It’s easy to miss the signs if you don’t know what you are looking for, and it’s quite easy not to hear the chorus amid all this CHOGM cacophony, but if you stop for just one second, you can almost hear the rising crescendo of Ugandan voices online. In the past two to three months, between traveling, getting buried by the Dallas Cowboys Cookbook, Project Diaspora and my generally busy life, I’ve had an ever-widening grin on my face. <!–adsense#sponsors–>
But, before I go on, let me back up slightly and let you in on what I’ve been up to.I got back from my three month trip to East Africa in early October. I was really there for many reasons, one of which was to figure out a way to get involved in changing the face of Africa. I wanted to see where I fit in on the continent. After being gone for 20 years, I wanted to start giving back. I viewed Uganda as my little corner of the world where I could make a difference. So I set out to find where I could be the most helpful. Now you may ask, why travel all across the world to try and make a difference, when I could make a difference right here in Dallas. The answer to that is not that I am against volunteering here in the states, it’s just that I think I can do greater good in Uganda. Here’s why:
I know my people
While I have been in the West for the better part of 20 years, I still consider myself Ugandan. I have refused to renounce my citizenship to this “troubled,” landlocked, and generally unrecognizable patch of dirt. Why? Because when I am here, I belong. I FEEL at home. I feel like this is my back yard. I can kickoff my shoes and be OK with life in tattered jeans and a sweaty shirt. I don’t even flinch when I am treated like a human sardine in the ultra modern transportation system. I mean, what’s so bad about a few chickens complaining under your seat and accosting your nasal cavity with their seriously malodorous stench! This is home to me. And to me, home is where the heart is. Home is where change begins. Home is where charity begins.I was having dinner one day with a bunch of backpacking East European expats at Tuhende’s on Martin Road in Old Kampala. The weather permitted, as we were seated on the veranda right next to the dusty street.
Halfway into dinner I spotted a little boy in school uniform, walking with his school bag on his shoulders; looking completely comfortable on the dim street. From where I was seated, past the platefuls of steak, past the empty bottles and glasses of waragi and coke, past the spent cigarette butts, past the candles lighting the celebrating, jovial faces, was a ghost from the past. Walking by us was me, circa 1985, scurrying about Masindi on the way home. Late, because I’d been playing football in the street for too long. But this boy had a different, far off look to him. He wasn’t terrified, he wasn’t concerned about the time or place. He was deep in thought.I got up from the table without hesitation and stopped him. I looked him deep in the eyes, he wasn’t scared of me.
I told him, “… wherever you are going, wherever you are coming from, please remember that you are the future of our nation. Those books in your bag, read them passionately. That school uniform, wear it proudly and against all odds finish your studies.”
He promised me he would. I handed him a 20,000 shilling note, put him on a boda boda and sent him home.I had no idea why I did that, but I later thought, if I don’t invest in my country now, who is? If I don’t trigger a life-changing event in at least one person’s life, then what the hell in my doing buried in dept in the West? What are all the other Ugandans in the Diaspora doing to make life here easier? Do they even care? Is it truly out of site, out of mind?
[End Part one]