Uganda: The welcoming sounds of a community transformed

By Anna van de Walle, Uganda Child Sponsor

My husband Antoine and I arrived on Friday 1 August in Kampala, a few days before the visit, to acclimatise and orientate. That afternoon we visited World Vision Uganda headquarters for the initial briefing by Teddy, the World Vision child sponsorship programme manager, who explained the organisational and operating principles of the local organisation.

We were impressed and pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and the effective operation of the local World Vision organisation, which employs only local staff. Teddy explained how the monthly contribution I make is allocated to the regional project in Nabiswera where my sponsored child, Stella lives.

Some of the funds might be spent on her personal needs, e.g. for schooling costs, but the majority is allocated to the improvement project which is operated by the community with participation of World Vision staff. This was news to us and it makes perfect sense. That way Stella benefits while her whole environment is improving.

The project is finite (some 15 years) and includes many if not all local children (some 2,000 in total). It makes contributions to the local school, (partially) pays the school teachers, installs water pumps, provides bicycles, and provides social and educational assistance to families. And it emphasises the care of nature.

On Monday 4 August 7am we were picked up by driver David and guide Obed. Owing to our hotel being in the far south of Kampala and Nabiswera in the north, David had to battle the morning peak, which was horrendous. But he skilfully delivered us at 10am in Nabiswera. The World Vision regional manager Gilbert gave us a brief but complete overview of project activities.

We then headed to the school at midday. The welcome was heart-warming and emotional, a little tentative initially. Stella and her friends cheered in a friendly manner. We shook hands with the teachers and said hello to the children.

We then met Stella’s family. We never established the exact number of family members, but there were about 13. We were welcomed by the sounds of the “ululation”, the traditional wavering high pitched women’s vocal sound, a sign of happiness. The family's hospitality was endearing. And Stella grew prouder by the minute. There was a lot of laughter, enjoyment and love in the air.

We talked, had lunch together, danced, played soccer with the new ball, walked and admired the herd of cows the family proudly owned. Like so many families in Uganda they live off the land, renting a relatively small plot of land that provides food for the cows and the chickens and soil for the cultivation of crops and fruit. After consuming what they need they take the remaining produce and meat to the market, which provides an income to buy the goods that the land doesn't deliver such as salt, sugar, clothes and tools. This is a very basic existence which is common across this very fertile country with a good moderate climate.

Stella and a number of her school friends performed a traditional song and dance in a lovely fashion. And we had lunch, a lovely homemade meal of cow’s meat, chicken and baked green banana cake.

Our farewell was very emotional and pledges of frequent letter exchange could not take the tears away.