WRITTEN BY BEC BLACKBURN
When I was 12 years old my family and I saw the Watoto Children’s Choir perform on the Gold Coast. Afterwards, I walked up to Dad and said “one day I’m going to Uganda”. In the years that followed I held that dream close to my heart, knowing one day it would become a reality. Finally, in March 2017 I had the opportunity of travelling with a Living Hope Team from Australia to Uganda. As we stepped off the plane in Entebbe and breathed in the warm Ugandan air, I couldn’t stop the smile from filling up my face and from that moment I knew I would absolutely love it there. I was blown away by the welcome we received wherever we went. Beaming smiles and big hugs awaited us at every stop as we saw first hand the way God is bringing restoration and healing to the lives of so many.
We visited the Suubi and Laminadera Children’s Villages where we found ourselves surrounded by the most beautiful little children who were filled with a contagious joy found only in Jesus. Cuddling and feeding the gorgeous babies at Baby Watoto was definitely a highlight – pity I had to leave them all behind! At Laminadera I had the privilege of meeting both my church’s and my sponsor children – Fiona and Sandra. I can’t even explain the love I felt in my heart in those moments of embracing them for the first time and hearing about their wonderful lives at Watoto. Meeting my girls, laughing with them and getting to know them absolutely filled my heart. Sponsorship is changing lives and providing the children with a safe environment to dream big and change the cycle of poverty throughout Uganda and the rest of Africa.
The Living Hope centres in Kampala and Gulu are places of hope and safety. Having the opportunity to invest in the lives of the women was so very special. I felt incredibly humbled to be invited into their homes and entrusted with their stories. Stories of immense heartbreak and pain completely overcome through faith, hope and love. It was inspiring to see and hear of how these women are becoming leaders in their communities and are taking the first steps to bring the change they so desperately want to see amongst their people. The growth that these women are encountering through Watoto is rippling out into their villages through their words and actions.
In Australia, I don’t think we appreciate the privilege it is to attend school. The most amazing thing I noticed as we walked through the local schools and interacted with the students is the value they place on education. Having student after student excitedly hold out their books to show us what they are learning was awesome. While in Gulu we partnered with Watoto’s ‘Keep A Girl In School’ ministry, which provides girls with the sanitary pads, underwear and soap that they otherwise have no access to. Seeing how something so simple, yet so necessary, is changing the lives of young girls absolutely blew me away.
If I had to sum up my time in one word, it would be BEAUTIFUL. As I looked around town, I didn’t see abandoned stores or run down houses, I saw the beauty of community. As I sat in the houses of women and listened to their stories, I didn’t see overwhelming despair but rather saw beauty radiating from their hearts and smiles, despite their circumstances. As I walked through the schools and villages I was surrounded by the beautiful sound of children laughing. Uganda is beautiful, her people even more so and Jesus is doing a beautiful thing there. I feel so privileged to have spent that time in Uganda and feel so blessed by all those we met. One day I’ll be back and I encourage you if you’ve ever dreamed of visiting this wonderful country, go for it!
Watoto Australia has a trip coming up in 2018. To find out more contact firstname.lastname@example.org