Sunday, July 11, 2010

From Kampala to Kyangwali

Let me preface this post by saying that I would love to add pictures, but the internet is being so slow that I've lost interest and patience in that pursuit. I'll add some soon though, promise! You'll just have to rely on my superb descriptions in the meantime...

Early on Friday morning, I wandered into the center of Kampala with two fellow Educate! (hereby referred to as E!) co-workers in search of a bus to Hoima, a small town in the western part of Uganda; close to Lake Albert if that helps. We wandered around there for a while before meeting with up the rest of the group and heading off to our final destination, Kyangwali Refugee Camp (pronounced chahn--gwah--lee). Refugees from Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi began arriving to the camp around 1997, and many are still fleeing there today.

E! is connected to the Kyangwali primarily through COBURWAS (Congolese, Burundian, Rwandese, Sudanese), which is an organization that was started by a few young Congolese refugees when they first arrived in the camp. We were fortunate to have a few of the founding members at the camp that day to share with us the history of their organization, the challenges they has faced and their future goals for COBURWAS.

After hearing them speak, I went with a few other people to visit the Sudanese side of the camp, where we spoke with a 15 year old boy and his four brothers about their daily life in the camp. His biggest concern and question for us at the end of our conversation was how to get more resources for his football (soccer) team! Of course. We advised him to follow the lead of COBURWAS and organize with his team to find creative ways to raise money for their gear. As we walked the hour and a half walk (yea... so long) back to the Congolese side (there are houses the entire way through, it just happened to be very far from where we were staying), I considered how I would have felt if I had had to do manual labor and farming and pleading with the elders and foreign organizations just to play soccer as a kid, and honestly... I might not have played at all!

After our day of walking all over the camp, we were serenaded by a fabulous singer/song-writer and his family of singers. The first song they sang was written to honor the E! founder, Eric, and being the humble guy that he is, he was incredibly embarrassed, which made it all the more entertaining. And the leader of the singers, DJ, was shocked and I think kind of thrilled to find out that someone had put the song on YouTube. Needless to say, it was a fun night.

Finally, we drove back today, dusty and dirty as can be and made it safely back into Kampala. I'll update soon with observations on architecture, food, etc., but I think this is plenty for now. And hopefully I'll have pictures up soon! The. End.

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