An unforgettable experience in Uganda

By John Carey, child sponsor

I travelled to Uganda to visit my World Vision sponsored child, Jimmy, and his family in early July 2016. I had been living in Africa at that time as the Australian contingent commander for the UN peacekeeping force in South Sudan.

I had always wanted to visit Jimmy since my wife, children and I became involved with World Vision; and this seemed a great opportunity to find out more while I was on leave. I wanted to know exactly how our monthly donations were being spent and whether our sponsorship was actually making a difference. 

I met Simon and my driver from World Vision Uganda at my Entebbe accommodation. After much shaking of hands and small talk we departed. As we travelled down the busy Kampala streets, I was immediately impressed by my companions and their dedication, knowledge and professional ability. 

The entire experience was conducted over three days. Although I had been in Africa with the UN and was well aware of security issues, I could imagine someone else travelling straight from Australia might have concerns about their safety – especially when driving around the country. At no stage during my visit did I have concerns about my welfare. The World Vision team always kept me informed, the driver was very experienced, and the overnight accommodation was secure and modern.

Finally, we arrived at the Acaba Area Development Program. The World Vision team in the field throughout were outstanding. They answered my many questions and ensured I was in good health at all times. They were friendly and helpful.

John meeting his sponsored child Jimmy, his family, and community.

I met Jimmy at his school. The principal, teachers and the World Vision field team showed me the facilities that had been constructed using donor funds. I was permitted to view the classes that were taught and see Jimmy learning in his own environment.

Jimmy was shy during the entire visit – he was the centre of attention and I am sure it was strange having all these people turn up wanting to know more about him! He opened up more later, especially when I handed him a football! I was informed that I was the first Australian to visit the project area in a few years. It was a blessing to meet everyone at the school and something I will not forget.

Shortly after, with Jimmy in tow, we visited his home village. An absolutely amazing experience. Not only did Jimmy’s immediate family show their gratitude, so did the entire community! I was shaking hands with family, extended family, councilors, the local priest – everybody came along to say hello and thank you. I spent time alone with Jimmy and his mother and we spoke about how World Vision is assisting them with various projects including education, medical support, fresh water, shelter and sanitation.

I learned more about Jimmy’s background and the fact his father had died a few years past. I learned how to identify and grow local crops and shared an amazing meal with the community. We sang local songs, laughed and danced and played football and netball – everyone was involved, even the elderly! We talked about cows and chickens, the long walk to and from school, and the future of the village. 

This experience has been the highlight of my time in Africa, and that includes my UN employment in South Sudan. I learned much from my time with the World Vision Uganda team – both in Kampala and in the field. They are doing exceptional work in difficult and arduous circumstances. I valued their interest, patience, good humour, compassion, determination and empathy. 

I strongly recommend that others visit their sponsored child. I will definitely be encouraging family and friends in Australia to sponsor a child and if possible visit them in their own community. I would also like to thank again Simon, James, William, Emma and the rest of the World Vision team for their leadership and assistance.