Hearts and Hope for Uganda Trip – February 2019
This was my second trip with Hearts and Hope and my experience as a “repeat goer” was significantly different than my first trip. For starters, I took MUCH fewer photos. Although that did not keep me from having thousands of the same
pictures on my phone… thank you, Violet ;). I caught myself pausing in several moments, hoping to make my time in them stretch and the feeling to stay forever. I noticed more, breathed more, and cherished every interaction more. I loved everything about this experience and every feeling I had when I was with these people, in this place.
I was a ball of anticipation and excitement heading into the villages. Will Benjamin, my sponsored student, remember me? Will he be there? How much has Patricia changed? Is she excited about going to school? Will I recognize many faces
from last year? Will I be able to find my family’s sponsored children? My expectations were far exceeded.
Benjamin found me before I found him. He stood by my side at the front of the class in Kamuli and helped me pronounce the list of names I called for students to come get their name tag. This was a very challenging task, except for Lindsay who did it flawlessly (haha). I was amazed at the difference I saw in this young boy. We could have a conversation this year, I could tell he understood me, and he was much more outgoing. He told me I need to bring Bentley next year to meet him and said “baseball” when he opened his new Cardinals gear. At one point, he also quickly
sensed my panic and jumped in to rescue a tangled goat followed by a soft pat to the head and a big smile in my direction. He had a large group of friends and was very social with his peers. At lunch, he cleaned up his plate and everyone’s around him with no one watching or asking him to do so. His teachers and his father all reported that he was a great student, comes to school every day, and has exceptional behavior. I am unbelievably proud of him and the obvious hard work he has put in over the past two years.
And then there is Patricia. Having the opportunity to be at all involved in this girl’s story still baffles me. I cannot begin to express the gratitude I have for Hearts and Hope giving this special little girl a chance. Pulling up to Nakabongo, I was
very excited to see Patricia and how much she has grown. What I was not at all expecting was the greeting I got as soon as I got off the bus. I was thrilled to hear we’d be taking her for a group visit to a potential new school later that week. I
was overwhelmed with joy to see Patricia welcomed into this school full of obvious love and acceptance. We toured the school and entered classrooms where individualized and therapeutic learning took place. There was a room of beds with
mattresses and a fully functioning bathroom attached. The place was clean, bright, and decorated for children. Most of all, seeing Patricia’s face light up as we entered was priceless. She made herself right at home, especially outside on the school’s swing. I can’t wait to see her potential unlocked with specialized education and therapies that hold the key!
Lastly, meeting my family members’ and friends’ sponsored children was a highlight of my trip. I felt connected to each one of them and couldn’t wait to share with my family how their support is truly making a difference in a child’s life and future. My favorite part was watching as Violet interpreted the letters. She does so with such enthusiasm and provides opportunities for responses that I would not otherwise understand.
This team. I cannot say enough about this team. We worked together like a well-oiled machine. With each village, we got in, got packets out, pictures taken, and spent time with sponsored kids, followed by free time to play and visit to our
hearts’ content. I loved looking around during free time and seeing each team member off “doing their thing”… Sarah conversing with a teacher or parent, a group of kids teaching Kelly a Ugandan game, Kim leading the hokey pokey, cheers coming from a Netball game where Lindsay just scored for her team, Jerry scaring kids with his tiny hands, Mark connecting with a little girl with a whole lot of sass, Andy jumping into a soccer game, and Susan leading “class” in a schoolroom. Everyone had something big to contribute, had no problem taking initiative with tasks, and were right there to help if a team member needed anything. I loved watching the “newbies”: Lindsay, Susan, and Sarah. I would pay attention to the first time we rode the bus on the busy streets of Jinja, the first time we pulled into a village, and the look on their faces the first time they met their sponsored students. Watching these moments took me right back to the feelings I had two years ago when I was
introduced to this beautiful (and wild) experience. I especially treasured the time I spent with the Ugandan team members this trip. I got to know each one of them better and developed some new friendships as well. I loved talking with Maj about her journey to find the best school for Patricia. Watching how Mariah communicates with each child in the villages is inspiring and I was fascinated with our
discussion of similarities and differences in our roles in similar fields, but different countries. Spending time with Nicholas was always an adventure… whether it’s a game of soccer, learning to pick/eat Jackfruit, or spending time with his family. And Violet, everything about Violet is magical. She brings joy and laughter to everyone she encounters and meets no stranger. Not to mention the support and friendship from Tif, David, Julius, and Joel as well!
Thank you Hearts and Hope for the endless opportunities, our whole team for their friendship and commitment, Kelly’s fearless leadership, the sponsored schools for always making us feel most welcome, and my family and friends at home that continue to support me with this journey that has stolen a piece of my heart. It’s a journey I hope continues year after year!
-Jackie Kline (signing off with my best Ugandan head nod)
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.