I am not sure what I expected to learn in Uganda and Rwanda but traveling here has taught me about the greatest challenges of world and more importantly, this trip gave me a glimpse about future possibilities. I witnessed extreme poverty in the slums of Kampala and the devastating result in creating a feeling hopelessness among the youth. I witnessed the women of Rwanda grasping with principles of unity and reconciliation, despite having their entire families murdered and bodies ravaged. I witnessed extreme health inequities with hospitals lacking basic utilities like water and constant electricity. At times, it was hard to resist feeling depressed and thinking there wasn't anything we could do... but then I would listen to the young program directors and I realized that we were witnessing a social transformation.
At every school or programs we visited, we saw young, devoted Africans working to pave a brighter future. The sense of responsibility and duty of young Ugandans and Rwandans have created programs that rehabilitate former child sex workers and established health centers to conduct private HIV and STI screenings. They work in sweltering offices, with few computers and receive a very modest paycheck (if any). In many ways, their enthusiasm and passion far outshines what I have seen in America because so many college students aspire to rush off to glitzy jobs, working hard to make a lot of money on Wall Street etc. Coming from an immigrant community, I know the security money provides but strongly feel that solutions to global challenges must involve our generation.
Africa is continent of extremes and irony- vast cities and small villages; 5 star hotels and slums; deserts and jungles. Cell phone and internet connection can be found throughout cities and in some villages, but universal basic infrastructure is non-existent in many countries. This seemingly haphazard progress can be confusing however development in this age doesn't have to be a straight, step-by-step process. Today, both Rwanda and Uganda have significant economic growth rates, millions are being invested into industries and both governments promote entrepreneurship. Right now Rwanda is working hard to become the technology center of Africa- even equipping the airport with wireless internet! Development happens when people feel like they have a future with possibility of good health and wealth. There is optimism about the future and these high spirits can be sustained with American partnership.
Americans for UNFPA an extremely important organization for making sure that women in low income nations understand that Americans do care and want to help, even if our government is currently depriving projects of financial support. Participating on this trip reinvigorated our support for the UNFPA and let us connect faces and villages to stories of hope and courage. News from Africa is rarely positive and this is a huge disservice for all the people who work tirelessly on achieving better health, economic and political stability. We should work hard to report the full picture, not only the challenges but the accomplishments, in order to not lose hope and resign the fates of millions to poverty.
Things are changing on the ground and I hope to be a part of it soon. Webale/ Murakoze/ Thank you all for reading!