The trip is going well. Uganda was as emotionally stirring as South Africa is beautiful. I was not aware of how beautiful a country South Africa is nor was I as prepared to be as touched by the people of Uganda as I was. Keep in mind that Uganda is basically a country that has been upset by war. A violent conflict that has taken its toll on the people of the country. Imagine having to leave your home just to be safe and then not be able to return once the war is over because you no longer have title to the land as it was handed down from your father’s father? This has happened to many. If you were widowed while in the camps that were built to house you to keep you safe, you cannot return home because it is your husband’s family that owns the home you once knew. So what happens then and where do you go? There are way too many here trying to figure that out.
The people of Uganda have been through so much I find it so unbelievable that they are as open and friendly as they are. They have to be one of the warmest people I have met in my life. They welcome strangers into their homes, feed them, and pray for them upon departure. They were honest and open when talking to us. The people we were meeting through the Legacy Scholarship Program offered by Invisible Children were the proud parents and it was clear that they just want the best for their children.
The folks of South Africa have been as warm. The students or Learners as they are called here have sung and danced for us at each location. The teachers and other students have given speeches to thank us for our work. I must say I have met some very poised 7th graders that are able to speak to a crowd of people in a stirring way! Most of the libraries have been set up and are in good shape but could always use more space and books. They serve an incredible amount of food to share with us and it is an outright celebration that we have come to visit. Next time I visit home the family is really going to have to do some things differently because a person could get use to this type of treatment!
South Africa is a beautiful country with rolling hills and deep valleys. We are in Zulu country where Homesteads are settled on the ridges of the mountains and are meticulously kept. The sunsets have been amazing and today we even were able to witness a sugar cane burn. The children wave as you pass them in the car and they are lined up in the playground waiting for us when we arrive.
While there is a need for books in South Africa as there is in Uganda, South Africa is fortunate enough to have a fairly good infrastructure. Roads are in fairly good shape and organizations like the Rotary are well established and working to improve education overall. They have built over 3000 classrooms in the area we are in and continue to work to build more and supply books. Books for Africa(BFA) and Room to Read have done amazing things here and the books lining the shelves in the classrooms and libraries prove that.
If for no other reason, this trip has been great for all of us because we are seeing the action “on the ground”. We are meeting the headmasters that work long and hard to make sure they are providing a good educational experience while supplying nutrition and counseling, and in some cases parenting to the Learners in their schools. We are meeting dedicated teachers that want to do whatever they can to help the student even if it means going for more education themselves. It is extremely exciting to see the children so happy to be utilizing their libraries and reading the books we have sent. It is also good to see how a community like the one we are staying here in South Africa and organizations like Room to Read, BFA and Invisible Children can change the direction for not one but many children. Work they do should be commended and supported!
We leave here tomorrow and head to Capetown. More to come.