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An African Adventure
Student teams from Peter Symonds College regularly visit Uganda to work with Project Embabazi. Read about the experiences of one of the students:
This summer, I was part of a group of 17 college students who went on an expedition to western Uganda. For 3 years students from Peter Symonds College have visited the deprived village of Kanjobe, near the Rwandan border. But upon arrival it soon became obvious that while they didn't have new clothes, technological gadgets or vast resources, they were rich in their own way. We met a joyful and vibrant community who were immensely grateful to have us in their village. Thinking we were a strain on their hospitality, they treated us with complete gratitude and at times seemed in awe of us. They did all they could to make us feel like we belonged.
For a group of western teenagers, we were surprised by how much they glorified us, when it was us who were amazed by their humble way of life and community spirit, that so starkly contrasts to our busy and technologically driven life.
The trip was fun and dynamic with each day completely new, presenting new opportunities and experiences. In the first half we stayed in the village, experiencing Ugandan village life first hand. The church, school and houses branched off from a winding dusty track that connected all the villages. It was on this track that we met many different people, the lack of cars opened the way for communication. Children walked along with us and there was a sense you could speak to anyone. Each day we set out to carry out the project which we had organised and gathered resources for whilst in England, months prior to the expedition.
I was surprised how easy it was to communicate despite tangible language barriers. We were always finding new and innovative ways to explain things and make friends through non-verbal means. At Sunday school, we taught the children to do rounds of English songs, which most of them wouldn't have known the meaning of. It wasn't really the meaning of the words that mattered out there, it was the process of communicating that brought us and the village together. We also taught them games like rounder's and cricket leaving behind a skill as well as lots of balls and sports equipment donated by our college's P.E department. As many of the children didn't have quality clothing, we did T-shirt painting with them to teach art and craft as well as leaving them a gift which provided identity and a useful piece of clothing.
For me, the best thing we did in the village was bead making. It wasn't just to make a short term splash it was intended to create lasting ripples of change and improvement which I hope will be continued by Peter Symonds students in the future. We were teaching a skill to the Mothers Union which would enable them to be self-sufficient, giving them the power to improve their quality of life. You could see just how eager they were to learn and improve life for their children and family.
In the second week, we saw so many variant regions of Uganda. Luxury tourism in lake Bunyoni, the bustle of a developing city in Kampala and the wild animals of Queen Elizabeth Country Park.
The merging of the two parts of the trip, allowed us to see the diversity of Uganda and truly broadened the quality of the expedition. The two week adventure was really a six month journey. We spent time planning our itinerary, getting to know each other in Dartmoor and planning and conducting many events to raise £7,000. For all the hours put in, time and effort of those involved and generous donations from so many, we gained a life changing experience which would enrich ourselves and the village. The money that we accumulated through the Uganda quiz, animal sponsorship scheme and many more events was generated by the college infrastructure and activeness of the local communities. Even one individuals act of kindness. Without this there would be no lasting impact in the village. We were lucky enough to be middle men in the relations between Winchester and Kanjobe and I can guarantee that it is the best way to invest our money in a privileged society. A few quid to us means so much more in a village thousands of miles away.