Every child has the right to the best possible health. Governments must work to provide good quality health care, clean water, nutritious food and a clean environment so that children can stay healthy. Richer countries must help poorer countries achieve this.
Every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free. Secondary education must be available for every child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s dignity. Richer countries must help poorer countries achieve this.
I have seen that basic human rights are certainly not a given, and I have learnt just how different life can be. 4 weeks is far too short a period of time to truly understand the intricacies of how things work here in Uganda, 4 years probably wouldn’t be enough! Nonetheless, it has been an experience that will change me forever.
I have had a privileged insight in to village life in Uganda, being welcomed in to peoples homes, however simple they may be. Their hospitality has been humbling and quickly made me forget that I was in a mud hut, with no electricity, no running water and no toilet. The locals, without exception, have a thirst for knowledge, which has made everything truly worthwhile.
My time at Jinja Children’s was depressing and frustrating at the best of times. Seeing children fight for their lives in this way is something that will never leave me, and more upsetting is the knowledge that things do not need to be this way, and should not be this way. I have seen pathology that, as a UK trained doctor, I only ever read about in textbooks and it has been difficult to say the least.
I feel fortunate to have met Dr Tenywa, a Paediatric Consultant at the hospital and a true credit to the Ugandan medical profession. He is someone who has re-ignited my passion for wanting to be the best you can be, whatever your circumstances and at whatever you do.
It has been a time to reflect, to learn, to overcome personal challenges and most importantly to give back. Meeting others on their journey and creating our ‘Jinja family’ has been very special, fostering unique and hopefully lasting relationships. Peter, a professor at Colombia University, New York and his wife Delia have spent the past 4 years overseeing HELP School which they have set up in Masese. Rob, the American doctor and his bright, bubbly wife Sarah spent time volunteering on their honeymoon. Alethea, an enthusiastic nursing student from the UK, along with Marie and Sofie, 2 Danish nursing students never failed to put a smile on our sometimes distressed faces.
One of the people I wanted to meet most was Sarah, a Paediatric consultant from Belfast who has been working at Jinja Children’s for the past 6 months. Without her blog, ‘A Brunette in Jinja’, coming up on my hours of Internet searches for charitable projects in Uganda, none of this would have happened. Through her and Dr Kanabar, fate has certainly played its part in bringing me here. Visiting Gabula Road where my mother used to live, gave me a sense of identity that I didn’t even know was missing.
As I was leaving, I was told by Leyla and Pete, a couple who have lived in Jinja for the past 8 years that, “All roads lead to Uganda…” I wonder if this will be true.
Overall, this is a country that has one of the youngest populations in the world. You cannot help but feel a sense of responsibility to these young children to make the world they live in a better place. A few parting thoughts come to mind as I head back to London, and I hope these will not diminish with the busy life I lead back at home…
“Be the change you wish to see in the world”
– Mahatma Gandhi
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”
– Nelson Mandela
Thank you for reading!