After months of preparation, anticipation and excitement our time in Apac, Uganda has officially come and gone. Just like that we are back in the states and life has returned back to its normal routine. Time sure did fly by while we were gone and I’m sure we are all missing the community right about now. On the trip we sure did have our fair share of ups and downs but we were resilient through it all.
I am excited to share pictures and stories from the time spent in the community. We worked hard and made a lot of memories along the way that will be cherished forever and ever.
All of us volunteers were from the West Coast (California and Washington State). There were two families, then just me, and we all met for the first time at the JFK airport in New York. Not being familiar with anyone before leaving for the trip made me a little nervous because I was alone otherwise, but everyone was so friendly. I really had nothing to stress about (story of my life). Three flights, two days and many time zones later we made to Entebbe where we met our group’s best friend and leader, Sam. After we got all loaded up onto the bus, our very first stop was none other than KFC (Kampala Fried Chicken according to Sam). We then went to a beautiful lake, which is one of the largest in the world, Lake victoria. After admiring its beauty, we went to the hotel. It was a well deserved laid back night as we prepared for the long bus ride to the community in the morning.
We arrived in Apac after a bus ride of about seven hours or so. Many naps were taken as the time change became very apparent to us volunteers. The time change was a ten hour difference (this took me days to get used to. I don’t know about the others.) We settled into our rooms, freshened up a bit, then made our way to go see the area where the court was going to be. On the way there we met some of the kids for the first time and it was such a sweet moment. They shook all of our hands, one by one, then followed us to the soon to be court. When I think back on the trip, this is a moment that sticks out to me, I was so happy in this moment. As I prepared for the trip I thought about what meeting the kids was going to be like. These kids were so excited, so friendly, so energetic, so polite, they made this to be a memorable time, I probably could’ve cried tears of joy.
Throughout the week we met many more kids from the community that were from the primary school where the court was at. Some were a little confused, some were hesitant, but most were over the moon excited about us. It took a day or two for them to fully warm up to us which we understood, but after that we were all pretty much inseparable. During their breaks from school we would step away from the court and play with them. This also allowed for some of the older kids to get involved and help work on the court. The kids looked like they were having a great time whenever they were helping with the court, whether it was wheelbarrowing cement or rocks, or shoveling sand, they had a smile on their face and that was my favorite part because I could tell how excited they were about the court.
Each of us interacted with the kids in different ways, which was really cool and reflected on our personalities, I think. Volunteers Michelle and Mona would sing songs to the kids that would gather around them; Gavin and Zac had a sand fight or two that the kids found to be quite hilarious; Reggie taught them how to spin a basketball on their finger and Hwashih got lots of pictures of it. We all took selfies, so many selfies. It was the cutest thing to see their faces light up when they saw the photos afterwards. Taking selfies is a normal thing for us, but to them they were so fascinated by it.
One of the many aspects of this trip was the court that we would help construct with the community. This was not an easy process for any of us volunteers, really. There were many problems that arose throughout the whole week and we had to work through them. It’s a great accomplishment of how our team stuck it out, tried to be optimistic, and just reminded ourselves that we were in Apac for more than the court. We were there for the kids and we all made a positive impact in some way, that is truly amazing. Our representative Sam, handled every problem with such patience and grace, we were so lucky to have been in such good hands during our whole stay in Uganda.
The bottom line was that the Host had failed to set us up for success, unfortunately, and I think everyone would agree. There was a lack of supplies, such as proper gravel, there wasn’t enough wheelbarrows, shovels, and buckets for everyone to use (and we were only a small group of seven volunteers) and there was no mixer, which made the whole construction of the court that much more physically demanding. My purpose in pointing out these negatives, is just to be honest of how this experience truly played out. Being ill equipped in so many areas of the court was not something any of us were expecting and we had to just move past the frustration and work with what we had.
Our team worked the hardest we could everyday for five days, which is something to be extremely proud of, especially due to the circumstances. I think we all would agree that one of the hardest jobs was the rocks. After we wheelbarrowed the sand over to the pile, the cement got mixed in with that, we knew that it was time for the good ol’ rocks. They were just so heavy to shovel, nearly impossible to push to the pile, and we needed so many wheelbarrows full of them (20 wheelbarrows per pile would probably be the average- sometimes more, sometimes less, it depended on the size of the pile we were building.) We sure did manage, but boy was it hard work.
As the week wound down, it was time for us to leave early Saturday morning, leaving the court unfinished. To be honest, I could tell how disappointed we were about it that Friday evening. It sucked because our purpose of being there was much more than just the court. But in that moment when we realized the court wasn’t done, yeah it kind of stung a bit, but it’s okay. On the conference call weeks before the trip we were told that it’s a possibility with every court, that the court might not get done and that’s just the reality of it. But, with that being said, I still don’t think any of us thought it would happen on our trip. I mean I didn’t really let that thought sink in. I’ve been on another trip before and it got done despite some challenges with the weather so I was hopeful that I would get to see another court get completed.
Now that I’ve been home for a few days, I’m gaining more perspective on the trip as a whole. I’m understanding my initial frustration with not seeing the court get done. My intentions going into any Courts for Kids trip is to help create an opportunity for kids to have a safe place to play, and get to try out the game of basketball. So what I’m getting at is that my frustration came from good intentions of building court, and I was just really excited to see all the kids faces when they saw it completed.
Good news is that the court was indeed completed just a couple days after we left the community. I hope the kids are enjoying it as much as I imagined that they would. Strangely enough, I’m so glad everything worked out the way it did. The week wasn’t perfect in terms of building the court but we got to interact with the community in such a way that I didn’t experience on my last Courts For Kids trip. With the extra downtime, we got to bond with the kids and that just makes me so happy. I’ll keep the letters the girls wrote me forever, and I’m sure other volunteers will too. This week was truly the time of my life and I think it was ultimately a success. -Hailey, volunteer