Jaimi Lee Kingsmill is devoted to the orphanages of Uganda. She takes us on a journey, speaks about her recent visit and explains why she will keep going back to the country that faces big hardships.
You recently returned from an interesting trip overseas. Tell us where you went and why?
I went to Uganda for 6 weeks. I have a big heart for Africa, and ever since my last trip I’ve been hanging to go back. I love it over there; the people are so friendly and the children are amazing. I want to make a difference and bring hope to those who desperately need it.
> What made you pick Uganda?
I’ve always wanted to go to Uganda and I’ve never been before, so when the opportunity came up to go with a team from Forster/ Tuncurry Church of Christ, I was like, “Yes” I’m in.”
> What keeps you going back?
I have seen the great need that there is in Africa, and I know that I can make a difference. I keep going back because I love the people and the culture. I have a dream to start an orphanage in Uganda, and the next time I go back I will be preparing to put that in motion.
> How did you raise the funds to get over there and to contribute to the community?
Each of the team funded their own travel expenses and we held various community fundraising events to assist in projects in Uganda. I held a ‘Sleep like a street child’ fundraiser: no mattresses or pillows and we camped out in the cold.
Two boys from the team did a 250 km walkathon, we held a high tea and a slave auction (where people purchased us for a fee and we carried out duties they requested of us for the day). We also received a lot of donations from the local and wider community – things such as medical supplies, school and teaching resources, clothes, toys and soccer shirts.
With the funds we had raised we purchased practical life sustaining resources for an orphanage we worked in. The children in the orphanage helped us plant the fruit trees and vegetables and build a housing pen for the animals we bought them.
> Describe the environment that you found yourself in?
Despite more than half the population of Uganda living in poverty and the incredibly hard circumstances faced by most, the people are amazing – so open and friendly!
Uganda is a lush and breathtakingly beautiful country. Most of the Ugandans we met spoke English, but also many languages such as their tribal language, Luganda and Swahili. In the villages we visited, people live in mud huts, sleep on the floor and have to walk many kilometres every day to fetch water, which they then carry on their head all the way home.
The Ugandan people prepare all their own food from self grown or local purchased produce, and most people eat 2 meals a day: lunch and supper. Cooking is usually done on an open wood fire.
> What are some of the major cultural differences you observed?
They definitely don’t have the want for material possessions like we do in the west. Their desire is simply for the basics of life such as food, shelter, warmth and clothing. They have a high value of family and community. Everywhere we went we were shown incredible hospitality, openness and friendliness. Each tribe in Uganda has its own language and traditional dance.
> What are some of the major issues facing Uganda today?
The biggest issue in Uganda is the basic struggle to survive. There are no government handouts and no support for the poor – you have to fight for everything.
Malaria is battled on a weekly basis, sometimes with no medication. There are many children who have been orphaned by war or by HIV/AIDS and are now living on the street with no one to protect or care for them.
> Was it hard to adjust, and was it hard to leave to come home?
It wasn’t hard to adjust, as I’ve been to Africa before and knew what to expect. However, it was VERY hard to come home, leaving behind strong friendships and coming back into a very materialistic culture, knowing my friends in Uganda are struggling.
> Any special bonds formed?
Yes, I made many special friends, especially in the orphanage, where I spent a great deal of my time. I can’t wait until I can see them again!
> Sum up the experience in one sentence.
It was an experience that rekindled my passion to make a difference.
> Would you do it again?
Definitely! The need is great and the small difference we have made in these people’s lives has stirred me to go back and to set up a children’s home. If I could make a difference in only one person’s life, then that person could make a difference in another’s.
I am currently in the process of looking for support, saving and fundraising. To return tomorrow is not soon enough!
> If readers were looking to volunteer, what are some of the ways they can find information?
There are many organisations you can volunteer through. The best way is to search the internet. Most organisations have a website and rely on volunteers. I’m happy for you to contact me: Jaimifirstname.lastname@example.org
I would love to answer any questions.
> Thank you Jaimi.