Uganda Blogs- Sarah Stephens
This past winter break, 7 of our members had the opportunity to travel to an orphanage in Entebbe, Uganda. Now over a month since their return, they reflect on how this experience impacted them.
“Auntie Sarah, I love you because you have a sharp nose.”
“Auntie Sarah, I love you because you have a mustache.”
“Auntie Sarah, I love you because you laugh unnecessarily.”
“Auntie Sarah, I love you because you’re awkward.”
This trip to Malayaka House was my second trip there. After my first trip I had gained the reputation of the funny, goofy, and clumsy Auntie. When returning, I hoped that the kids would still remember me, just forget all my awkward qualities. Alas, they remembered my quirks as if they had happened a week ago.
On our second day at the compound, a couple of the girls came up to me and said “Auntie, can we play I love you because.” The game sounded so pure, sweet, and innocent. I was so touched to be invited to join in on this game. I shortly learned that the point of the game was to say “I love you because” and then say something “mean” about the person. During the game you are supposed to go in a circle and switch up who is insulted, but eventually all of the comments were directed at me. Oddly enough, every time one of the kids spoke I felt more and more accepted and loved by them.
If this event had happened at home my reaction would have been completely different. Being a fairly self-conscious person, I would have felt hurt by these comments, no matter how stupid they were. Why I responded so differently in Uganda I can’t explain in words. I can’t capture with language the atmosphere of the compound. I can’t begin to describe the amount of love and warmth gushing from each child. The pure joy, gratitude, and strength expressed by each child is something we don’t see nearly enough of in the United States.
Each time I have had the opportunity to visit Malayaka House, my goal has been to simply be present in every single moment; to absorb and appreciate the environment, culture, and people around me. By living in every moment, I experienced the most joy and peace on this trip that I ever have. I often joke with people about the influence of this trip on my life, saying, “I peaked in Uganda.” And while I say it jokingly, it is 100% sincere. My most genuine personality reveals itself in Uganda. It is there, in a place and with people that I have only know for a combined total of two weeks, that I feel the most secure in myself and the proudest of my personality. It is in a place where I am the most physically, economically, and culturally different from the people and the environment surrounding me that I feel the most included. Oddly enough, I don’t think I had much of an effect on my personal growth. Instead, I think I am the best version of myself in Uganda because the community surrounding me is the best community I have ever been a part of.