As we awoke in Mityana this morning it dawned on the team that this was their last full day in Uganda. Two years of preparation, planning and delivery of AfriDACA 2017 was coming to an end. Being surrounded by the beautiful sights and sounds of rural Uganda, it is easy to believe that life is idyllic in Mityana, however as we travelled back to the main road we passed workers in the tea plantation that we had visited 2 days before. This brought back the realisation that life is hard for these communities as people undertake back-breaking work for a few shillings a day.
On our return to Kampala, the team visited a local craft market, where they had the opportunity to practice their bartering skills as they haggled for the best prices for their memories of Uganda.
Following a final visit to the shop, shop, shop we all returned to the sanctuary of John and Sophie’s. The team agreed it felt like we were returning home, and Sophie told us she had missed us and was eager to share her secret chicken recipe with some of the girls.
Before dinner we had a visit from Benson, who is the founder and trauma counsellor from the organisation ILA Uganda. He shared his own exceptionally painful and harrowing experiences with us about the atrocities of the Lords Resistance Army. He spoke in detail about the child soldiers and the fact that every single person of the Acholi tribe was affected in some way, no family or person was untouched and many still live with the scars of the actions that they witnessed or undertook themselves as part of the war.
Whilst many parts of Benson’s stories and experiences were difficult to hear, his pioneering work has allowed people to start to heal with the possibility of being resettled in their tribal homeland. As of tonight 76 people in 16 families have been successfully resettled back in the Gulu area, with many more families in the process.
The reality of the Acholi people is that up to 11,000 still live in extreme poverty in the Acholi Quarter, as an internally displaced community. Benson’s story touched the hearts of the whole team and many of us felt inspired to become involved in his work somehow in the future.
As we pack up on our final evening, we want to thank John and Sophie for their hospitality; and Stephen and Sam for keeping us safe as we travelled around Uganda. A thank you to Helen for her logistical coordination on the ground, and to Harriet and Miriam and the Acholi, who inspire hope in their communities every day, in some of the toughest conditions possible.
To the parents of all the students who have taken part in AfriDACA 2017, you should be exceptionally proud of all they have achieved in extremely challenging conditions in Uganda. We have had the pleasure of witnessing them grow in confidence and also shape the lives of the young people they engaged with over the last two weeks. There are many stories and experiences to share with you over the coming weeks.
Finally, A massive thank you to everyone who contributed in any way to the success of AfriDACA (Uganda) 2017.
We are coming home for a rest……
Paul and Rowan
PS from Helen – sorry, no photos today, but I would like to add in a ginormous thank you to Paul and Rowan for all the time, effort, support and self-less leadership that they have given to this project right from the start. Without them, this trip would never have happened, and they have quietly, tirelessly pushed it through and enabled 13 DACA young people, 80 Acholi youngsters, 22 Acholi ladies and many many more to have experiences that will leave long-lasting positive impacts in many ways.
So thank you Paul, thank you Rowan. It has been an honour to lead with you.