On Tuesday night, I returned to Kampala after nearly a week-long road trip across Uganda with a colleague from a great partner organization, Global Grassroots. Eleven of our girls who are in their gap year between secondary school and university are part of a program with Global Grassroots to train them in "conscious social change." In January, the girls attended a 3-week training where they each identified issues that concern them in their communities and developed ideas on how to confront these issues. They have now been back in their villages for a few weeks to study their issue in more depth, so we visited each of them, went over their proposals, and gave them a small amount of money to implement their venture ideas.
It was an incredible joy to see where each girl comes from and I swelled with pride at the difference they are already making in their villages. The power of seeing our girls gain the confidence to lead in their communities and work with others to find local solutions to local problems nearly brought me to tears with each visit.
The trip was also a great opportunity to see the abundance and diversity within Uganda all at once. Each region and each tribe has something different to offer and we noticed the intricacies of these differences each day. We loved driving through the sugarcane fields in the east; we gawked at the stunning cattle herds of the Ankole tribe in the southwest; and we soaked in the beauty of the verdant tea fields in the west.
Many of the girls' families provide for themselves off their own land and they graciously presented us with gifts from their small farms.
We drove through some of the best national parks in Uganda and were able to visit other stunning scenes along the way. I often thought of how lucky I am to have a job that brings me face-to-face with the best of this country.
I also came home with 2 great souvenirs. This basket was woven by a new women's group from the Bakonjo tribe and some nice people at Lake Mburo National Park let me take this amazing impala skull they had found.
Overall, this trip made me appreciate all that Uganda has to offer, the value of living locally, and the power of a girl to work to improve her own community. I recognized in a new way the value of living off the land and the hard work it takes to make that happen. Too many people from the West would assume the people in these villages are poor and helpless because their homesteads do not look like ours and there are no shopping malls around. However, I truly believe these people have a lifestyle that we could learn from so in many ways. In short, our trip made me fall in love with Uganda all over again and, after 3 1/2 years of living here, made me see this country in a whole new way.