My last day in Uganda has been extraordinary and all because of my friend in Canada, Henry Lukenge.
I met Henry at a fundraiser I held for GIVE Int'l in June and when he learned I was coming to Eastern Uganda, he asked if I would visit his mother, a retired nurse who founded a high school open to all children, regardless of whether their parents can pay or not (Ugandan education is not supported by the government and must come from school fees)
The school, Cambridge Secondary School, is located near Kampala at the end of a typically horrible Ugandan road full of washouts and pot holes, but it was worth every bump, every grinding gear.
I was welcomed by the entire school, about 400 kids, given a seat of honour in the large hall that also serves as a classroom and theatre space, then in came a troop of dancers in traditional dress, moving to the beat of half a dozen drummers in the corner. Several students are former child soldiers from war torn Northern Uganda and in this school they have rediscovered a normal life where people care about them. The performers are in the Music Dance and Drama class and it was apparent these children feel the music deeply in their hearts.
Ugandan dance is largely about shaking the hips with blinding speed as the drums beat loudly in the background, a thunder that seems to grab your soul and pull you into someplace primeval, someplace raw and sensual. I was so filled with emotion over just how wonderful it all was, how moving, that I couldn't help but cry. Big, tough journalist that I am.
The girls then came forward and acted out a poem they had written about how important girls are, that they have the right to go to school and should not have to face a life of drudgery and servitude (several had been former house servants with not much of a future). They showed their defiance, their determination to suceed in both movement and words. I just wanted to leap up and holler "you go girls."
I was asked to address the school at the end of the performance and told them they were living in an extraordinary time, a time when they have the power to make serious changes in Uganda and I know they all believed me largely because this is what they are taught at the school.
We toured the school, had a lunch of traditional foods, with a photographer shooting every movement I made. He was my very own paparazzi though I drew the line at him photographing me blowing my nose.
It was both unsettling and a little ego boosting though I know that back in Canada I'll hardly have any paparazzi following me around. Sigh....
At the end of the day, I was brought to a guest house near Entebee Airport and tomorrow, I'm off to London, England then home.
I will be writing a couple of larger features for the Record when I return, certainly one on the Cambridge school so please, stay tuned. And thank you for following my blog.