Elly Armagos: Elly Armagos’ CommUNITY News no. 2

-A Year of Ups, Downs & a great deal of Zig Zags-

Elly locates Uganda on a globe
Kampala is the city that truly never sleeps, where the church doors stay open as long as the nightclubs. Where you wonder if there is a war currently in progress from the heavy presence of armed camouflage clothed soldiers, cradling intimidating AK-47s. Where wooden, outdoor food stalls line the side of the roads in the evening, lit up only by soothing candles, reminding me of the comforting carols by candlelight from home. Where it is highly impossible to walk and talk at the same time as my mind is busy avoiding boda boda’s, trucks, taxis, pot holes, rocks and random chicken feet. Where children run and hug my legs as I walk to work, waving bye instead of hi. Where I receive 12 marriage proposals a day and where people assume I speak their language and begin having a conversation with me in Luganda.

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.

Elly visits a school in Makindye to promote healthy lifestyles
At Youth Aid Uganda, we are working towards freeing children and youth from these human rights violations. One such method is through the current Child labour Prevention and Rehabilitation project. It aims to eradicate the destructive use of child labour in the every day lives of children and youth. It works under the premise that young people deserve an equal opportunity to thrive in a healthy and happy environment. Together with the Youth Aid team, I hope to continue to pass on my skills in identifying vulnerable young people and their needs through sensitively welcoming them to share their stories. With time these bright young people will be placed with local artisans to obtain skills in useful professions such as, tailoring, hairdressing and carpentry. A number of young people depending on their life circumstance will be connected back into education, while their families have the option to be provided with capital to start a small business. We progressively continue to work towards a strong generation of liberated young people.

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.”

add to del.icio.us Digg it Stumble It! reddit facebook TwitterSHARE THIS PAGE

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together. - African proverb