Aspen Times Weekly: When the world comes to you
Why do we travel? For me, it’s about the process of discovery. It’s about meeting new people, learning about different cultures, and bringing home and relaying experiences that not only connect to my readers, but helps me to understand the vastness and diversity of the world. Whether it’s down the road in the Roaring Fork Valley, or halfway across the world, curiosity of the human condition compels me to see and experience the world by traveling.
A week ago, the world came knocking at my door, when Elijah Sebuchu, a pastor and president of two Ugandan orphanages, came to the valley to share his message about children in desperate need of shelter, health care and education in Africa.
Since 2004, Sebuchu has been working to help transform a desperate nation, its people reeling from abject poverty, human trafficking and HIV/AIDS. Those most affected are the 17 million Ugandan children under the age of 15. They account for 50 percent of the population, the youngest population in the world. If you can, imagine the streets filled with children going “from nowhere to nowhere,” as Sebuchu describes it.
After months of contemplation and $10 in his pocket, Sebuchu and his wife Ruth constructed a few mud huts near Kampala, and within two weeks, 188 children emerged from the bush looking for help. Today, his Hands of Love organization takes care of more than 1,400 children, most orphaned by AIDS, which still ravages the country.
Sebuchu was in the valley spreading the word that we can save a life — a human being — by making small sacrifices. Our family became “parents” to a 12-year-old boy, Sayifi, in August. His mother had died of AIDS, his father was in his final months also dying of the disease. He had nowhere to go and would become a victim of the streets, searching for water, food, shelter and safety. Today, nine months later, he is the only remaining member of his family. When Sayifi’s father died, his sister, fearing the worst for her younger siblings, poisoned three of them in a mercy killing, before she and two of his eldest siblings committed suicide to avoid a lifetime of scouring for food, and the constant threat rape or abduction. Sayifi only survived because he was taken in, fed, protected and educated at Hands of Love.
I consider myself a fairly educated, aware person, and not one to shy away from difficult stories. But the real-life stories of these Ugandan children I have heard in this last week are so difficult to comprehend, you almost question the plausibility. How in a world where we have so much can such suffering and lack of compassion still exist?
I have never been to Uganda, but Uganda has come to me.
I love a luxury beach trip just as much as the next travel writer, trust me. But sometimes travel is about so much more than feeding your own wants, it’s also about being uncomfortable in the face of reality. Travel sometimes should impact you as a person so much that it changes you forever. It won’t be an easy trip when I finally do make it to the country on the equator, and I can’t say I’m not a little frightened of what I might experience there. But when there is someone on the other side of the world who calls you “Mommy,” who has no one in the world but you, how can you not be compelled to go?
Seeing the world for what it is — unpolished, unfair and uninhibited — is the real story Uganda has to offer. And travel is the best education; all you need is the curiosity to go out discover it.
If you are interested in learning more about Sayifi, Elijah Sebuchu or the Hands of Love orphanage and the children it cares for follow Amiee on Twitter @awbeazley1 or email Amiee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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