Rebekah McKerley
Rebekah McKerley
Uganda, 2019 - 2021
Hello! I am living in Jinja, Uganda, for 2 years working with HEAL Ministries as a social worker. HEAL is a non-profit whose goal is family preservation. In this role, I will be expanding the social work program so that we can provide more resources to single-parent families. Read More About Rebekah →

African Time

If you have ever had the privilege of visiting Uganda, you have probably heard the term “African time.” African time is VERY different from American time. Here in Uganda someone can tell you they will be there in 20 minutes, when in reality they don’t show up until 2 hours later. If someone says they are coming, that means they will come at some point in the day. Only if they tell you “now now” does it actually mean they are on their way.

It is important to know that Ugandan culture values relationships above productivity and efficiency. While the inefficiency of life here can be really frustrating to my American self, I have learned so many beautiful lessons from it. I have learned SO much patience. I have learned to sit with friends and enjoy every moment instead of feeling rushed or thinking about all the things I need to get done. I have learned that my community and my relationships matter far more than any material things ever could. I have learned that little things like greeting each staff at the start of the workday make the biggest difference.

A factory at the end of Main Street caught on fire.

When people back in Nashville ask me what I do each day, it can be hard to explain at times. Most things take at least twice as long here in Uganda as they would in America. For example, simply going to the bank to pay bills can take hours. Last week I had to pay rent for HEAL. I went to the bank where our HEAL account is, withdrew the US dollars (because we have to pay rent in USD for our specific property), then went to a different bank where the landlords account is and tried to deposit the money. Unfortunately, some of the bills had small markings and/or tears on them, so the bank wouldn’t accept them. I then had to go back to the first bank, trade the dollars, and then return to the second bank and try to pay again. This is just one example of how things often take a long time and can be a little complicated.

A highlight of the last two weeks was getting to see one of my coworker’s newborn baby boy! He is adorable and healthy! I got to go visit them in the clinic the day after delivery and hold the sweet baby boy. It is such a privilege to be there for the big life moments of my coworkers. This specific coworker has worked at HEAL since the organization started, so I knew her back in 2014 when I first interned with the organization. It has been so fun to watch her family grow over the past 6 years.

As for COVID-19 in Uganda, there are still 0 deaths which is wonderful! We have 1,056 confirmed cases, of which only 33 of those are active cases. The rest have all recovered. I am continually impressed by how Uganda is handling the virus.

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