carrying siblings, people carrying heavy loads in interesting ways, the way life works when no one is watching. 
  2.Most significant moment:

On about the third day, after a highly stressful stuck-on-the-side-of-the-road experience, I realised something that has changed me as a person forever. Lying in bed one night when the power failed, I thought about what may happen if there was an emergency. We had no power. No car. No medical facilities were close by. We had no way of leaving in a hurry should we need to, and no where to go if there was some kind of emergency.  As a Christian, I believe in the power of prayer and the sovereignty of God. However, being in a place where everything in the world had been taken, every option, every back up plan, every other thing I could possibly have put my faith in was gone, faith in the lord became a lot more real and important. If the lord didn’t save me, then nothing else would! It was at this point that I released my grip and stopped worrying. More faith is never a bad thing!

3. What would you change?

The only things I would have changed about our trip? I would have packed more pens and pencils. Luckily Eloise had a red lipstick in her handbag, which came in handy when we needed to write a “Thank you” sign for our sponsors!

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