I’ve returned from Uganda, and I don’t know where to begin in telling you about the trip.

I could start with our accomplishments, like the poultry farm and houses that are just about ready for occupancy – by hundreds of baby chicks, and by the young women who will be tending them. Or the two sewing centers we set up – one in a vocational school where the students are learning trades that will help them earn a decent living, and another in a refugee settlement center in southern Uganda where more than 200,000 people from 13 war-torn African countries now reside.

I could tell you about the joy of distributing items that were donated by thoughtful and generous individuals and organizations back in the States – pillowcase dresses and handmade shorts and underwear; backpacks filled with school supplies; hats and sunglasses that are sorely needed in the bright African sun, especially by the many albino children and adults who live in the refugee center.

Or I could write about the hours we spent each day traveling to different locations along dusty dirt roads that consist of potholes and ditches, and that often reminded me of riding on a Tilt-a-Whirl. Or about the traffic along multi-lane roads that have no lane markers, few traffic signs or signals, and that are filled with cars, vans, trucks, motorcycles, bikes, vendors, pedestrians, and animals that somehow still manage to move along without crashing into each other.

But I’d rather start by talking about the people. The friends I haven’t seen in almost four years, and who greeted me with hugs and happy smiles as soon as I got off the plane, though it was close to midnight and they traveled around two hours to get to the airport. And the children who love to have their picture taken and who squeal with delight when I show them their photos on my camera. Or the people we met and worked with, from government officials and business leaders to teachers, truck drivers, and construction workers.

I think that when you say “Uganda,” many Americans envision military dictators like Idi Amin. Or barefoot, emaciated children like those in commercials for service organizations that help the poor and needy around the world. Sadly, these are realistic portrayals, but they give a very limited view of the country or its people. The people of Uganda are hardworking, resourceful, gracious, and grateful, and I thoroughly enjoy the teaching, learning, and sharing that take place whenever I spend time with them. I always feel welcome and appreciated in Uganda, and it’s hard to say goodbye when it’s time to leave.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll share stories about some of the more powerful and memorable events and activities from my trip to Uganda. I hope you’ll enjoy them. I hope they will help you get to know and treasure – as I do – these people from a country and culture that is so unlike our own. And I hope that as you get to know them from up close and personal, you will discover – as I have – that we are really more alike than different.

May 25, 2018
©Betty Liedtke, 2018

I welcome your comments, but please be aware that all comments will be moderated and approved before appearing on this blog. This is to protect all of us from unwanted spam.