Masindi, Uganda– In the book of Genesis, we are reminded that after creating the world in six days, God rested on the seventh. Today was a day of rest for most of the group with few scheduled activities. For me, the day afforded the opportunity to reflect on my experiences in Uganda so far. After a twenty-two year absence, I was anxious to visit the country again and see what changes have taken place.
Without a doubt, one of the most significant changes that I have witnessed has dealt with technology. Cell phone towers now dot the country’s landscape and enable a vast number of people to communicate with one another in ways that were not possible in the past. It has been fascinating to visit rural areas and find signs that indicate places to charge cellular phones or buy additional air time…all at a price of course! Universal education has now been mandated throughout Uganda. Although there is a national curriculum, the quality of education varies from district to district and between government and private schools. However, it has been gratifying to observe teachers in classrooms that are often overcrowded (sometimes with as many as 100 students) and with a bare minimum of materials. Without a doubt, even with numerous challenges, education is seen as key to Uganda’s future and there are more schools than I had remembered in the past.
Poverty still exists in large numbers–both in urban as well as rural areas–but I have witnessed the emergence of a growing middle class who have comparative challenges with the middle class in our country. Making ends meet and wanting the best possible opportunities to insure your children’s success and well being are traits shared across cultures! With the rise of the middle class, I have also witnessed a greater role of women in Ugandan society. Even in some of the rural areas, there was evidence of day care centers, indicating that some women are entering the work force in greater numbers than before. I have also witnessed more women in leadership roles – and taking on more responsibility for heading the family in the absence of a husband.
Finally, I have also witnessed how the Catholic faith has firmly taken root in the country. I have been greatly inspired to pray with the Little Sisters of the Poor in Jinja and with diocesan priests in Kampla. Of course, attending Mass with the parishioners of Holy Cross parish in Bugembe (staffed by CSC) and visiting the CSC formation house in Jinja provided me with the firm hope that the Congregation of Holy Cross has a viable and strong future in East Africa.
I have been truly been blessed by this visit to Uganda, and as always, learn so much from a people who are warm, hospitable and make one feel so welcome.