Around six weeks ago I hopped on a plane to begin volunteering with Light Gives Heat in Jinja, Uganda. I had followed the organization closely for years, constantly reminding my parents that I could just take a year off of school and spend a few months abroad. God began working all around me, people’s generosity pouring out to make this experience possible, something I will never express enough gratitude for. Light Gives Heat employs 93 women to make beads for a cooperative business called SUUBI and seven tailors to make bags and other goodies for a cooperative business called EPOH. Both are Ugandan managed and western influenced (and they make great Christmas presents if you’re in a rut about that! Sorry - shameless, LGH promotion). Our artisans live in two villages on the outskirts of Jinja called Walukuba and Danida, some of the poorer areas in the city. I spend my days here at a primary school across the street from our house, hanging out at an orphanage in Walukuba, sipping tea with the tailors, attending buying meetings for SUUBI, and really getting to know the men and women we employ. My role here is small, just make quality friendships within the city, love people I interact with, immerse myself in Ugandan life.
There’s something about moving to a third world country that we often romanticize. It’s as though we are so used to seeing pictures of mud huts and starving children that we expect it to be magical when we walk in and feed those children and rebuild the cracking huts. Though I do feel my life at the source of the Nile River is romantic, especially when my housemates decide to pay a fisherman to take us out on a sunset boat ride on Lake Victoria, mud huts and starving children are simply homes and children. It’s easy to begin to compare life here to life in America - most of the people I interact with daily would be considered extremely needy in the states - but that’s not a fair comparison. Human beings are dignified beyond their living conditions. They aren’t “the poor” any more than they are “the children of God”, their lives are absolutely important and certainly being lived with purpose and I am blessed beyond words to be a temporary member of such a community.