What an experience! What a journey! The call came from Nick to accompany both he and wife Michelle along with some amazing donors as they visited and dedicated some wells in the remote Mubende and Mityana areas west of Kampala. Maybe it was tiredness after a long year in school but I agreed to make the trip and satisfy my curiosity about the work of Wells of Life which had such an entrancing hold on Nick.This was to be an experience I will never forget.
Arriving into Entebbe airport was a little unnerving. People of my vintage can most probably recall the grainy dramatic TV news footage of the raid on a hijacked plane back in 1976. We thought we knew what terrorism was back then but what an education we have had in the meantime!
Nerves were settled when I was greeted by Adrian, our "man-on-the-ground" in Uganda. And boy what a man Adrian would prove to be over a hectic week of travel and deadlines. Adrian ensured that all was right for his visitors and no stone was left unturned over the succeeding days as we negotiated our way through uncharted areas which would love to see a visit from a roadcrew!
Adrian is a diamond with an amazing heart and a great desire to see things done well - no pun intended.
Wells of Life can rest assured that it's interests will be well served by this wonderfully committed young man.
I met some incredible people over the week and forged links which I hope will endure. Christianity,kindness,charity but above all humanity were so evident as we became familiar with each other on this journey.
The scale of the problems and difficulties faced daily by the inhabitants of these communities is almost unimaginable. You really do have to see, feel, smell, taste it to fully capture the enormity of their situation. First world expectations and sensitivities are best left in your hand luggage.
What will I remember most? There is so much to process. Above all I will remember the smiling,happy faces of the magnificent children.To the outside world it may appear that they have nothing - and in a material sense that is true. But in a deeper sense they have all that matters in life. They have love of families that care for them and they have happiness. Material things are irrelevant in this environment. We can help by bringing them clean water which will keep them healthy. It will allow them to stay in school and work towards realising their undoubted potential. They have manners, good grace and respect. In fact they can teach us much more valuable lessons than we can ever teach them. We can offer a hand to help them out of the hole that they are in but these people are well capable of standing on their own feet. They are humble, yet proud.Grateful, but not grasping.It was a joy to visit them.
The simple pleasure of seeing kids eyes light up with joy at the magic tricks of Lou, the Monaghan Magician. The laughter as they discovered that Mike Martin was a "class" frisbee player. Charlie Hedges trying gamely to explain the feeling of seeing his son's name on a giant scoreboard screen. Prof John Velasquez proofing time and again that he had more moves than Jagger! His oratory was even better. Michelle keeping us all fed - both spiritually and physically on the daily grind. Steven's incredible driving skills that saw him dodge Boda-Boda's and cavernous potholes. Nick's incredible energy and focus on the mission in hand. There was a job to be done and he was going to do it.
All of the above are light hearted reflections on an incredible journey with amazing people but there was another more serious side to this trip.
I am in awe of Fr. Max and his selfless dedication to his own people. What he has sacrificed to serve his community is inspirational.
Our visit to the orphanage with Grace was another seminal moment for me.What a beautiful spirit this fine young woman has. Her selfless dedication to these orphaned children is living proof that good exists in our world. Charlie's moving words to the children here will long stay with me.
The beautiful orchestration of the elements as John dedicated the well to his mother was also very moving as was the exchange of prayer mat and prayer missal between the Professor and the Muslim community leader. Ecumenism at work in real terms. Harmonious coexistence of varying traditions showing us all what is possible.
The wonderful standard of work produced by the children of the Joan Jordan school despite the many difficulties and obstacles hindering them. This school is blessed with a truly dedicated staff.
The dedication to the task of the CEED crew of Graham, Pete and Herbert. A vocation, not a job.
Beautiful people who sang and danced with us each and every day. They had little to give us to express their gratitude but they gave us their time and their love. It was all they had. It is their most valuable asset. I hope we accepted it gracefully.
Our visit to the Ndere Cultural Centre in Kampala brought some welcome light into a dark week. This Ugandan "Riverdance" gave us some valuable insight into a noble culture and heritage. It also showed us the incredible potential of a nation with so much to offer. A pearl that needs to regain it's lustre.
The abiding memory for me will be a scene repeated as we passed through the small towns. Now and again we would pass a carpenter who displayed his work outside his small workshop.Occasionally along with the tables and chairs there might be a number of coffins prepared and ready to go. The striking thing from this that I will carry with me is that many of these coffins were small and ready for children. They bury their children here! It was a stark reminder of how tough life can be for these wonderful people. We can affect this by providing the most basic of human needs - clean water. We must affect this.We are called Wells of Life but wells can bring life. Let's do our duty and play our part.