Hello from Uganda! I have been in Jinja for 10 days, and tomorrow I have my first day of work. I am super excited and ready to have something to do.
I am so thankful that my dad was able to come with me to Uganda and stay for a week! I loved getting to show him around Jinja and introduce him to all of my friends here. He was able to see where I’ll be working and meet all of the staff. We even got to spend a day at an amazing lodge built on a small island in the middle of the Nile River!
Wild Waters Lodge
Since my dad left I have been trying to get the apartment all ready and check things off my to do list. Some of the kitchen drawers needed knobs, I got a water filter, refilled the empty gas tank, and deep cleaned the whole place. There is still more I want to do to make this place feel like home, but it’s coming along and I’m beginning to settle in. I am thankful to be only a 10 minute walk from work!
It has been raining almost every day this past week. The rain here stops just about everything. Everyone goes indoors and there are no bodas (motorcycle taxis) to be found. The roads that aren’t paved turn into clay mud. I enjoy the way things slow down when it rains and everyone must surrender their plans until the storm lifts. Because it has been raining so much, it has been cold all week! I’ve worn long sleeve shirts and/or sweatshirts almost every day. Coming from the heat and humidity of summer in Nashville, I have been really cold and snuggled up in blankets as I drink coffee each morning. I am soaking it all in while it lasts, because I know dry season is coming.
I have loved getting to reconnect with friends here. Ruth still has a shop in town and her son Elijah is growing up so quickly. She was pregnant with him when I first met her, and it has been a gift to see Elijah grow over the past 4 years. Aaron told my dad funny stories from some of my summers spent working with him. Timothy is enjoying university and asked me to help with a social work assignment. John took my dad and I to visit his wonderful family.
I am doing well and have lots of peace about being here. I am excited to see what my first week of work will hold. I am just so ready to have a job where I get to do what I spent the last 4 years studying.
I can’t believe that in just a few days I’ll be on a plane heading to Uganda!
It has been 5 years since I first went to Uganda for a gap year before starting college at Belmont. Lately I’ve been thinking back to that experience and the naïve 19-year-old version of me that I had no idea what I was doing. Those 8 months in Uganda opened my eyes to so much, and I left with a passion to empower and fight for the equity of vulnerable and marginalized people. That is what led me to study social work at Belmont. I learned so much from my professors and cohort about how to step into crisis, support one another, fight for equity and social justice, and see the strength and gifts that lie in every human.
I got my BSW!
As I enter the workforce in Uganda, I am so thankful for an education that equipped me with the skills and knowledge I need to do this job. I will be working as a social worker with HEAL Ministries, a nonprofit I interned with during part of my gap year. HEAL’s goal is family preservation, a cause that is very important in Uganda because about 85% of the kids in Ugandan orphanages have identifiable and traceable family. HEAL walks alongside single mothers and equips them with employable skills while also providing childcare so that children have a safe place to learn and play while the mothers work or go to school. As one of the social workers on staff, I will be helping make the social work program more efficient and create more resources for the families at HEAL.
I am so excited to return to a culture and community that I love. If you know me well, you know that my face lights up every time I talk about Uganda because I love it so much. Living cross culturally makes me a better human. It pushes me out of my comfort zone and challenges my ways of thinking and living. It forces me to confront and work through my biases and ethnocentrism.
As this summer comes to a close, I am so thankful that I had time to relax, play, and prepare for this transition. I spent a lot of the summer nannying a little baby, and I had the honor of being in 2 weddings of dear childhood friends. I had lots of family time and was able to spend my final weekend at the lake, my favorite place to be.
It was a joy to celebrate Kristen marrying her best friend!
I have a mixture of emotions as I prepare to leave. Goodbyes are hard, but I am also hopeful and excited to see what the next 2 years will hold. Transition is bittersweet to say the least.