-A Year of Ups, Downs & a great deal of Zig Zags-
What I have learnt is to never underestimate the power of a washing machine. The blisters on my fingers and palms from washing by hand can contest to that. When I am in Australia muttering in annoyance when the electricity disappears for a few minutes I shall remember my days in Uganda where it’s abnormal if the power doesn’t turn off every day. I have learnt to keep my mouth shut when indulging in a swim in a local lake, otherwise little critters will invade my insides and overrun my body. I have learnt that no matter which environment you are in, youth can be found struggling day to day. I have learnt that the women of Uganda are sincerely the heart of the land and extremely strong willed. As my Ugandan friend told me on International Women’s Day (a public holiday here) “the patience to listen, the strength to support, care is just in a woman.”
On a comical note, it is quite amusing to observe other Mzungu (whites) walking down the city with this ‘freshness’ look about them. You can recognise that they are new arrivals to Uganda. Wearing a look of lost expression on their face, a certain innocence and vulnerability. It’s odd as people here can distinguish between the new arrivals and the somewhat veterans and would have easily seen that in me when I arrived. I suppose that is why I don’t get hassled as much now I have formed a stronger sense of cultural intelligence, increasingly losing the vulnerability of a wounded bird.
At Youth Aid Uganda, we are working towards freeing children and youth from these human rights violations.
My work as a volunteer at Youth AID Uganda is steadily progressing and I am learning a great deal about the human rights violations affecting vulnerable young people and those described as the ‘urban poor.’ Where does one start? It is enough to even bring salty tears to the eyes of those who are not yet parents. Child labour, physical, mental, sexual abuse, rape from family members and outsiders as the perpetrators, torture, female genital mutilation, child prostitution, alcohol and drug abuse, human trafficking, crime, unemployment, no access to education or skill development, abandonment, orphans, HIV/AIDS, homelessness and poverty.
I have been blessed to hear stories of hardship directly from people who chose to share their past with me. What was that I heard about childhood being meant for encouraging development, toy bunnies, happy families, pocket money, climbing trees, slumber parties and fun times? The reality for many young people living in Uganda is that they have been orphaned at a young age and travelled alone from deep in the village to seek education in the city. With no money and no skills they are turned down by potential employers. They live on the streets, some eating rats to fill their bellies at nights or surviving on some small portions of bread, coming across crime and death on the streets, begging, and young girls ashamedly selling their bodies for a chance to survive. Most of the time the only way out of the nightmare that overshadows their lives is if someone gives them a chance. If and when that chance arrives.
We progressively continue to work towards a strong generation of liberated young people.
As I almost regretfully wave the first year of my time in Uganda goodbye, I ponder how it could have flown so fast. I suppose it’s an optimistic outcome as a dragging year counting the ticks of time as they loom normally indicates it has been a dull year.
My second year in Uganda with its approaching adventures and mental journeys will be another wisdom booster as “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift. That is why they call it present.”