We arrived in Uganda long after dark on May 21, recovering from a day’s worth of travel. Westerners formed lines at immigration to enter the country, some maybe for vacation, many probably working with non-government organizations, like us.
The smell was familiar to me. The almost sweet scent that floods the humid air and is carried in the constant gentle breeze. It was the smell of Africa.
Walking out of the airport, I was unexpectedly uncomfortable, but was filled with joy and peace. I had entered a country I had only read about, written about and advocated for. It wasn’t the families neighboring country of Rwanda I had grown to love while spending time there last summer. This is was a new country with a new language and slightly different culture. I wasn’t revisiting an old friend, I was meeting a new one.
After a much-needed night’s rest at the Airport Guest House, we began our approximately four-hour drive to Jinja, where we will be staying for the next 26 days. We drove through the busy city of Kampala and lush, vibrant farmlands. Uganda truly is beautiful.
I am one of ten college students interning with Kibo Group International, a faith-based NGO teaching sustainable development (helping communities to live better for a life-time without complete dependency on others). This is a new method for missions and/or humanitarian efforts for many, and I am excited to learn how to implement it in my future endeavors.
After settling in our downtown apartment, we ventured up to the roof of our building where surrounding homes and the edge of the Nile River were beautifully revealed. Children from the neighboring community saw us and gathered. They yelled up to us, asking us our names, where we were from, and they sang us a few songs about Jesus.
Every person I have encountered in this community is overwhelmingly friendly and kind. They tell us we are welcome to their county, they are glad we are here, and they don’t become angry with us when we leave their shop empty-handed. The Kibo staff members gave each of us a hug when we arrived, and their smiles are radiant. They love their country, they love one another, and they definitely love Jesus.
And it’s contagious.