Since 2007, The ISIS Foundation has had the great privilege of partnering with Aspen. It has been an amazing partnership, which has shown us all the exponential power of linking the business sector with those in need in the developing world. Together, we have been able to provide the hospital with a new and expanded neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and a brand new maternity ward. In addition, Aspen helps people living with HIV to stay happy and healthy through various programmes. Most recently, Aspen has committed to supporting the ISIS Safe Motherhood projects as part of the larger community based health care programme.
Each year, Aspen staff members from offices across the globe come to Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda to see firsthand the impact of this partnership. Every year, they leave inspired. For the next week, the ambassadors will be writing a blog each day about their experience at Kiwoko. This is Day Two.
By Kristy Simons, Aspen Bermuda Office
Many who know me around the office have probably wondered how sometimes I would want to set on out on such an excursion to Uganda. This is not my normal trip to some exotic location or flashy U.S. city. My purpose of making this journey was to see what life lessons this poverty stricken but resilient country could teach me. I must say, I was not disappointed but nothing could have quite prepared me for this trip. This is a country where one must continually question themselves and their values as you meet people and hear their stories. On our first night, our friend Dan, ISIS’s Uganda Program Manager, recounted some of his experiences during Uganda’s civil war when his was still a child. What a humbling experience as we looked at this man who is still able to give us a smile as he recounted horrific experiences that our worst nightmares couldn’t compare.
We had an early start to the morning on Day 2, with the 06:00 air horn going off throughout the village so none would be late for the special day. As we get ready for breakfast, I hear Rhianna being blasted through the grounds to get us all pumped for the long journey all day. As our group made it to start line, it’s a pleasant experience to be greeted by all the villagers as we get ready to start the race. A few minutes later, the walkers (I’m a walker, of course) are off on the 16.5km journey throughout the rich red and green land of Uganda.
It was a great experience to walk through several villages that laced the route of the run/walk. We were greeted by many cheering us on, little kids singing “Muzungu” (which means white foreigner) as we passed. Well, I don’t really fit that description, but you get the idea.
During the race, I had an opportunity to note some similarities and differences between the way these villagers and Western societies conduct themselves. First thing noted was that although children are children everywhere (like to play together and have fun), they are forced to grow up faster with more responsibilities given to them at very young ages. Children as young as four or five were working in the fields farming with the rest of the family. Where kids were not farming, they were playing, but seeing 5 year old siblings tending their baby siblings was a bit shocking. Another thing noted was how the villagers were so proud of their homes. It was easy to see that no matter how little they have, by our standards, they are completely grateful to have it. This was one lesson I hoped to learn on this journey.
We were met at the finish line by a huge celebration. Each participant is celebrated in their true community spirit. Before awards were given out, we were invited to join in their dancing circle and to learn a traditional Ugandan dance, before breaking out into an all out dance competition that Aspen’s own Ian Walker was the hands-down winner. We were then introduced to traditional Ugandan food, matoke, which is mashed, unripened banana.
Later that afternoon, we took a walk into town. A ten mile race wasn’t enough for this fierce team. We adventured into the local market to see what goods where there on offer and then on to Bosco’s cafe, owned by Kiwoko Hospital’s own Jack-of-all-Trades. This man has a great spirit and each of us were moved by the pride exuded by him as he explained to us his vision for his great cafe which for us would be considered simple in our Super-sized, way of living.
This was the first of many busy days. With all our bodies aching from the Chase earlier in the morning, one casualty (Brandon being picked up in the Hospital ambulance and James Few’s bruised ego of losing to Cabrie (our wonderful ISIS host), we quickly retired to our bedrooms to relax our aching muscles.