Aspen Ambassadors Trip – Reflections

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. In this blog, Ian Walker shares his reflections on the trip.

By Ian Walker, Aspen London Office

Ian playing with Ugandan children

I am writing this reflection on our trip on behalf of all the ambassadors. I feel some pressure to be able to convey to you all the feelings we had and lessons we learnt throughout our six days at the Kiwoko Hospital; and, I hope I can do it justice.

In a nutshell, this has been an incredible, life-altering week for us all! I have arrived back in the UK not the same person I was before I went; and, I have learnt more this week than in any other week of my life.

Young Ugandan children arm in armKiwoko Hospital is a special place. I have only been back a matter of hours and I already miss it. This place gets to you and gets in you. You can see why people like Dr. Rory and his wife Denise have chosen to stay and raise a family there and other doctors have left and come back. It is a special place filled with special people. We met so many people who told us stories that inspired, moved, made you cry and made you smile. I think every human emotion was aroused at some point along the action packed journey at Kiwoko.

At the end of our time at the hospital our ISIS hosts, Cabrie and Maddy (who are also very special people), asked us some questions and we were filmed for a video. One of the questions was “describe the trip in one word”. The fact that three of us said ‘life-changing’ gives you a big hint on what this trip has done to us and for us.

On day four you may remember from Dolu’s blog that we attended Morning Prayer. It was a chance for one of us to stand up in front of the nurses, doctors, students and local community to say hello and give thanks for having us. I offered to do this and normally would have little issue with what under normal circumstances is a reasonably straightforward task. It all started ok, but as I said more and more I began to feel the emotion of the occasion. My wife says I have a heart of stone as she has only ever seen my jaw wobble once in ten years – and that was at the birth of my daughter. Therefore, this probably says how affecting this whole experience is.

This is what I remember saying:

“Oli Otya people of Kiwoko Hospital. We, the people of Aspen in partnership with ISIS, are so thankful and privileged to be here with you. Aspen has been supporting Kiwoko Hospital through the ISIS Foundation since 2007 and we hope to continue this for many more years to come. It is an honour for us lucky people to be here and see first hand the amazing things you are doing. We have been here for three days now and in that time I have been the happiest man in the world, but at times I have also been the saddest. But, fundamentally you have touched our hearts and have inspired us to go home and tell our colleagues, friends and family about you and the hospital. It is our job to inspire them and get them to continue to support the hospital. I want to say one more thing. I have met some very special people the last few days including some of your patients. One thing I have learnt is this; that a broken body does not mean a broken person.”

At that point the old jaw began to wobble a bit and I finished it there. I felt I let my friends (aka the other Ambassadors and ISIS hosts) down a bit by not finishing it. Therefore, what I wanted to say at the end just so my friends Dolu, Kristy, Aidan, Maria, Sam, Susan, James, Brandon, Cabrie, Maddie and Daniel know was:

“Their strength, resilience and spirit I believe comes not just from their faith, but also from the care and love that you give them. You are all special people. Webale to you all.”

I am proud as an Aspen employee that my organization does this. That it supports such a wonderful and remarkable mission. By doing this I have realized even more the importance of the Aspen/ISIS partnership. Aspen with the help of you have donated almost $3m since 2007; but we must continue drive forward with this and keep up the energy of support. This is a long-term project and it is small steps at a time; but the impact this place has on the community of the 500,000 people it serves is huge.

Finally, I want to thank my fellow ambassadors, ISIS, Aspen and the people of Kiwoko Hospital for making this one of the greatest experiences of my life.

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