2007 Uganda Africa Village Tour Participant
By Amanda Nolan
Earlier this year, when I decided that I had to travel to Africa sooner rather than later, the country that I ended up in was not a deciding factor. I just wanted to go. I wanted to get beyond the often simple images that we see about Africa as one homogeneous entity and witness for myself what a small part of the continent has to offer. I applied to go on the CPAR Africa Village Tour, thinking that I’d be traveling to Ethiopia. I was interested in learning about the rich Ethiopian culture and history, and I was excited when I learned that I would be one of a few people who would be visiting CPAR’s development projects in that country.
Once I had committed myself to the Africa Village Tour, I learned that the destination had to be changed to Uganda, another one of the four countries in which CPAR works. Despite this change of destination, I didn’t reconsider my decision to go on the Africa Village Tour. The day that I found out that I would be traveling to Uganda, I noticed a University of Manitoba student wandering the halls, wearing a red and white track jacket with ‘Uganda’ emblazoned across the back. Normally I would not have taken much notice of this woman’s choice of clothing, but at that moment I took it as a sign. On that day my journey to Africa began, and it would be months before I would finally land in Uganda and begin my learning experience.
On August 20th 2007, I finally arrived in Kampala, the capital city of Uganda, and met my fellow Africa Village Tour participants. I was eager to learn more about international development and witness CPAR’s response to the immeasurable need that exists in the country. We traveled north to the CPAR project sites. Working effectively in northern Uganda can be difficult, largely because a decades-old civil war has displaced hundreds of thousands of citizens. People have been forced into internally displaced persons’ camps, and only now are some of them moving into smaller transit camps or back to their home communities.
CPAR has been very conscious of employing local experts in the implementation of their development work. I was privileged to learn first-hand about CPAR’s successes in northern Uganda. The Africa Village Tour visited a thriving tree nursery run by a community group and farmers who have been able to diversify their crops. We met people who have been trained by CPAR to conduct mine risk education workshops and others who have been trained in the areas of health and assisting pregnant mothers. We also visited health clinics, maternity wards, and wells constructed by CPAR. The organization is very conscious of implementing sustainable projects that can be successfully taken over and maintained by the beneficiaries.
I look back on my experience with CPAR in Uganda with a deep sense of gratitude. Traveling in Africa is not always easy, but the Africa Village Tour went quite smoothly. We got to see and experience a great deal thanks to the knowledge and skillfulness of the CPAR-Uganda staff. My eyes were opened to the kindness and spirit of the Ugandan people, as well as the immense suffering that many of them have had to endure for much too long. I know that I will make it back to Africa some day, and I plan on making it sooner rather than later.