What I learned from my trip to Africa

A mission trip report through the eyes of a Mead student

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What I learned from my trip to Africa

Coal fires in the Kyenjojo district valley create an effect that looks like mist or fog

Coal fires in the Kyenjojo district valley create an effect that looks like mist or fog

Coal fires in the Kyenjojo district valley create an effect that looks like mist or fog

Coal fires in the Kyenjojo district valley create an effect that looks like mist or fog

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The team, just before leaving Kampala to drive to Kyenjojo

This November, I had the privilege of traveling to Uganda with a team of people to help out a trade school called Hearts and Hands Vocational School. We flew in to Entebbe, stayed the night in Kampala, and drove four hours to the small town of Kyenjojo. After staying the night in the village hotel, we drove across town to begin our mission: to build relationships with the people of the trade school while helping organize and plan its growth. I was the official photographer for the trip, along with a plumber, a shop teacher, an architect, and a pastor, my grandfather—the general leader of the trip—and his assistant/partner.

The school, Hearts and Hands Vocational School, is working on multiple programs designed to help the underprivileged youths of Kyenjojo get on their feet by teaching them life long skills. These include sewing classes where students make and sell clothes, a carpentry class where students learn how to cut and build with lumber from trees, and more.

The school is also a big help to local widows and underprivileged families. During our trip, we visited multiple widows that the school supports in different ways.

Sembo stands with her grandchildren. 10 of her 13 children died of AIDS, leaving her to take care of the grandchildren. The school supports her financially along with gifting her four goats.

Another widow, Veronica, has been gifted a new house by the school. Hearts and Hands helps their students in life, but also the community around it in real, personal ways.

Veronica’s old house, which she built herself

Veronica and her new house, built by Hearts and Hands

 

One of things that had the biggest impact on me was the orphans we met. Their innocent grins and curiosity stole my heart in a way that I wasn’t ready for.

What really struck me was that these kids were most likely destined to stay in their village for their whole lives. Most people can’t afford transportation further than a few towns away.

The culture in Uganda is that you’ll do what you’re father or mother did before you, your kids will continue that trade, and so on. That’s part of the reason Hearts and Hands Vocational School is such a blessing to the people of Kyenjojo. It’s a way for kids to learn new trades, taking their future into their own hands a little more. People refer to America as “the land of opportunity.” I understood what that meant, but I had never really fully grasped the weight of the statement. A lot of the people in these third world countries’ biggest dream is to make it to America one day. There’s so much opportunity here, we’re literally brimming with it. But while most of us are raised in this culture since birth, it’s harder for some of us to recognize it.

Students from the school climb to the top of the rocky hill on campus to relax at the end of the day

I’m so glad to have been a part of this experience. It challenged me to take a better look at our culture and make the most out of the vast opportunity we’re given here, whether that be diverse job choice, amazing living standards, or comfortable financial situations. Being the photographer for the trip meant I got to show people back in America the important parts of the trip as seen by me. I’m sure I’ll keep pulling new lessons from this experience for awhile, because there was so much to learn, even in such a small portion of Africa.

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  • The sewing program helps students learn to make their own clothes, and pay for tuition with clothes they sell

  • The main wood used to make lumber is Eucalyptus, a medium-hardness wood

  • 10 of Sembo’s 13 children died of AIDS, and she was left to take care of her grandchildren

  • Students from the school climb to the top of the hill on campus to relax at the end of the day

  • The most common form of transportation in Uganda is by motorbike (boda boda)

  • Sembo’s stands with her grandchildren. 10 of her 13 children died of AIDS, leaving her to take care of the grandchildren

  • Ugandans set up massive traps to catch grasshoppers. They are fried in their own juices, and taste similar to almonds

  • Coal fires in the Kyenjojo district valley create an effect that looks like mist or fog

  • A black mamba. After you’re bitten by this venomous snake, you have roughly 15 minutes to live

  • A group of orphans do an organized song and dance for guests (us)

  • Kirabo stole my camera bag

  • Driving is pretty hectic in these small crowded streets. “Keep left” is more of a suggestion than a law

  • Yum! Before they’re cooked, grasshoppers must be de-winged and de-legged, a task that takes a surprising amount of skill

  • The local food, consisting of Ugali (a ground-nut sauce) goat meat, yams, bananas, rice, and more

  • Using a map of the campus, planning is done on where and when to build new additions to the school

  • Ken Gray (left), Abel Tindao (center) and Mike Henderson survey the Hearts and Hands property. An amphitheater is hoped to be built on the hillside, providing a place for people to commune and rest after the day

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