More often than not, my writing is inspired by an inability to sleep and some sort of great stirring in my soul (the two are often related). Tonight it’s been due to reflections upon my recent trip to Uganda. My first trip to Africa. I had the amazing opportunity to spend four glorious days in and around Kampala. I took a boat to the source of the Nile River, walked among Vervet monkeys, saw where Ghandi’s ashes were scattered, made friends from Canada to Tanzania, and felt the hearts of the Ugandan people. I can only sum it up in the fact that the phrase I heard the most while I was there (other than Muzungu, meaning white person) was “you are most welcome.” Not only was this the phrase I most commonly heard, but the general feeling I had during my entire stay.
Throughout my days in Uganda I tried to learn as much as I possibly could, to soak it all in. I had so many questions and all of my questions were met with thoughtful answers from everyone I encountered. It seemed that I had “girl who wants to learn” written all over my forehead. Even when I wasn’t asking questions, the people surrounding me were trying to teach me as much as they could. They wanted to share their lives with me as much as I wanted to learn about them. One thing I learned about Ugandans is that just as much as I want to learn, so do they. In my travels I was hoping to be able to visit She’s the First partner school Arlington Academy of Hope. Unfortunately due to time and travel limitations I was not able to but once I returned home I watched AAH’s film “From One Village.” This film to me is very representational of what I witnessed in Uganda, some of the most hardworking people I’ve ever encountered that have some of the biggest hearts and smiles imaginable.
The story of Nabulo Rachel, featured at the end of From One Village, is where I tie my She’s the First journey to this story. Through She’s the First I have been able to witness the hearts of the amazing women that I am able to work with on a daily basis on this side of the world and the women that She’s the First is empowering all over the world. Nabulo Rachel is proof that the message we are spreading, the statistics that we bring to you, the possibilities we see in these young women, can be realized. Nabulo Rachel’s short story is this:
“Nabulo Rachel was one of the original children in the scholarship program that John and Joyce Wanda started in 1996. Rachel and her four siblings were raised by her mother, Sarah. Inspired by her mother’s determination to see her succeed, Rachel made the difficult decision to drop from P7 in a village school back to P5 at AAH the year it opened. She passionately wanted to avoid the common village fate of early marriage and motherhood and did not let the golden opportunity of AAH pass her by.
AAH nurtured Rachel into a vivacious and confident all-around student. She was a top academic performer in her graduating P7 class and one of the school’s lead singers. She received an AAH scholarship to continue her schooling and chose to attend Makerere High School – Migadde, a secondary boarding school near Kampala. She is currently in her third year of study. There, Rachel remains close to her AAH peers and joins them in the long hours of study hall and library time necessary to keep afloat in the demanding Ugandan secondary system and realize her dream of becoming a lawyer. When she returns to her home during term breaks she runs eagerly to engulf AAH staff members in tight hugs and is rarely seen without a wide smile on her face.”
With the continuation of our work through She’s the First and an increased awareness of the stories of more girls like Nabulo Rachel, we can help to increase the statistic of educated young women in Uganda. We can help give young women like Nabulo Rachel an opportunity and a voice. By doing this, she will then be able to go back to her community and share what she’s learned with other young women. Instead of continuing a cycle of poverty and lack of education, we can help young women to break that cycle and start a new cycle where they return to share their knowledge and better their community. When I look back at Uganda, among all of the poverty, I see smiles and hope. I see strength and opportunity. I see a place that has changed my life. So to you, Uganda, I say weebale, thank you.