In reflecting back on our trip, I realized that pretty much all of the memories I’ve taken with me are positive (except for getting sick and all of the bug bites of course). Everything we did went unexpectedly smoothly (going to Kampala, the rafting, our survey etc.) and on top of this, we met so many amazing people that I hope to remain in touch with.
The Ugandans that we met were incredibly welcoming and friendly and it was very easy to feel at home in Masaka. In fact, after travelling to places such as Kampala or Lyantonde, I always felt a strong sense of relief when our taxi would finally arrive back in Masaka, just like I was returning home. Masaka quickly became an easy place to live.
Personally, I think the biggest thing that our trip changed for me was the way that I viewed international affairs. Before, I was relatively uninterested in what was going on in other areas of the world, but now I read the international news section everyday on Aljazeera.com. I feel much more like a citizen of the world now. And of course I’ve learned to appreciate American junk food a whole lot more now as well!
Overall, I would say that this trip was an absolutely incredible experience for me. I made some great friends in Eileen, Madeline, and Peter, and opened my eyes to so much more than simply going home for the summer would have. I’m extremely grateful that I was given the opportunity to go on this trip and would love to return to Uganda sometime soon.
As I begin to write this reflection and look back on our time in Uganda, I can’t believe two weeks have already passed! I am filled with a rollercoaster of emotions still slightly unable to digest all that happened. Hard to know where I should start: opinions of our partner? impressions of all the people we encountered? lessons learned? I guess I’ll start with the beginning and my expectations going into this.
Prior to this trip, we as a chapter knew very little of our partner and their work. With some knowledge of their general mission and just a few specifics of the project we support, we put a lot of trust into where our money was going. Hence, the point of a GROW trip – to see firsthand the use and results of all the money we spent so much of our time fundraising. So going into the trip, I really had no idea what we would be doing on a daily basis, who we would be working with, or the atmosphere with which we would be working. But to say I had no expectations would be a lie. I expected to be able to come to Kitovu and “make a difference” as privileged and arrogant as that may that sound. I wanted to be able to give them something – physical labor, innovative ideas, necessary feedback, anything! As soon as we arrived, I realized this wouldn’t be as easy as I thought.
From the very beginning, Kitovu Mobile blew my mind. I could have never guessed the amount of incredible and comprehensive work they have and continue to do. As we have already mentioned, not only do their programs touch upon so many different areas of HIV/AIDS impact, but they also are constantly evaluating and re-evaluating for improvements. During our entire time with Kitovu, I could only come up with one area that was lacking – prevention. Kitovu seemed to be addressing HIV and its effects, but I found little efforts to spread awareness on how to prevent it in the first place. When this got brought up to Charles, he said they feel the same way! They have realized that they can do so much more in this area, and at their strategic planning meeting (which took place while we were there), they began to explore different ways to meet this need as well. Incredible – they really do have all the bases covered! So where do we fit in?
I found myself asking this question a lot. I constantly had to remind myself (and be reminded by others) that our primary function, our role in the partnership is donor. GROW, especially for our first time, is not meant to be this super impactful trip where we have so much to contribute to the organization. We are college students with only very limited time and resources. While many GROW teams (and I think we can include ourselves) end up working on necessary projects and contributing what they can, the greater purpose is the connection created while on the trip – the intimate knowledge of the organization gained and the personal relationships created. I am so excited to share with people everything from our seemingly never ending rides into Kyanamukaaka to our hilarious moments with Kitovu staff to the exhilarating boda rides. With everything we learned and experienced there, we have this passionate fire and momentum to bring back to our chapter, Northeastern, and our community. We can now confidently say where our money is going, who it is impacting, and why it is so crucial to the community. As the upcoming president, I cannot even begin to describe how excited I am for this year – to use and spread the enthusiasm formed to fundraise that much harder because THAT is how we can help. A special thank you to Madrin, Peter, and Tyherrr and all the Kitovu staff for making this an awesome and smooth trip! SEE YA IN THE FALL!
Madeline and Peter’s will follow!