Tag Archives: africa

Uganda On My Mind

by Kelvin Belfon

Uganda-10-Things-Learned-Heroic

 

Uganda is a beautiful country!

In 1908, Winston Churchill said, “The kingdom of Uganda is a fairy-tale…The scenery is different, the vegetation is different, the climate is different, and, most of all, the people are different from anything elsewhere to be seen in the whole range of Africa.”

Then Churchill concluded, “Uganda is truly the pear of Africa.”

Several features make Uganda a unique home:

Home to 11% of birds found in the world

Home to a significant segment of Africa’s largest lake – Lake Victoria

Home to the source of the Nile River – one of the 7 natural wonders of Africa

Home to the Tallest Mountain Range in Africa – The Rwenzori Mountains or Mountains of the Moon

Home to over half of all of Mountain Gorillas in the world

Home to more butterflies of varying colors than any other East African Country

Home to over 50 varieties of bananas, Ugandans consume more bananas than any other nation in the world outside of Brazil!

But as mentioned in Mama Africa: Highlights from my trip to Uganda, of all the things I enjoyed about Uganda, its people topped my list. They are a friendly people. And because their culture emphasizes hospitality, they are not only welcoming to travelers, significantly, they care for their own!

I had the opportunity to meet a young lady called Sherifah. She had been abandoned by her husband and forsaken by her family. She had little food and lived in a mud hut that was falling apart with no door, no furniture and not even a bed.

Sherifah is blind and has four children.

But a young man named William reached out and became her advocate and protector. Through the HFF Sherifah received a new home and now lives in safety with her children.

This family’s life changed because someone cared. Sherifah’s story, in my mind, fits into the category of special. In a world where people are often too preoccupied with their own problems, it would be easy to overlook a poor, blind mother of four.

To go the extra mile in committing oneself to looking out for Sherifah is a question of compassion, human consciousness and ethics. William shines in my mind as a hero.

 

Sherifah-I-Uganda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

10 Heroic Habits I Observed in Uganda

1. Speak up for the voiceless. There are needs all around us. We can show charity to people even in our own “backyard.” Advocate for the unpopular, outcast, discriminated and persecuted.

2. We can do more when we collaborate. In Uganda, The Lone Rangers rarely succeed. There is strength in community. Instead of competing, consider networking with others. Build healthy friendships and teams. When possible, don’t burn bridges.

3. Show your appreciation. One of the families we saw started cooking for us around four in the morning. They rented a small tent and chairs for our comfort. They went the extra mile decorating the table with flowers and their children sang for us. Saying “thank you” would have been what we might have anticipated.

We had come to Uganda with a significant amount of gifts. But what will make this family stand out in my mind for years to come, is how they used their everyday resources to show how much our presence meant to them.

4. Give people a hand-up. Giving people money or gifts is a very basic way of showing compassion. But if unchecked, being someone’s financial benefactor can also harbor laziness, dependency, and can quickly lead to abuse.

A more sustainable approach may be to empower people to turn resources into financial gains so that they can achieve independence and self-sufficiency. Self-worth and a sense of competence increases when people learn to do things themselves.

5. Be content with what you have. We don’t always need the next best thing if we can’t afford the payments. Practice restraint and learn to enjoy certain possessions till they wear out. It’s not only good for your budget but also for the environment.

6. Never despise small beginnings. High School graduate Britney Forsteid met a friendly waiter named Jackson in Kirugu, Uganda. The two had several casual conversations and “exchanged hopes, dreams, smiles and laughter.” Several months later the Mount of Olives Nursery Primary School was birthed with over 400 children enrolled today! Your dreams are never too small.

7. Leave your mark on the planet. What will be your legacy? Will others miss you when you’re gone? Our time on earth is limited. So avoid trivial pursuits and do something significant using your talents and abilities for good.

8. Respect your elders. In Uganda, the government recognizes individuals over 60 years. Some of these individuals are active in the public affairs of their communities. The system is not a perfect one; but it was refreshing to see the younger generation honor and defer to their elders for wisdom.

9. A determined woman is a powerful force. The women’s entrepreneurial group I visited started because they wanted to help support their families and send their children to school.  The group turned a few hours of business coaching and a $1,000 U.S. gift into a tent and chair rental business.

In addition, the group doubled in sized from 35 to 70 members. From their revenue, they now extend small business microloans to their members. Oh, their account balance is now over  $4,000 U.S!

10. There is always a way. I heard the ice cream van sound effect while descending the hills of Mpigi. In the rearview mirror was a man on a motorcycle. He passed our vehicle and stopped ahead to sell his refreshing ice cream to passer-bys. Success is sometimes unorthodox. It involves vision, creativity and hard work.

What other habits would you add to the list?

 

Sherifah-Old-House-Side View-Uganda

 

Sherifah-Old-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Uganda

 

Sherifah-New-House-Bedroom-Uganda

 

Ice-Cream-Man-Uganda

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Mama Africa: Highlights from my Trip to Uganda

by Kelvin Belfon

Mama Africa

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass

 

I had a wonderful experience in Uganda.

The lush green tropical vegetation was picturesque. The food was amazing! It was fresh, colorful and flavorful. But most of all, the people were beautiful. They were kind, friendly, and hospitable.

Our main assignment was commissioning the Mount of Olive Primary School in Kirugu, Uganda built by the Hoffman Family Foundation (HFF). The new, larger two-story facility will house over 400 students.

We encouraged and trained a group of entrepreneurial women. There were 70 women present who had previously started their own businesses to support their families. The story of what they did with just a small micro-loan is a remarkable.

Throughout my time in Uganda, our group drove many miles to see several different schools as well as sanitary and water projects.

But the highlight of my trip was visiting the children supported by HFF. Their smiles brought tears to my eyes because I was once their shoe. For a very significant part of my youth, I lived without my biological father or mother. But people, in most cases strangers, rallied around and helped me get what was necessary for living accommodations and an education.

This first trip to mama Africa has created memories that will live on. I’m grateful for the invitation. I was deeply inspired. I ate, played, laughed and cried. I grew.

I do plan to continue traveling as the opportunity becomes available. I hope Uganda is a very real part of that plan. International travel is a passion of mine. I enjoy learning new things from other cultures, serving and empowering others.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who expressed their thoughts and offered prayers over my travel. I appreciate your many comments and Facebook messages.
I will share more about Uganda in upcoming posts. For now, enjoy a few of my favorite pictures below.

Uganda-City-Kampala

Uganda-Driving-Kampala

Uganda-Mt Olives-Old

Uganda-Mt Olives-Old-School

Uganda-Mt Olives-New-School

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Uganda-Mt Olives-Children-Cake

Uganda-Food-Dish

Uganda-Children-Fun

Uganda-Kampala-Festival-Bayimba

Uganda-Guy-Recycle

Women-Empowerment-Uganda

Uganda-Guys-Motorcycle

Uganda-School-EWALDI

 

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Going to Africa

by Kelvin Belfon

going-africa-Caribbean-black

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

 

Over the years, I’ve had quite a few opportunities to do missionary and humanitarian work in other countries. I love meeting new people and learning about their culture in the process.

This trip, this time is different.

Hundreds of years ago, some of my ancestors made the Trans-Atlantic journey from Africa to the Caribbean under very different circumstances. For so many different reasons, the dream of going to Africa has held a very special place in my heart ever since I was a young man growing up in the Grenada.

Even now living in the United States, married with children, a job and numerous responsibilities, I never thought it would happen, at least not anytime soon.

In a few hours I will begin a brief, but much anticipated journey back to Africa. I will land in Kampala, Uganda. There I’ll be working with the Hoffman Family Foundation. Through the Foundation, a school that accommodates  approximately 500 children was built. The grand opening ceremony will be this Thursday.

I’m excited to be invited to participate in such an important occasion. I can’t wait.

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers.

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