Reflections of mission trip in Uganda
I volunteered in Uganda, the Pearl of Africa!
The opportunity to serve the community and vacate appealed to me. I came across a nonprofit organization seeking volunteers to support villagers in Jinja. The mission meaningful and straightforward. Deliver supplies including medical, dental, school and shoes to those in need.
With Uganda on my list of places to visit, I eagerly volunteered to support the cause and the nonprofit organization sponsoring the trip. I informed the organizer in advance that I’d be working on the mission trip but was available to support the charitable work. I thought an exciting adventure was forthcoming.
Unfortunately, the organizer of the trip was not prepared. Clearly, used to working with smaller groups of friends and family. However, social media and word of mouth led to a larger group mixed with strangers.
Even I recruited an extra guest to support the mission trip with many others expressing interest for future trips. Unfortunately, I was unable to make a positive recommendation of support for this organization upon return.
Some positives while serving in Uganda
Serving humanity is what I’m about first and foremost.
When globetrotting, I always stop and make time to serve in the local community. It’s not for kudos. It’s a tough job. I genuinely enjoy making a positive impact. I’ve been blessed. Helping others is a love that run deeps in my heart. So, the great part of the missionary trip to Uganda was being able to carry more than 50+ pounds of supplies to help those in need.
The Ugandan children are adorable.
Their personalities and gleeful spirits were a warm welcome to the foreign land. They appreciated our presence. It was the first time many had shoes. Some even cried in agony of having a pair on their feet. It was all too new for some. Others smiled and cherished their new kicks.
In hindsight, I should have followed my instinct to bring larger shoes, more school supplies, and clothing. But, the organizer said no need for these specific items. What I saw upon arrival is that many children needed larger (adult) size shoes as their feet were large and wide.
Most never wore shoes.
The shape of their feet large and wide. Many would have benefited from the larger shoes left at home as a result of guidance from the organizer.
Also, clothing donations discouraged but certainly villagers could have benefited from clothes as well. Many kids have shirts with no bottoms or nothing at all. And, while children aren’t the least bit concerned about their private parts hitting the ground or the little insects crawling in places no bug should go, I wished I had shorts, briefs, or even panties to hand out at random to kids. Next time, I’ll follow my instinct.
In addition to supplies for the kids, there were a few medical professionals on the trip. This was probably the best part of the mission. They were able to provide medical service, to an extinct, to villagers. The sad part about it is most folks visiting the clinic had traumatic injuries. Needless to say, the medical team was not prepared to handle most of the trauma. However, the bit of antibiotic and pain medicine went a long way for those who received care.
Some of the people had injuries and illness that was terminal. While it is heartbreaking to see, it is beyond measure the joy that comes from being able to help others even in the smallest capacity. Sometimes, just showing up and illustrating that you care is enough to help someone. So, humanitarian work will always be one of my favorite things to do.
Uganda is a land of have and have-nots and not much in between. Either you have it or you don’t. Fifty percent of the population is in poverty. However, the growth of produce is abundant.
Choosing the right partner for charitable workWhen volunteering your time, it is important to find reputable organizations to serve and partner with. Click To Tweet
While many people say they’re men and women of God, this isn’t always the case.
The organizer and his combative attitude was disheartening.
From the start, he lacked transparency around the trip and provided misinformation. Questions from the group were mostly unanswered or met with anger, criticism, and/or overall disgust.
Clearly, plagued with communication issues. The way he addressed and argued with several women on the trip, including myself, was disgusting. He definitely was not open to dialogue or any suggested improvements. Nor, would he accept help to make the trip the best it could be. He did however stand back and watch everyone else work in the community while he took photos for social media. He never put the camera down to actually help.
His overall behavior and the negative atmosphere he fostered was a complete turnoff.
Before the trip, he changed the hotel in a last minute bait and switch. Luckily, I’d arrived in Uganda for travel assignments before the group and was able to book a room elsewhere having discovered the original accommodation which was dirty and infested.
And, it’s not an “African” thing like so many suggested. Outside of the lack of cleanliness, the roaches, spiders, and other critters was a buzz kill for me. Many folks in the group failed to relocate because they didn’t want to pay a few dollars more.
Those that stayed complained in private, talked about him behind his back, but never shared their disappointment directly to the organizer. I cannot stand passive aggressiveness and fake people. Any who, it seems my relocation and sharing of concerns caused a riff with some. The treatment dismal at best.
We made the best of it, finished the charitable work then parted ways from the group for a host of fun activities traveling throughout Uganda.
In retrospect, God surrounded and remained with me throughout my travels in Uganda despite negative forces within the group and organization.
There were numerous qualities of God that came alive to me while helping children and adults in need. For one, His love covered the people of Uganda. The children had amazing personalities. Filled with light and joy. The people were also thankful and kind. I learned a lot from my immersion experiences throughout Kampala and walked away from the journey with lifelong friendships.
I also felt His grace upon me as others gravitated toward me and expressed gratitude from our conversations and experiences. A calmness was with me even though I traveled to unknown territories and among those who truly failed to understand the purpose of missionary work. Everyone who claims God, is not Godly. It was through prayer that I was able to focus on the journey and the people.
Also, there were so many cultural encounters that made the trip worth every moment. It was endearing to journey through the slums with locals and understand how they lived and survived. I walked away with a greater appreciation for life, health, and the little things I have.
When I think about the positive attitudes and determination of those living in horrendous environments, I vowed to continue uplifting people when and where I can.
While conflict is unfortunate, taking the necessary steps to resolve and continue the work of the missionary trip required on me to call on the goodwill within to focus and accentuate the positive. I’m not saying I wasn’t disappointed because I truly felt perplexed and uneasy with the series of questionable tactics by the organizer. But, I relied on my expertise as a solo and world traveler to overcome the nuisances.
Read more on my solo travel and safari experience in Uganda. Plus, 5 tips for finding the right mission trip to support.