45 minutes + 12 hours + 5.5 hours = flight time from Harrisburg to Entebbe, Kampala (via Qatar). Add to that quite a few loud children on the 12 hour flight, a child who screams every once in a while like clockwork –a loud, piercing scream that doesn’t seem to end, an incredibly misbehaved child during our wait at the airport, a two-year old who climbs on my lap during the flight because he is lost and what do you have? You have a tired puppy. That is me. A tired puppy who thanks God every day for her own children who don’t scream on planes and who tend to behave when they are told to.
Then, we finally arrive in Entebbe, tired and a bit hungry because the food on the plane isn’t great. OK…it just isn’t good. As in, “what IS this?” crosses my mind a few times as I poke at the food in my little tray. Not a shy one when it comes to food, I consider biting into the white sausage-like thing but decide I would rather not regret my decision later on, as we are just starting this trip. So, hungry and tired, three of us emerge from the plane and make our way to customs, where we hope to run into the fourth of our party.
Two hours and 30 minutes of waiting in lines at customs, we have our passports stamped and we get our luggage and keep looking for our fourth, who is nowhere around. We look around for a while, and not finding him, decide he must have made it to the hotel ahead of us because our flight was late in arriving and we had stood in line for a very long time. We pick up a lost-looking girl whose ride leaves her behind at the airport and with Moses, the driver of the day, we head to our hotel in Kampala, about an hour away.
Lake Victoria glimmers on our right, where children and adults play in the water.
Arriving at the hotel, we say goodbye to Laura and find our fourth checking his mail in the courtyard of the hotel, the only place where the wireless connection works.
We hug and we all know immediately that we will get along well – Fred, Betsy, Karina, and I.
After a good night’s sleep thanks to Tylenol PM, we visit Baylor-Uganda where we meet with upper staff to discuss what Baylor-Uganda and AFCA are doing these days respectively. The room in which we meet is enormous and comfortable, with a sprawling view of the city below us. We are all wowed by the work done throughout the country by Baylor-Uganda, as they target pediatric HIV/AIDS and maternity health and I find myself remembering time and again how far this organization has come since we started work with them in 2005. From a small ward at Mulago Hospital known as the Pediatric Infectious Disease Center to this modern, well-run and managed clinic, it is now the largest pediatric HIV/AIDS clinic in Africa.
How proud I feel to be part of their work, to know that we had something to do with them being who they are. Yes, we are small. No, we don’t have the funds some of their larger donors have. But, we have stuck with them for years and have watched them grow and have responded every time a request has been put before us. And, that makes me happy. Happy to be a part of something so much bigger than we are and to be commiserating with people who have a heart for their countrymen and who want their children to be healthy and happy.
This time around, we discuss sustainability projects so that the children they serve can take care of themselves, not getting used to hand outs of medicine, seeds, food, or other items. We discuss livestock projects and how we run ours, how to create a small business for young ladies, and the importance of giving all the children and adolescents the sense of dignity by asking them to help others, just as they’ve been helped.
I look across the table and there sit Fred and Betsy while Karina busies herself taking photos. Betsy is witnessing first-hand how the work she does at our warehouse is impacting lives right here and now. Fred is helping with story collection while Karina is taking care of photography. I am so happy to have these folks here with me, knowing that they, too, are part of all of this and that together, we are experiencing exciting times.