An Unforgettable Visit to REACH
By Gil and Pat Field, 2017 Adult Trip attendees
What an amazing adventure to visit REACH Uganda. Wow, and Wow again!
Nothing is like visiting REACH’s Arlington Junior School in person, and we are honored to have been a part of the 2017 Adult REACH Team.
Undoubtedly the time spent on an airplane, waiting in passport control security lines, and bumping along the roads between Kampala and Bumwalukani was more tiring than we expected. But wow, our time at REACH was worth the distant trek. Each wonderful moment is embedded in our hearts.
We will never forget:
- the tender grasp of our hand by a bashful young student who guided us up the hill’s slippery mud road.
- the enthusiasm and precision of 375 AJS excited students who marched smartly out to greet us Monday morning at the top of the hill. (The eager discipline of this marching group with their sock-covered arms stole our hearts.)
- receiving gifts of flowers and posters to honor our entry into Arlington Junior School grounds.
- the heartfelt songs and dance-filled ceremonies that marked our arrival and departure.
All was truly unforgettable, and joy-filled tears overflow even now as we recall these precious moments. Our days with AJS staff and students were much too short.
Visiting classrooms, having tea in the staff room, and wandering around to see everything at AJS was wonderful. We loved reading aloud to the P1s and P2s, and listening from the back of the P6 room as students attentively learned how to give First Aid. Chatting with students during free time and taking turns on the playground equipment was terrific fun!
And just like in the USA, we found our way to the kitchen to hang out and enjoy glimpses of traditional Uganda life. It was our distinct pleasure to entrust the school’s flock with a couple more chickens. We are very thankful for the skilled hands of the kitchen staff! Uganda’s posho is a very thick mixture of Southern Grits– a staple in our home to which we add a splash of maple syrup!
Meeting our P1 (Hope and Isma) and P2 (John and Junior) sponsored students at AJS was incredible. Kudos and special thanks to Phionah for being a most able translator when we met with each of these youngsters and their parents—our nervousness gave way to smiles and shared laughter, and this joy is visible in all of our photos. After 11 years of letter exchanges, we finally got to hug our S6 student Nakuti Doreen on our last night in Uganda— it was a brief but precious visit with her at her secondary school in Kampala.
The REACH Guest House is comfortable, and its staff helpful and very welcoming. We learned to adjust to intermittent electricity and water and quickly figured out the art of bucket baths. The fashion accessory of the week was our trusty headlamp! The gadget was indispensable for evening reverie and post-dinner Bananagram games. Although shared space was a bit cramped, everyone got along well and friendships flourished. Bill and Gil honed their going-to-market skills each evening at the village’s local version of a 7-11 store, building a trusted rapport with the shop owner—quite the stiff policy for CRV bottle returns!
We are thankful for the positive and strong leadership demonstrated by REACH board members and teaching staff that impacts the quality of education and daily life of AJS students. The disheartening conditions still found at many of the REACH outreach schools in the Bududa district were a sad dose of cold reality.
Here at home in San Diego we are excited to share with family, friends, and local community about our REACH Uganda experiences, and it is our hope that by telling John Wanda’s story we motivate others to find their way to become sponsors.
We are blessed and enriched by our travels with “Uncle John” Wanda to his beautiful homeland, Uganda. God willing and clear roads, we hope for return visits.
I can so relate having travelled there last summer. What a remarkable place Uganda is. The AJS experience touched me in a special way resulting in 2 sponsored children. The money is so well spent and being able to enrich these children’s lives is a blessing.