Author: Andrea Guidry, RN
Remember the movie from the 1960s, Born Free? Loved that movie so much, I learned to play the theme song on my piano at a young age, often fantasizing about going to Africa and seeing the magnificent wildlife, jungles, and landscapes.
This past February, that dream became a reality as five women volunteers and I traveled to Uganda, Africa. Our mission: Create a library for the students of Victory School.
Prior to our arrival, the only books these students had were their shared textbooks. The 1,000 books, purchased by Austin’s Kamukama Foundation from Books for Africa of Atlanta, Georgia, were in transport four months before finally arriving at the Victory School, only five days before us.
Although hot, dusty, pungent, and tiring, it was rewarding to see awe in the children’s faces and feel a palpable energy, as the books were unpacked and distributed to classrooms. Focused on the work at hand, it wasn’t until later that I realized just how little exposure these kids have to the rest of the world. With no television or computers, the books are a conduit for opening their minds to the world outside of their small, impoverished community.
Victory School is in Buhoma, Uganda, which lies next to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. This area is home to the endangered Silverback Mountain Gorillas. Seeing these animals has been on my “bucket list” for several years. After two hours of endurance hiking through the heavily forested area with machete equipped guides, cutting the jungle greenery before us, we finally caught up to the Mubare Gorilla family, and we were able to spend an hour viewing these magnificent creatures – a most unforgettable, thrilling experience and a dream come true.
It was the incredible wildlife and breathtaking landscapes that drew me to Africa, but it was the people who would grasp my heart and inspire me to return someday.
A stunning fact – over half of the Ugandan population makes just $1.25 a day. Yes, only $1.25 A DAY! In Buhoma, many of the people pick tea leaves, coffee beans, and bananas for their pay. Without money for tuition or transportation to school, the children end up on the streets or in the fields, forgoing an education.
Uganda’s AIDS epidemic, extreme poverty, and decades of civil conflict have left the country with over 2.4 million orphans. Victory School provides an education o the most needy and vulnerable of these children.
I sponsor a child at Victory School and look forward to watching her grow up, move on to higher education, embracing a future of hope and opportunity. I’m holding on to a dream of returning to Uganda… perhaps for her Victory School graduation!
Please view the website for more information, photos, and a beautiful video about Victory School, sponsorship, and the Buhoma community.