I had the pleasure of spending this past week in Uganda along with the Live Original squad and the HelpOneNow team, and let me tell you, it was AMAZING.
At the end of the trip we had a team meeting and were all asked to come up with one word to describe what we had taken away from the week and the work that HelpOneNow is doing. My word was "intentional." Throughout the week I kept coming back to "give a man a fish feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime." HelpOneNow really seems to be looking at the bigger picture and how they can help to equip the local leaders of the communities. They see what all these amazing Ugandans are capable of and want them (each and every one of them) to be able to reach their potential and do great things. These people already have the heart, hope, and determination, sometimes they just need the right tools and resources!
After over 24 hours of traveling with only a carry-on bag (yes, proud moment, 10 days with a 23 lb backpack) we finally made it to Jinja, Uganda!! Jet lag was not a problem that night... I slept like a rock under my mosquito net.
Our first day there we loaded up on the bus and were on our way to His Mercy Christian School. We pulled into the gates and were greeted by tons of beautiful, singing, smiling children of all ages. After they finished greeting us we took a tour of the school. They had just built a medical building that is about to open up and it looked great...and it was so cool that HelpOneNow used local Ugandan men to build it. Not only did the school get a medical building, but those men were able to earn money for their families during that time!
HelpOneNow's next project at the school is to build a new girls' dormitory that will hold 60 girls.
Right now there are 21 girls living in a space about the size of an American walk-in closet and their beds are stacked three high. But due to these girls' individual home situations it is best for them to live at the school so they will be able to excel at school. So the new dormitory will not only give these girls more space and better living conditions, but will enable 40 more girls to be enrolled at the school!! This part makes me so happy because the whole time we were at the school, children from the village just watched us longingly from the fences. With the new dormitory some of these kids will have the opportunity to come inside! We are trying to raise $50,000 and I know that sounds like a lot, but I look at all the "likes" on Instagram the Live Original squad has gotten on their Africa posts, and I know that every like is a person. If each of those persons would donate just $1 we would be way above our goal! So if you think you can take 5 minutes to just check it out and want to donate, go to this website
Fanny packs were lifesavers on this trip. I'm telling ya, invest in one and you will not regret it. Who wants to carry a purse when you can put everything you need in one of these??? There is just so much freedom in that!
The food really was so great the entire time we were there. We ate lunch two of the days at Pastor Edward's father's house and they were such wonderful hosts. Lots of yummy fruits and vegetables!
Back to the school after lunch for playtime with the kiddos! Most of the children, except for the youngest ones, spoke a good bit of English. But really, even with the littlest ones, language was never a barrier. As long as you could play a game, dance around, hold a hand, or smile, you were good to go. By the end of the day all the girls were up on stage learning the dances (fast hip-shaking with a grass skirt is MUCH harder than you'd think.)
Day 2 we were back to the school for more sweet time with the kids and also to film some stuff for the Live Original tour. This day may have been my favorite of all. We spent time running around, taking snapchat pictures and video with the puppy dog face, and being called "muzungu" which means white haha.
And honestly one of the best parts of our time in Africa was all the time our family got to spend together! Everyone has a lot going on and sometimes 10 people can be in 10 different cities (or 9 because I'm always with JL lol) so it was so fun to get to have a whole week together. We definitely had a lot of laughs and made a lot of memories!
This was my buddy. He didn't say much, or actually maybe not anything at all, so I just called him "Blue Shoes". We really connected though :)
On day 3, Brighton, Sadie, and I got to have a tea party with some girls who are around the same age as us! We had a blast with them and learned so much. It was interesting and so neat to realize that even though we lives thousands of miles a part and seem to come from such different cultures, that we have so much stuff in common. They talked about things that any 18-21 year old in the U.S. would talk about: college, boys, food. But they also talked about the challenges they have had to face and overcome to get where they are now at. Sarah and Olivia pictured below are almost done at His Mercy Christian School, and they talk about how their lives have changed for the better since coming their when they were younger. Sarah on the left now has plans to go to university and become a surgeon!
Later we met up with the rest of the group for a meeting with some of the town people and these little cuties popped up at the fence and they made it impossible to pay attention!! But I'm not complaining, look how cute! After lunch we headed back to the church for a youth rally. There was tons of singing and dancing and preaching. Then Sadie got up there and blew everyone away with a message!
The next day was Sunday and we headed back to Pastor Edward's church for the service. It was much like the youth rally, with more singing and dancing, and then JL got up there to preach a sermon. SO proud.
After 3 and a half days on the ground soaking everything in and learning as much as we could, we headed to a new hotel to spend the rest of the day resting and enjoying the beauty of Uganda. It was tucked away on the Nile and was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Truly no other river quite compares to the Nile.
I repeat "truly no other river compares to the Nile."
After our Nile rafting trip I told Brighton, "Brighton, the Nile has away my hairband, my confidence, and maybe a tear or two."
HAHA. The Nile really was incredible though and we had such a blast rafting! Though the power of the river is a but frightening, it was so much fun and I am so glad we did it. I really wish I could explain it to you, but really you just have to experience it. Just picture holding on for dear life while a wave is trying to swallow you.
Our last day we went into town to the market and had a nice time looking for souvenirs to take home.
So many beads, paintings, pottery, and games.
I turned around to find JL playing an African game with the locals haha.
Then late that night we were back to the airport. The three of us were a tad delirious by that time ;).
We had SUCH an incredible experience in Uganda and I definitely hope to return someday. God taught me so much through this trip and I am definitely in agreement with HelpOneNow's motto:
"Doing Good is Simple"