The Start of Something New

Traveling to Africa for the first time alone was new to me, along with studying abroad. Being exposed to another part of Africa I am unfamiliar with was an eye-opening experience. We traveled to various parts of Uganda and witnessed diverse cultures, traditions, and environments with each having in common the lack of resources and poverty. While some in my group saw poverty for the first time and were shocked, it wasn’t new to me. Alcohol consumption rates are very high in Uganda, and many children suffer from it. I learned that many come from families who have abandoned them to having family members addicted to drugs and alcohol. This substance has been detrimental to the country and effects many daily.

What was shocking to me was the small number of prevention initiatives and rehabilitation programs available. One organization I had the pleasure of visiting was Ring of Hope, a rehabilitation center, and a program for children. After learning how alcohol has been affecting the people in Uganda, visiting Ring of Hope gave me a first-hand look on how organizations were trying to solve the “alcohol epidemic.” The children in this program were so excited to welcome us with their songs, chants, and poems devoted to promising not to consume alcohol and the harms and effects of it. Watching them present with such joy and happiness warmed my heart, they face so many obstacles, and with the little they have, they remain happy and humble for all they have been given.

The lack of resources in programs helping to uplift the slum communities was common in the places visited throughout the trip in Kampala. I had the opportunity to travel through a health clinic known as the Family Hope Centre Clinic funded by the Children’s AIDS Fund (CAFU). This clinic doesn’t charge any client for their services ranging from HIV testing to counseling, they even had a pharmacy on the premises. I learned while shadowing in the pharmacy that access to various medications is limited, thus they can only treat so many health issues. With these medicines patients often experience unpleasant side effects. During this visit, I learned how privileged I am in the United States to have access to any medication I need; I never thought about how medicine was so easily accessible to me and limited to so many across the world.

Overall the program was an eye-opening experience I will always cherish. I will learn to be more appreciative for the little things I take for granted every day. I am grateful for this experience to be immersed in a different culture because not many people get these types of opportunities. I have a new outlook on life and am thankful for everything that I’ve been given. I plan on continuing to see how my efforts back home can contribute to the various projects and organizations throughout Uganda to help lower the prevalence of alcohol consumption and the effects that come with it.

The beautiful children of Kakira


 I will miss being in Uganda and seeing such beautiful views. I can’t wait to come back again!


XOXO – Betty💋


Kakira and Jinja

There’s a small country on the other side of world from everything familiar that has stolen my heart. The people are so kind and so beautiful and the landscape and wildlife makes my heart skip a beat. But more than all of this, like a punch to the gut, I’m captivated by the great juxtaposition here-amidst a backdrop of what appears to be extreme poverty in parts of the country, the people exude a joy and graciousness unlike I’ve ever seen or experienced.

We drove a couple of hours from the capital city of Kampala to the smaller but well-known town of Jinja. Jinja is a popular tourist destination. It’s nestled right next to Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world to Lake Superior, and is also the source of the Nile river. Green lush hills that roll up from Lake Victoria and the Nile command attention, as do the monkeys and other wildlife that call Jinja home.

The Ugandan countryside


Our view of the Nile River


Baby monkey playing early in the morning


Set against the backdrop of this breathtaking place is the village of Kakira, known for its sugar cane factory and its production of bootleg booze made from sugar cane. Alcohol making and consumption has taken over this village in a number of ways. The women in the village do all of the brewing process, bent over burning barrels, inhaling smoke and the toxic putrid vapors that are given off during the fermentation and distillation process, while their babies hang in slings on their backs. While the women are doing the heavy lifting in the community, the men are often out of the picture or too drunk to function.


Learning how the women in Kakira make alcohol



When we got off the bus, it was apparent that this village didn’t get many visitors. The women were excited and gracious to host us and show us how they provided for their families. The kids that surrounded us muzungus (local term for American) had wide eyes and snotty noses, many wearing tattered and dirty clothes. I smiled at one of the girls nearby and she quickly looked away, unsure of what to think of me. As we were listening to how the women brewed their alcohol, one little boy eventually warmed up to me and showed me his doll made out of a piece of sugar cane. The doll had hair made out of dried sugar cane fibers and a pair of shorts from an old shirt; this sweet boy was so proud of his simple toy. Slowly but surely our smiles were met with giggles from the kids, many of whom didn’t speak English, and before I knew it there were at least 50 kids walking with us, holding onto whatever they could, a finger, an arm, a hand.

Sweet kids and the sugar cane doll


These children, noticeably unhealthy, many of whom were orphans or had fathers who were absent alcoholics, living in conditions that appeared to be lacking according to every US standard, were anything but lacking. They overflowed with joy and love and held onto us, not wanting to let go. It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak the same language, it didn’t matter that we looked different, it didn’t matter that these kids had experienced such devastating loss at such a young age. Nothing hindered their ability to love us strange looking visitors.


Some new friends


My world was rocked that day in Kakira. My first world problems became so minuscule in the light of these sweet faces with pearly smiles shining back at me, arms and hearts wide open. My world was rocked because of the sacrifice these women make for their families and the sheer strength and resilience they have to keep pressing forward, full of joy despite their circumstances. My world was rocked hearing the shouts of excitement as the women spoke of wanting to learn new trades to support their families that were less harmful to the health of their children. The incredible people of Kakira have forever changed the way I see the world. Even though I have since washed the red clay off of my hands from those sweet children and mothers, my heart is forever stained.