When I traveled to Uganda to experience the Village2Village Project in action, I went with my new role within ‘sponsor communications’ in mind. Armed with notebooks, technical pencils, my laptop, camera and video camera, I set out to collect as much information as possible for my ‘clients’… the sponsors.
I didn’t go to ‘fix’ or ‘change’ anyone or anything.
I am not a nurse, a doctor, a builder, an engineer, a business woman, or a teacher and at times have felt there was little I had to offer. I was thrilled to have a task, but I also went with an open and willing heart … not knowing where that would take me.
As I rode in the Village2Village van, sat in on a morning staff meeting, or visited the home of a sponsored child, I scribbled feverishly in my notebooks and snapped pictures of everything from food I was eating, to a helpless child in a loving mother’s arms. I collected stories of individual children, families, statistics on HIV/AIDS in the area, the challenges and realities regarding disabilities, the constant battle with malaria and how it inhibits productivity.
But more I learned, the more I fell in love.
I fell in love with the people of Serere and their determination, resilience, patience and endurance. I was in awe of the Village2Village staff members’ devotion, compassion, kindness, faith and sense of humor. Here were a collection of people doing day-to-day what those of us who aspire to “make a difference” hope to do only in our wildest of dreams.
Then, something. happened.
Naturally, when you express a genuine interest, concern and admiration for someone else, or their community, and spend quality time with each other… you-begin-to-connect.
I had been so concerned about ‘helping and not hurting’ during my trip, accomplishing my tasks of collecting information, making sure I didn’t forget to take my malaria medication, and being cautious about what foods and beverages I consumed that . . .
i. never. considered. friendship.
i. had. never. thought. about. saying. goodbye.
Recently, a close friend of mine met me for lunch. She was very curious about my trip to Serere and we hadn’t had a chance to connect since I’d returned. One of the first questions she asked me was how it felt leave.
As I sat at this teeny-tiny-table-for-two in a crowded restaurant in Providence jammed with people celebrating the holidays, I tried to express to her the deep bond I’d developed with the staff at Village2Village. I gave a few examples of rich conversations that we’d had. I described the scene when I had to say goodbye and how tears flowed freely down my face — even as I tried to keep myself reasonably together for the sake of the children looking on. About how someone had told me that my leaving had left a hole in their heart. With tears streaming down my face in the restaurant, I said, “I’m really not sure how to describe it…“ And my friend finished “…if you were in the same place, they would be dear friends you would share your life with.”
Yes, that is it.