So here I am here outside the VIP lounge of Entebbe Airport in Uganda. Since we touched down, things have been pretty much a blur. We’ve been introduced to Gen. J.J. Odong, the Ugandan Minister of State Defense. Peninah Kiembabzi, the assistant to Uganda’s first lady, and David Wakikoona, the State Minister for Northern Uganda. He is charged with supervising government affairs in the region that includes Gulu, where we’ll be traveling to this week.
At this moment, cameras are flashing as former Oklahoma University football standouts Roy Williams, Tommy Harris and Mark Clayton are swarmed by our many traveling companions and curious Ugandans. With us are doctors, media representatives, passionate young volunteers, geologists, representatives of Oklahoma’s higher education, dedicated humanitarians and other adventurous souls. They are all here to participate in a great experience. In the words of one of the eager young Ugandans assigned to look after us, “This great work has the potential to change the face of Uganda forever.”
After the Chief of Police in charge of VIP security gives us the ground rules on safety, Tommy Harris offers a prayer that sums up the hope of everyone present. We are here to offer our help to Uganda and to be open to the help Uganda has to offer us.
Personally, I’m not what you’d call a religious man, but there’s something remarkable happening here and it’s contagious.
The group plans to travel to an area of Uganda that was tortured by the effects of civil war for more than two decades. There is no accurate count of the number of people killed, maimed, orphaned, crippled and emotionally scarred in those awful years.
Sister Rosemary of Ste. Monica’s in Gulu has been an oasis of kindness and hope to as many as she could gather under her wings — even during the most savage violence. We will be visiting Ste. Monica’s to see for ourselves how Sister Rosemary is leading some of the most tortured of Gulu’s war victims into a life of new possibilities. They are learning to put the horrors of the war behind them and accept that tomorrow can be better, because, day by day, they are learning to support themselves by making and selling clothes.
There are villages in Gulu where the children still walk great distances to collect water and carry it back; a hard chore that must be repeated many times each day. An organization called “Water 4” will employ its revolutionary technology to drill water wells so these villagers will have access to reliable resources for their families, crops and livestock. Some of America’s finest athletes are here to roll up their sleeves and provide some of the horsepower needed to drill these wells.
A team of doctors plans to provide basic medical care for thousands of people whose access to basic medicines and treatments is limited in the extreme.
There will be repairs to existing structures, building new ones, cleaning, clearing, planting and I’m told there will be singing. This, they say, is one of the miracles of the Ugandan spirit. Even those most damaged by the cruelty of war have the ability to sing through their sorrow.
It’s been a long day of travel and tomorrow we’re starting early. I hope to provide updates and photos. I want you to meet some of the people who are part of this remarkable cooperation. I’m checking my e-mails so don’t be shy. These folks would love to hear from you and they’d love to answer your questions. If I can manage to fathom the technology that’s supposed to enable me to stay in contact, there should be some good dialog between here and there.
Now, about my role here. I really don’t have much to offer on this trip. But just the same, I’ll be in on the singing.
From Uganda, I’m Hink and I’ll see ya.
Wed, March 17, 2010
by Michael Hinkle