A village walk and bracelet making

Today we spent time volunteering at the Nawanyago Health Centre III in Kamuli District. We began the day by walking to the local village to conduct interviews and surveys with the villagers. Though I have seen many rural homes and communities in Uganda, I found this particular area to be incredibly eye opening. It was a crowded village, which spread out for many miles, off of the main road. The houses were made mostly of dirt and bricks and many were missing doors, roofs and windows. Up to four families lived within some larger buildings and homes. As with many Ugandan villages, cows, goats and chickens roamed the street and areas behind the homes. As we walked, we were followed by a group of young children. They shouted to their friends: “Mzungu! Mzungu!” and another pack of children came running out of their homes to walk beside us, as we made our way through the village. Many young children and women were carrying large water buckets on their heads, as they made their way home. Some of them walk miles to the nearest water well, and many do it more than once a day. They use this water to bath, cook, clean and drink. It made me strongly reflect on the privileges and luxuries I have been given, as a citizen of a country where clean water is so easily accessible.

The children all wore big, bright smiles upon their faces and they laughed when we said hello and introduced ourselves. Our foreign and strange-sounding accents must have been quite hilarious. We progressed through the village, conducting more interviews and taking surveys. Every house we visited, we were greeted with incredible hospitality and warmth. I have observed, through the entirety of this trip, that the Ugandan people are some of the most kind and generous people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Though they can be quite reserved and quiet, they are incredibly respectful and beautiful people. We visited one mother, of four young children, who lived in a small, dirt home, a mile or so off the main road. Chickens and goats grazed the grass and sugar cane behind her home. Sheets served as the door, and large bamboo leaves and wood made up her roof. After we had finished conducting our interviews, she went inside and brought out three-dozen fresh eggs. She smiled as she handed them to us, and insisted that we take every one. For someone who has so little, she had no problem giving away such as large portion of that day’s food, for some visitors she had met just minutes earlier. She expressed her thanks and deep gratitude for us, and the time we spent at her home.

This singular experience made clear the detrimental effects of materialism on a person’s moral grounds and values. In America, many of us are very economically privileged, compared many countries in the world, and this allows us to pay little attention to personal interactions and relationships. It allows us to dismiss the little things…the precious things. In Uganda, because they have so little material goods and possessions, they value such things as relationships and daily exchanges with others. They value acts of kindness and respect, no matter the size. Through my many interactions with the Ugandan people, I have realized how far removed my culture and society are from these values. We have lost our ability to truly appreciate daily human interactions and affection, and many of us focus only on the material possession that we have.

This entire experience has been incredibly eye opening and life changing. It has made me reflect on the life I live and the things that matter to me. It has taught me to give a greater value to smaller acts of kindness and human interactions that I have on a daily basis. I really believe that I will leave this experience a better and more open-minded person.

- Lena Burns ITW Enrichment Student

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