• Ross Young

Uganda 2019: Arden Academy – Student Reflections

Updated: Sep 29

Last week I promised to share with you reflections of the students that visited Uganda as part of the Arden Academy trip of April this year. Here they are. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Frankie Smith

For me, Uganda was an experience of a lifetime. It opened my eyes to the opposing lives people in different parts of the world lead. Uganda’s economy has very little money yet I can guarantee that I have never seen people with smiles as big as those in Kihembe. Their smiles reflected their warmth, kindness and most of all their elation at our presence. Being over 6,000 miles away from home was a nerve wracking thought for us all, yet our hosts Monica and her daughter, Patience, welcomed us into their traditional Ugandan home and village and made us part of their very loving family. The aim of our visit was to plan a legacy project with the people in the community of Kihembe, in order to do this, we had to visit the possible sites at which a legacy project could be developed.

We visited the local primary school, secondary school and health centre which were in an incomparable condition to sites like these in Knowle. The most emotional day for me of the two weeks was visiting Kishunju Primary School, the children greeted us with the most powerful singing and dancing that sent shivers down my spine. These children were so enthusiastic and positive yet were learning in classrooms literally about to fall down, that we would deem dangerous as they put the children at risk. Sadly, days after returning home from Uganda, these classrooms were blown down in a storm; luckily, before we left we had decided to invest our money to enable the building of permanent classroom blocks for the children at Kishunju.

We are hoping that these classrooms will not only provide a safer learning environment but also give the children an incentive to keep going to school, which we hope will lead to higher overall attendance and most importantly improve their education. The people in the village are very proud of what they have, even though to us it would seem very little; this has demonstrated to me that we take the smallest things, like running water, electricity and flushing toilets for granted. I chose to apply for this trip to Uganda because the opportunity excited me; not only has it taught me about a completely different culture but has also taught me that money doesn’t provide happiness, it is the people around you who do. I can’t wait to go back! The relationships I built throughout this trip with the members of the Opportunity Africa team and the people of Kihembe are something that will stay with me forever.

(Frankie with Moses at the Opportunity Africa office during the legacy project meeting)

Ashleigh Lawrence

Our visit to the village of Kihembe is an experience I will never forget, it was genuinely life changing. We came to Uganda to appreciate and learn about its culture, to meet new people and interact with the villagers. We saw and did so many incredible things but for me, the close relationships that we built with the Opportunity Africa team and the villagers was something I didn’t expect and is honestly what I miss most about it.

The welcoming, unconditionally generous and generally happy nature of these people made our visit the wonderful experience it was and I know it was the beginning of some very special friendships. The visit did have its share of challenges, but the most difficult one of all was having to say goodbye – I’m missing it and everyone so much that I am already hoping to go back! My visit to Uganda was one of the most incredible experiences of my life and I am so grateful to Ross, Danielle, Monica, The Zuri Project Uganda and Opportunity Africa for making the village of Kihembe part of our lives.

(Ashleigh with Monica, Frankie and Moses, on a tour of the secondary school site)

Eoin Russell

The trip to Uganda was a life changing experience and I am grateful that i’ve had the opportunity to see an area of the world that is so different to England. Our experience of Uganda was definitely not what any of us expected. I think England on the whole is fed quite a negative image of Uganda through the media but I must say that it deserves a much better reputation that the one it is given. I tried to approach the trip with empathy for the Ugandans but in fact, I left the trip envious of them and their culture. They are some of the happiest people I have met and this has taught me that money definitely doesn’t equal happiness.

We were greeted with an overwhelming reception everywhere we went and my favourite memory of the trip was our arrival at Kihembe Secondary School. The students proudly performed traditional dances, songs and acts. It was very touching to see how grateful they are for their opportunity to get an education (something that we take for granted) and how the charity’s contributions have positively impacted their lives. I’m sure that Arden’s contribution will be equally as impactful and that is something that the whole school can be very proud of. Ross told us that The Zuri Project is built on relationships and now I understand why. In the short time we spent there we made some amazing friends who we still keep in touch with now. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Uganda and hope that future sixth formers can have the same experience as we have.

(Eoin & Nihal doing what they do best: playing football with the secondary school team! Pete (blue cap) and Ross (big bum) are also in the huddle!)

Nihal Bhatt

I would like to thank Arden and The Zuri Project for exposing me to such a different culture and lifestyle to the one that we have here. While we were in the village we went to visit some of their most important facilities and while they were incomparable to the facilities we have here, everyone was appreciative and were very optimistic for what these facilities can and could provide in the future. Everywhere we went we received a very warm reception and were made to feel at home which was a truly heart warming experience. This hospitality lead me to build some great relationships in the relatively short space of time we spent in the village.

It was very refreshing to see overseas charity work being done with the community in charge. What really stood out to me was the selflessness and ingenuity of the community members, especially the members of Opportunity Africa. For example, the use of coffee and vegetable plants to sustain teachers’ salaries and to maintain infrastructure, I thought was such a creative solution to a serious issue. I am delighted to have had the chance to be a part of The Zuri Project and I am certain this is not the last time I will be a part of this amazing initiative.

(Nihal, front left with some of the OA & Zuri Project team. From Back left – Monica, Bright, Frankie, Ross, Moses, Danielle, Eoin, Elly, Ashleigh. Front from left – Nihal, Jimz, Pete & Sarah).

More to follow next week!

Ross.

@ZuriProject

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