I Bought a One-Way Ticket and Moved to Uganda

I Bought a One-Way Ticket and Moved to Uganda

Most people considered it to a horrible idea, but I was ready to make a leap of faith. I didn’t want to be a person who commutes to work, spends nine hours at a computer, grabs a drink with an old college friend, commutes home and throws another frozen dinner into the oven. I didn’t want a life that was predictable; the mere idea bored me. I wanted a life that held some unknowns. Throwing caution to the wind I quit my job, sold my furniture and bought a one-way ticket to Uganda.

I agreed to be the country director for a small non-profit in exchange for housing and a one hundred dollar monthly living stipend. I was responsible for overseeing daily operations for a school for eighty-five orphaned street children. This was a passion project of a Ugandan woman who I would be working with very closely. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and reaching Uganda I felt like I was in the right place.

I questioned why I had given up everything to move to Uganda.

A classroom at the school which was shut down
A classroom at the school which was shut down

Two weeks into the first term, our school was shut down for improper registration. I had only been in country for three weeks and I was only starting to feel like I was getting my feet under me. Suddenly everything was in chaos, and I didn’t have a sense of where things stood to figure out how to move forward.

I felt like I had been tricked into solving someone else’s problems. It seemed like everyone else from the project was abandoning me, instead of supporting me. I questioned why I had given up everything to move here.

We had monthly get-togethers on the ground of our shut-down school
We had monthly get-togethers on the ground of our shut-down school
I Bought a One-Way Ticket and Moved to Uganda

Then I realized the school closing wasn’t about me. Yes, it sucked for me, but while I wasn’t getting support I also wasn’t providing support to these children I had come to help.

At that point I made two decisions. The first was that I was going to put an emphasis on traveling, for my own sense of sanity. For the first time in a long time no one was tracking my PTO time, I was free to come and go as I pleased. Secondly, I decided that I was going to stick with the project and help move it into the next phase of development.

The neighborhood the kids had previously lived in
The neighborhood the kids had previously lived in

When I joined the program, the children we supported had been, for the most part, taken off the streets and placed with a volunteer guardian within the community. The community they were living in was the poorest in the capital city, and is slated to be torn down in 2017. The school we were running addressed not only education, but it also provided each student with two meals daily, which for some kids was all the food they got in a week.

This was the first time these kids would have a bed to call their own.

With our school closed, these children were back on the streets during the day, with nothing to sustain them. The only way I could see through this situation was to enroll all of the children in government sponsored day schools. This was a huge financial burden on the organization, but there was no other option.

Claire Kobugabe, the woman with whom I worked to make the project succeed
Claire Kobugabe, the woman with whom I worked to make the project succeed
I Bought a One-Way Ticket and Moved to Uganda

With their most immediate needs being addressed, I worked tirelessly with my Ugandan counterpart to secure a permanent housing unit for all of the eighty-five registered kids in our program. This required starting a huge fundraising campaign, finding a property, and budgeting and tracking expenses to set up the house, all while complying with government regulations.

Exactly one year after our school had been shut down, we were moving the kids into their new home. This was the first time these kids would have a bed to call their own. It was the first time they had a sense of security. For these kids, moving into this house was the start of them having a childhood.

The new house in Fort Portal where the kids are now living
The new house in Fort Portal where the kids are now living

At the end of my year contract I gave away all of my clothes and all of my possessions, and I bought a one-way ticket home. The past year has been the hardest year of my life, but in the end I came away having accomplished the two things I decided I would. I traveled as much as I could with the time and the budget I had. I also helped get eighty-five kids into a permanent home and enrolled in schools. I took a leap of faith; I just didn’t realize the jumping would be the easy part.

I Bought a One-Way Ticket and Moved to Uganda

 

 

I Bought a One-Way Ticket and Moved to Uganda top photo by  Emma Roorda on Unsplash

About Sienna Rose

Sienna RoseSienna Rose is a storyteller turned writer. She gains perspective by traveling the world, creating cultural connections through sights and stories. Based in Seattle, she has a strong connection to Africa, having lived in Uganda and Botswana.

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