It’s the end of another year and The Real Uganda wants to spread some good cheer!
2017 was quiet as far as volunteers are concerned. However, we made a couple of new partnerships with international organizations that source volunteers for Africa. Chief among them is Travel Unique. They’re based in Netherlands and we can’t wait to get some Dutch vollies out here! Bamboo/GVN, while focusing on South East Asia adventure travel, are still committed to us as well. Our profile on GoAbroad.com is also gaining traction, thanks to a number of great reviews from and interviews with our lovely former volunteers!
Our continuing work with Kain Foundation enabled Hopeline Organization to complete a series of 24 family development meetings in Kkoba Village, aimed at building household peace, respect, and open communication. Further, close to 300 Kkoba youth attended 6 social and economic development workshops – with 90 ultimately awarded apprenticeships. We’ve got people gaining practical skills in hairdressing, tailoring, motorcycle repair, carpentry, and sustainable agriculture.
We were involved in other fun stuff this year. We helped a former volunteer fund the purchase of playground equipment and perimeter fencing at Christian Heritage Centre, Najjembe. Another vollie, from WAY back in the early days, sent a pile of cash to help set up a nursery school for Balamu Community Organization in Mukono. Our marathon runners raised over $3,000, which provided funds for our hot lunch program, a few odds and ends for the women at Lugacraft, and allowed Balamu Community Organization to teach 100 rural youth sustainable agriculture skills.
All that was in addition to hosting 33 amazing volunteers from all over the world. The usual suspects hailed from US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Portugal, and Mexico. Not a dud among them. We also had a few interesting firsts: a young woman from Malaysia, another from Finland, a Brazilian doctor, a gentleman from south India, and another young man from Argentina. We also hosted a volunteer who grew up in Uganda and emigrated to Australia when she was 10 years old. Pretty cool homecoming, eh? Four former vollies also returned this year, which is a nice vote of confidence.
So, yeah – while it was quiet, it was also a pleasure to get to know a variety of compassionate and intrepid world travellers.
While we’re still actively seeking volunteers for our variety of programs for 2018, the pressure is officially off! So let’s talk about what it’s like to spend Christmas in Uganda.
How we do Christmas in Uganda is a wonderful example of the ‘true spirit’ of the holiday. It’s not about consumerism. It’s about food, family, friends, and God. Uganda has a healthy Muslim population to keep everything going, so getting a week or more off work for Christians is usually no problem. Christians reciprocate during Eid holidays.
Ugandans work hard all year to get this week of rest, and typically rush out to their home village to get it. They arrive with city treats like bread, sugar, cooking oil, fancy mobile phones, and other fun stuff. In return, they’re treated to piles of mangoes and avocados, and tonnes of fresh slaughtered chicken. Days are spent digging in the family garden, preparing slow-cooked fresh meals, and swapping stories of how life has been the past year. Christmas in Uganda is an annual family reunion.
Christmas day is feast day for sure. After a few early morning hours in church, the entire family gets involved in lunch preparation.
Forget the one-carb rule. On the table you’ll find a bit of everything: matooke (steamed banana), yams, sweet potatoes, cassava, kalo (pounded millet), rice, pumpkin, and posho (maizemeal). For the relatively well-heeled, beef, goat, and chicken may also be on offer. For the vegetarians (full disclosure: I’ve not met a Ugandan vegetarian in my 13 years here) you’ll find g.nut (peanut) sauce, beans, and sautéed greens. All Ugandan foods are steamed inside banana leaves over a wood fire for hours. The taste has a depth you won’t find anywhere else.
We feast in good health, as family, for the upcoming year.
Now how does that sound?
Happy holidays from The Real Uganda – looking forward to a peaceful 2018!