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Uganda, Africa

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FC: Uganda, Africa | January 2011

1: Julie M. Crothers

2: Uganda, Africa | A year before, had someone told me I'd soon be boarding a plane for Africa, I would have called them crazy. Yet, I filed my paperwork with Franklin College and when January of 2011 arrived,I found myself smack dab in the "Pearl of Africa," immersed in an incredible culture, amazing sites and falling more and more in love with a country I'd only just met. I was forever changed.

3: Eighteen hours of flying and three planes later, our group of 22 students and four adults arrived "home" at the Clement Hill Hotel, located in the heart of Kampala, Uganda. We were surprised to find most of the amenities we had at home were available to us at the hotel. We had running water, plenty of food and even a full-service bar located under the hotel — perfect for a late-night beer. We slept two to five in a room, each with our own bed and mosquito net. Since mosquitoes are known carriers of the Malaria disease, we wrapped up carefully each night. For a shower, we used a small bucket, filling it up with soap and water and scrubbing clean before quickly rinsing off.

4: We visited the Gadhafi Mosque, the second largest mosque in all of Africa. From the top of the tower, we looked out upon the city of Kampala and the surrounding slums. It was an amazing view.

6: The Baha'i Temple — one of only eight in the world — is located on Kikaya Hill on the outskirts of Kampala. The construction on this temple began in 1958 and was completed in 1962.

7: When we visited Jomba, the Building Tomorrow group was dedicating their 7th Building Tomorrow Academy. Building Tomorrow is an organization based in Indianapolis and Kampala that seeks to support education in Africa by building primary schools in rural Ugandan villages. One hundred students once studied in this makeshift classroom, but soon they will attend class in the newly-created Building Tomorrow Academy.

8: Building a school with Building Tomorrow was a challenging part of our trip. For three days, we worked alongside community of Mpigi to help build their first primary school. Since most of the tools were handmade and broke easily, the work was long and difficult. We were amazed by the strength and endurance of the Mpigi people who worked alongside us.

9: This building will serve as a future Building Tomorrow Academy for the children of Mpigi. This is one of three sections that will be constructed before the building is dedicated. At the end of our three days, the site supervisor, Henry, blessed us for our work with a small drum for us to take home. | The most challenging part of the build was carrying gerrycans 3/8ths of a mile down the road to refill them with water to use for making bricks and cement. We struggled, while Ugandan children laughed and ran past us, carrying even larger cans.

10: Bead for Life | "Eradicating Poverty One Bead at a Time"

11: My favorite part of our trip was Bead for Life, an organization that works to break the cycle of poverty by teaching women from the slums of Kampala to make paper beads. The women make the beads by hand and then sell them to the Bead for Life organization in exchange for money toward their own home. In addition, they are taught entrepreneurial skills so they can form their own business after they have completed the program. The women I spoke with were inspiring and uplifting as they told me about their homes in Friendship VIllage and the bright futures they've created.

12: With the help of our Ugandan tour guides, including some from the organization "Invisible Children," we visited the Atanga Internally Displaced Persons Camp.

13: This IDP camp once housed more than 15,000 refugees. While many have returned home, 6,500 remain with no where to go. This will be their permanent home

14: Along with the inspirational stories were ones of sadness and despair. But through it all, the people of Uganda have shown immense strength and compassion.

15: "It takes a village to raise a child" —African proverb | St. Jude Children's Home for orphans who lost their parents to war, AIDS, or other diseases. Approximately 80 orphans of all ages live and study here.

16: Nearly 5,000 refugees from the Acholi tribe in Northern Uganda living in this area of Kampala. Approximately 70 percent are HIV positive and they have no electricity, water or sewer systems.

17: Some members of the Acholi Quarter have lived there as long as 18 years with few employment opportunities, no way to get home and nothing to return to. This is one of the most impoverished areas in all of Uganda.

20: Murchison Falls National Park

22: We took a boat ride on the Nile River to the Cradle of Civilization, where the Nile meets Lake Victoria.

24: African Safari

25: A real African safari was beyond my wildest dreams. We saw beautiful African animals from only a few feet away.

29: Though photos may fade, memories last forever. I'll never forget the life-changing experience of my trip to Uganda, Africa. May it forever be a humbling reminder of all that is wonderful about our world and the beauty that lies in all people. | Never forget.

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