An unforgettable lesson

 

Last updated 2/13/2024 at 10:19am

Photo courtesy Juhree Kizziar

A trip to Uganda gave Juhree Kizziar new insight into the important things in life.

This December my father, sister, and I had the opportunity to travel to Uganda to work with an organization committed to helping people in need in different regions in Uganda. I got to experience two very different sides of Uganda, one in the city of Kampala, and the other in the village of Bugono. In both locations we were very involved with children, which allowed us to observe how they were living. 

On our first drive through Kampala we observed countless things differing from our life in America compared to their life in a Third World country. For example: major potholes, both in the dirt roads and pavement, which caused major traffic everywhere we went; reckless driving with very few signs and most people not following traffic laws; both kids and adults living in extreme poverty; and trash consuming the streets.

While in Kampala we were also told how healthcare is not strong due to the lack of medicine and access to medical machines. Because of this, the life expectancy is much lower in Uganda than America. Due to the extremities in the city, I assumed the people would be very sad, upset, and angry about their conditions. Instead, they were the opposite. I have never seen so much joy, love, and community ever in my years in America.

As soon as we arrived, they were all very welcoming and kind. Although the kids were initially shy, they warmed up very quickly and were attached to our hips the rest of the time. We saw them perform inclusive and expressive skits, dances, and songs. Each kid completely put themselves out there without fear and were so proud of who they are and willing to show it. I will never forget the kids singing "This Little Light of Mine" with contagious laughter and smiles on their faces. Each and every one of these kids truly lights up this world. 

After visiting Kampala I assumed that the conditions in Uganda could not possibly get worse. I was proven wrong when visiting the village of Bugono in the region Iganga. The main difference that I saw between Kampala and Bugono was that hardly any adults and kids could speak English, although it is one of the national languages in Uganda. This is mainly because the schooling in villages is very underdeveloped.

Although Bugono is similar in size to Sisters, there was only one school, which was very run down and only had five medium-size classrooms with no electricity, and the kids sat on tarps instead of chairs. Due to the environment at the schools, it makes it very difficult for the kids to learn and the teachers to teach, especially because they do not have any paper, writing utensils, or anything to expand their visual learning.

We were told that many teachers in villages are not qualified to teach but are doing their best to try and develop the kids in their learning. Very quickly we became aware of the communication gap between us and the kids. It is easy to think that words are the only way to communicate, but we quickly realized love and affection is much stronger. We quickly realized how giving this community of Bugono is.

A child no older than 10 came to us with a bag of mangos, and an older woman did the same with a bag of jackfruit. Similarly, the teacher brought around a bag for the kids to give what they could to go to the community, and each kid walked up with whatever they could spare, whether it was money or food from their family.

Photo courtesy Juhree Kizziar

Without much in the way of material comfort, children in Uganda find much joy in life.

These kids have the harshest living conditions I have ever seen. They learn to mature at age five to take care of the babies, eat very little food, with no variety, and work hard for their family by going to the water well and carrying back gallons of water. All of this while living in huts or small buildings where they sleep on the floor. Instead of complaining, they give, admire, and love with all of their souls. 

After visiting both a city that holds millions of people and a village that holds much less, I have seen that both places have negative conditions. What stood out to me is that in both environments, there is a joy and happiness that is contagious wherever you go. I truly think that they have so much heart because they have nothing, which builds hope for something. Without having the basic necessities, they rely on what really matters: community, love, and giving. I truly believe that America has gotten so consumed with greed that we forget to look around and cherish what we were automatically given, a chance to live many long years full of opportunities. I will never forget this lesson.

 

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