My one week field trip to Northern Uganda was an eye opening exhilarating and highly motivating experience!
Apart from the fact that I got the opportunity to spend lots of time getting to know key Cheshire (CSU) colleagues and understand their roles. It also gave me incredible insight into the amazing work that CSU have been doing for Persons with Disabilities (PwD). This practical hands on experience really accelerated my introduction to both the Organisation and Uganda.
There were 2 main activities scheduled for the week. The first was to attend closing workshops for two projects (one in Adjumani and the other in Moyo) that had together enabled a total of 1090 beneficiaries transitioning into some form of employment (mostly self-employment). The second was to attend graduation ceremonies to celebrate the 890 successful beneficiaries of the Moyo project.
The results of both projects were truly impressive and clearly demonstrated how PwD are being supported and empowered to help themselves and their families in a sustainable way and in turn benefiting the local community.
It really brought home that well known saying, which holds such truth; ‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach him to fish, feed him for a lifetime……
The graduation ceremonies were fantastic joyous celebratory occasions. It gave an opportunity for the graduates to celebrate their incredible achievements and to be recognised for what they had accomplished. We all know how important that is for us human beings. Vital in helping us raise our levels of self-esteem/self confidence and give us the motivation to climb over obstacles which can at first seem insurmountable.
It also gave the local community a common purpose to come together, celebrate and demonstrate acceptance that PwD can (with support and investment) become productive, self sufficient members of society. So important in areas like Northern Uganda where there are high levels of unemployment which go hand in hand with poverty.
In addition, culturally/traditionally disability is still seen as a divine curse or due to witchcraft in many parts of Africa. As a result, there is still stigma and marginalisation that PwD face daily. Attitudes are slowly changing but there is still a long way to go. Needless to say, projects and celebratory events are key in enabling change, allowing communities to accept differences and (hopefully) leading to a more inclusive society.
At a personal level, although the journey to Northern Uganda was arduous taking almost 10 hours with the last few hours on untarmacked roads (ie lots of bumpety bumps and hitting of head/bottom on various aspects of the vehicle) – the landscape was truly incredible! It truly felt like ‘Out of Africa’ at its best, even more so since the rainy season is not quite finished here, so everything is green and lush with some amazing scenic and fertile landscapes. It reminded me of Winston Churchill’s famous description of Uganda as the ‘Pearl of Africa’.
The journey also meant we crossed the Nile at several points. This amazing river originates at Lake Victoria before heading 6650km north crossing multiple African countries before entering the Mediterranean. It felt incredibly special to be crossing one of the most famous rivers in the world and noticing how different it is in sub-saharan Africa. My personal highlight was when we had to cross the river by and open car ferry taking us into the ‘West Nile’ region. It was and will remain an unforgettable experience.
Furthermore , my inclination to being a bit of a ‘geek’ really came to the fore when I realised (and got very excited) that we were actually in the region where ‘West Nile fever’ was originally detected in 1937 😊. However, since then being mosquito borne it has now spread to many parts of the world and I was surprised to read that it is now the ‘leading cause of mosquito borne disease in continental USA’.
Even those of us who reside in Europe can’t escape as the virus has in recent years reached Southern Europe. This truly confirms how how global warming is changing the planet in ways that are likely to have long-lasting consequences for us all……..
The return to Kampala was relatively uneventful, apart from the long drive back. I loved the whole experience, but am now ready to enter a 4-5 week period of being in one place, allowing me to settle into Ugandan everyday life. It also gives me the chance to get my head around the Kampala CSU waged employment project, which is what I will be working on for the next month or so; so please keep tuned for my next installment!