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Highlights of Uganda

January 25, 2009

August 28, 2008

My trip to Uganda in June with Artfully AWARE was my very first visit to Africa, somewhere I had long wished to see.  When I arrived the first thing that struck me was the overwhelming friendliness and welcoming nature of the Ugandan people, which continued throughout the entire trip. I had never experienced such warm temperaments when visiting a new country before.  Since visiting, I have read they are renowned for being the continents’ friendliest– a reputation they certainly lived up to, in my eyes.

Evonne and a child in Gulu, Northern Uganda.

Evonne and a child in Gulu, Northern Uganda.

I was very excited to be there and spent the first few days trying to soak up as much as possible. Throughout the three weeks I was there, we met so many inspirational individuals and organisations, whose enthusiasm echoed ours, and I was grateful to be part of that.  There were many meetings where ideas were shared and plans were made, at times it felt that one day had lasted for three.  I thrived on being part of all the discussions and it seemed each day the meetings just got better and better. Whenever Justin spoke I was in awe. His passion for art, caring, teaching and Artfully AWARE shone through his every word.  It was a real joy to get to know him and a privilege to learn some of the work he has done in his life.  Despite finding at times that Kristy and I felt we worked quite differently to him, I was glad to see his approaches and his natural teaching talent. I know we are looking forward to learning from each other.

There were moments that were tough and opinions clashed amongst each of us but this was all part of it and made us grow as an organisation as well as a group of friends.  Many stories and laughs were shared amongst us on the long and bumpy rides between the villages.

I cannot express how much I loved being in Uganda, each week felt like a different trip; I got everything I had imagined and hoped for, and more.  But the highlight for me has to be our days spent in Gulu at the Karin Children’s Medical Centre.  This is where Artfully AWARE really came to life for me.  Meeting Hope, Jackie, Martin, and all the children and parents who use the centre made the whole experience go further than I could have hoped.  The work that was done there was truly phenomenal.  Sharing in the children’s games and songs are moments I treasure.  I felt we had been welcomed into the centre with open arms, but this was to go further when we sat down with the parents and talked with them.

I found it fascinating that when we began talking with them at first, everyone was very quiet and wary of saying much. We began talking about the Community Books we had brought with us from the children in the UK and asked them to share some things about their lives.  This quickly went onto some of the traumatic events and situations they had had to cope with and the quietness continued. When we asked them to share something happy with us–such as their traditions, what they are proud of in their culture– this soon changed.  The women began talking about cooking and all that is involved in preparing a big meal and the speaking and sharing continued. Finally, everyone was talking and laughing together. They offered to cook a traditional meal for us and welcomed us into their homes to show us how the food was grown, picked and prepared. We then shared the meal together at the end of the day.  This is one of the moments that stick out most in my mind from the three weeks. I felt we had really been welcomed in and I got a true experience of their culture.

I know this trip was just the beginning of more great things to come from AfA and I am so excited to return to such a beautiful country.

Evonne Hill
School Education Director
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