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odessa-visit

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Review for Connect Africa Foundation Inc, Newton Centre, MA, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

April,2017 a trip 10 years in the making finally came to be as my daughter Odessa and I traveled to Uganda. When Odessa was in 2nd grade Connect Africa was an organization at the annual social justice curriculum project. Odessa and her brother were the only African American in the school– and she immediately connected with the faces she saw in the photos of the children in Uganda. Odessa held lemonade stands and other fundraisers.

Fast forward 10 years we were on a plane headed to Africa. Whatever we imagined to be it was that and so much more. You are hit immediately-the smells, the heat, the people. It’s hard to know where to look first.

Our first day was walking through the village, meeting so many of CAF friends who have been helped by the generosity of donations or projects of CA, and trying to absorb it all. Uganda is a poor country and it’s everywhere – the children who are not in school because their families cannot afford to send them; small home front businesses selling potatoes, tomatoes, chickens…There are a lot of people just hanging out. But everyone met us with a smile and many welcomed us into their homes.

We met Helen whom Odessa has been writing to over the years, and Rosemary and Gertrude. We ate lunch with our hands – posha and beans – and sat in on classes. As it was almost Easter, the students celebrated Love Day where they shared small gifts with a friend. Laughter and singing was everywhere. It was hard for us to sit in the heat of the day, no electricity, open rooms and dirt floors. For them education is so important – it’s a way out of poverty and so they are all serious about it.

When at Lynn’s house and the children were very curious about Odessa – wanting to touch her hair and learn about her life in America. They have seen some American movies and wanted to know about high school and prom. Odessa spent the day with them, eating sugar cane that they cut up and taking photographs.

We took Maria home and could see that when it rains it floods and the homes which are the size of a smaller closet. But again we were met with hugs.

Meeting Helen’s jajja, her grandmother who has raised her. After all these years, it was very emotional to hear her story and to sit with her in her home. At the end of the visit she gave Odessa a mat which in Uganda many people use to sleep on instead of beds. It’s a treasure that now has a home in our home.

Then there was the Saturday enrichment program for the village children, then there was spending time with the newly opened vocational training center—truly it goes on and on of laughing blowing bubbles; learning how to dance; buying clothes made by the tailoring students– and Rosemary and Gertrude surprised us by walking from the secondary school to see us. The smiles were never ending.


it’s really the people we met who are the story. They are optimistic, friendly, happy and welcoming. They are interested in learning about us just as we are about them. In Uganda it’s hard to see where the opportunity lies which is why the work Connect Africa is doing is so important.

Odessa hopes to go back. When we were planning the trip I really did not know what to expect. I knew we would have to just be in the moment. It was much easier than I imagined. It’s a land of contrasts. You should visit – but if you can’t visit support the work they do by making a donation.

Role:  Volunteer