I’ve been home from Uganda for two weeks now and for the past couple of days the question ‘Why do you care about Africa?’ continues to swirl around in my head. It is a question that keeps leaving me tongue-tied and to be completely honest, really frustrated with myself for not being able to answer immediately. As I sort through these thoughts, I hope to be able to answer that question with grace, intelligence and compassion and thank you for hanging in there with me as I pour these thoughts out into the world wide web.
My journey to Africa began when I was 18 when I sat in on a seminar about Darfur. I had never heard of Darfur and could barely locate Sudan on a map. A few weeks later I saw an Invisible Children documentary about children in Uganda who had to walk at night to escape from being kidnapped and turned into child soldiers by a militia called the Lord’s Resistance Army. I believe it was then that something clicked and broke at the same time.
It’s taken me a few years to connect the dots but I have this belief that if you’re passionate about a cause or life goal, every decision made is divinely connected to each other. I picture it like dots on a map that are connected through life experience, the people we meet, knowledge we gain and living action. When I think about this life theory, I can see so many pivotal moments in the past 10 years that have transformed my life towards caring about African relief issues. I see the books I’ve read about the Lost Boys connecting to my friendships at the Sudanese Center in Nashville. I see the Invisible Children documentary I saw when I was 18 connecting to my experience of meeting a young woman in Uganda who walked those dark roads at night with her fellow classmates and was kidnapped by the LRA. I see going to school for graphic design and communications allowing me to pursue my passion and work with African relief non-profits to help tell their story. I feel so excited and thankful for having these experiences that bring so much personal meaning to life.
While by nature I’m an optimist, there is a part of my heart that feels continually broken for the communities in Uganda and Ethiopia I’ve been fortunate enough to meet. I’m currently coming off of a vision trip high of feeling extremely hopeful for Uganda. I saw so much good in the communities we visited and I’ve come home with tons of stories of hope. However when I think about the reality of the situation that millions still don’t have access to clean water, that our sponsor child currently lives in a city dump and has HIV, that women are still involved in sex trafficking and thousands of people are still being treated as slaves…that is what breaks my heart on a continual basis and why I care about Africa.
Jumping off my high horse
I distinctly remember flying to Ethiopia in 2010 on a giant airplane full of American volunteers, doctors and philanthropic executives. I felt so proud to be American at that time and thought to myself “look how much good we’re all doing! We’re going to help so many people!” I look back on that moment now and want to bang my head against a wall for the unintentional arrogance those thoughts embodied. The truth is, many impoverished communities, not just in Africa, have so much wisdom to instill on us. Their joy is not determined by their circumstance. It takes one bright Ugandan smile from the field to believe that statement.
Why I Care About Africa
So I come back around to the question of why I care about Africa. I know now that I care because my new Ugandan friend Helen lives in a community without access to clean water. I care because I have neighbors like Saroh Awale in Nashville who had to leave her country to flee war and live in a Ugandan refugee camp for 7 years. I care because of the boys I met in Ethiopia who live on the street and so badly want to have a home and go to school. They are now part of my story and I am a part of their story…and I feel so grateful because of it.
How You Can Help
I feel lucky to have interacted with these really great non-profits in Uganda and Ethiopia. They’re trust worthy and are doing incredible lasting work.
Thank you friends and family for continuing on this journey with me and for reading this long winded note.
“There are moments when the heart is generous, and then it knows that for better or worse our lives are woven together here, one with one another and with the place and all the living things.”
Wendell Berry, Jayber Crow