July 13, 2010

Kerry Hamill Remains in Uganda, Continues Work with Vulnerable Children

Rising junior Kerry Hamill of the Yale women's lacrosse team is in Africa this summer on an international service trip coaching lacrosse and working with vulnerable children in Uganda. She and Mara Trionfero, a drug and alcohol counselor at Notre Dame, are working with Fields of Growth, a non-profit organization, and blogging about their experiences. The two were both watching the World Cup in Jinja, a town on the source of the Nile River, when the bombs went off during the recent terrorist attack. Their safety has been confirmed, and they will remain in Uganda to continue their work.

The two are staying in Uganda and Fields of Growth has sent four more volunteers, including two college lacrosse players; Jake Brems (Notre Dame '12) and Joel Derechinsky  (Gordon College '10). Fields of Growth has altered their itinerary so they avoid the capital city of Kampala and head straight to the remote village of Kkindu, away from the population centers in and around Kampala.

Fields of Growth country coordinator Brown Mwebembezi lives in Kampala and has reported that things have quieted down and people are back to work. After Hamill and Trionfero welcome the new volunteers they will head back to the village for a couple days of lacrosse before moving on to Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest in Southwest Uganda to participate in a homebuilding project, while also going on safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park.

Below is an updated blog entry that they sent two days before the bombs went off.

 

 

All in all, things continue to go well here in Kkindu Village. In the last couple weeks, Mara and I have begun to settle into our routine (well, as routine as living in Africa can be....) which has really allowed us to start feeling more at home as opposed to on some exotic vacation. We've spent a lot of time at the schools and the kids' lacrosse skills are coming along nicely. I've been pleasantly surprised at how quickly they all have picked up the lessons and am so excited to get them playing full field games very soon. Just today we put together one of the full-sized goals at the HOPEFUL village school and it was admittedly quite amusing (but so stinkin' cute) to see a pint-sized goalie try to guard a goal that towered over him.

Most of the children here in Uganda don't have fancy water bottles with scientifically created hydration formulas waiting for them on the sidelines or big jugs of juice for refreshment while playing. It doesn't seem, however, to make them any less competitive on the field or enthusiastic about playing.  Our recent weekend pickup game was played on a field en route to the water well, which proved a great distraction to many of the kids who were supposed to be fetching jerry cans of water. (The cows designated out of bounds territory.) Even without weight benches and fancy gyms, the older kids are jacked from this chore!! The average size cans weigh about 40kg when filled, and we're lucky because we live "close" to the well, so we don't have to walk several km for water. Needless to say, if we just collect the water we use for bathing we will be sporting some solid guns from carrying those cans up the half mile hill from the well to the house. There is only one well there, so we all had quite a wait, and the quality of the water is such that we as Americans can't safely drink it anyway. Pausing to play a little lax on the way to the well definitely makes it all a bit more fun for them and gives us the chance to meet some new friends!  Now if we could just get them to play a bit of D...

In the time when we are not teaching or counseling, we've been lucky enough to visit with many different groups in the area. We've spent much time with an array of support groups, ranging from kindergarten-aged kids all the way up to the eldest women of the village, all working as support systems for those either affected by or infected with HIV. As you can imagine, the lessons we have learned from them are immeasurable -- their positivity, hard work, and perseverance are incredible. But it's not all heavy stuff that we do in our free time! A few days ago, we learned how to make chapatti -- the most delicious local snack that Mara and I have LIVED on since our arrival. Think: a freshly made flour tortilla, cooked in oil, with a touch of heaven ... my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Last week we also were able to spend a day at the beach at Lake Nabugabo! Irish skin and beaches 30 miles from the equator do not particularly mix well, but that's what the aloe plants growing in the backyard are for...

Tomorrow we depart for Jinja, a town in the eastern part of the country, where we will spend 3 days. While there, we'll visit the Amazima orphanage and even get to go WHITE WATER RAFTING DOWN THE NILE!! So excited to play tourist for a day:) We'll then return to Kampala, where we will welcome the arrival of our 4 additional volunteers -- Jake, Joel, Will, and Jeff. We'll come back to the village for 2 days, then be off to the southwest to visit the Pygmies near the Bwindi Impenetrable Rainforest.

A busy schedule we have indeed, but we're obviously having just as much fun as we are working hard. We hope to post pictures from all of our adventures of the next 2 weeks as soon as we return from Bwindi. Until then, keep us in your thoughts!! We miss home very much, but amazing work is being done here.

- Kerry and Mara

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Visit fieldsofgrowth.org for more information. 

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