Teens Forge Deep Connections at REACH
by Adriana Asef-Sargent, 2016 & 2017 Teen Trip Attendee
Something special about REACH keeps me wanting to come back. The kids are all so amazing! It’s refreshing to see kids who are excited and want to learn and go to school. They work so hard and they never complain—they have so much energy and love. When you visit REACH and meet the kids, the relationships you make with them are forever.
I’ve been to Uganda twice now on the REACH Teen Service Trip. My first trip in 2016 was so amazing and life changing that I had to return. In addition to teaching students in the classroom, the basic teen trip also includes visits to outreach schools, health clinics, and home visits. But it’s so much more than can be put into words; you have to experience it!
On my first visit I was excited but a little nervous, not knowing what to expect and having no idea what to teach in the classroom. While REACH takes great care of the teens, I still felt like I was being thrown into the deep end of the pool. My advice is to be ready for anything and open to new experiences. I didn’t expect to make such deep connections. In a place where people supposedly have so little, I was the happiest I’ve been in my life.
The Teen Trip kicks off the Reading Challenge which is always exciting. This year REACH hosted a whole assembly full of games, speeches, dance, and song. The kids look forward to this event all year, and they read so many books it’s inspirational. In the classroom I decided to teach P7 ASL (American Sign Language). I was supposed to teach for 15 minutes, but I taught for 1 hour and 20 minutes. The REACH kids were super into it, and how much they remembered surprised me. After class, the kids would sign to me, “How are you?” One student, Bashir, was amazing. He could fingerspell his name so fast and remembered almost everything. He was better after 1 hour and 20 minutes than some of my 16-year-old classmates were in ASL 1 in high school.
Working at the health clinic lab where I tested people for malaria was especially cool. One little girl I tested had lvl1 malaria, which is not the worst kind. I was relieved to know she would get medicine from the clinic and get better.
If you have a sponsored student, you get to go to their homes and see where they live and their personal lives. (Sometimes kids will just invite you to their homes, too.) You play soccer, netball and more with them. On home visits usually the parents cook while you sit in a different room with the child. The parents don’t usually eat with you unless you have met them before. On my first trip I went to visit my sponsored student, Sarah, and her parents did not eat with us. However, on this trip they did. It was wonderful to be welcomed back a second time and feel so loved and accepted.
Coming back to Uganda for a second time was even better than I expected. I knew so many people, and it really felt like a second home. The kids were even more excited to see me, and lots of them remembered me and it filled my heart. This trip was extra special since my best friend Christine Wanda’s family is from the area. When I met them and they treated me as a family member, it was the most comforting thing ever.
Going to Uganda through REACH really made me think about my life and how I want to travel the world and make a difference in people’s lives. In the fall, I am starting at Eckerd College, and now I want to major in Global Studies, learn more about Africa, and— of course —return to Uganda. I am already planning my next trip to REACH! I hope for a longer internship where I can spend most of my time with kids.
If you are a teen thinking about signing up for this trip next year, don’t even think about it. Just do it! Email firstname.lastname@example.org.