Happy Father’s Day dad, I love you. I’m very grateful and blessed to have you in my life. I hope you, mom, and Whitney are doing great back home. I can’t wait to get back and tell you all about my trip.
Backpack Journalism at Creighton University is a collaboration between the Theology Department and the Journalism, Media, & Computing Department. It came about because of a theologian interested in social justice and filmmaking and a journalist and an artist interested in filmmaking and social justice.
Each summer, a small group of students travels to a community in search of a story. Led by professors Dr. John O’Keefe, Tim Guthrie, and Carol Zuegner, the students immerse themselves in the communities, interviewing, filming, recording, and writing. When they return to Creighton, they take the stories they have collected and develop them into a short documentary film. The Backpack Journalism documentaries have been accepted at several film festivals, including the Omaha Film Festival. The class has traveled to such far-flung places as the Dominican Republic and Uganda, Bethel Alaska and Nogales Arizona/Sonora. The next project is tentatively planned for Northern Uganda in 2018.
After coming to Uganda last year and seeing what I saw, I knew that I was blessed; however, this time around has really impacted me by helping me realize how blessed I truly am.
For instance, 1/3 of the students at the vocational school, Ave Maria, are HIV positive. When I heard this, my mind was blown because all of the children there seemed so happy on the outside, but I know that on the inside, they are suffering more than ever. It killed me finding that out and then spending the entire day with those children because they are children that are close to mine and my sisters age. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like if one of those children were my sister or close friend. It was also troubling to me because who knows how long those children have to live. I mean in one year, half of them may end up dying due to HIV which is very heart breaking.
Another image that comes to mind is when we were at Abia. The people were so grateful that we came to see and spend time with them, however, each and every one of them is suffering way more than I can even imagine. Of course, we all saw the rags that they called their clothes and heard their stories of how they needed more support, but that was it. While we were there, I felt like I was in the bus again, seeing only a sliver of what really goes on during the day outside of all of the shops we pass by and never really getting the full picture.
To get to my point, everything that I have seen thus far has reminded me that I am very blessed. My darkest days do not even come close to those of the people in Uganda and I need to always remind myself of that. I know that some days I feel like the whole world is against me and that nothing worse can happen, but there always is something far more worse that could. For instance, in today’s society having a job and money is something that everyone wants and if you have it, you always want more of it. I know that I have fallen victim of being like that and am not pleased about it. I get upset or stressed about not having a lot of money in my bank account after paying my rent and bills, while the small amount of money that I do have left would be enough to support a Ugandan family for quite some time. It’s disgusting that we can be so caught up in having the most money or best job and not even realize that the things we do have could help out someone who is in desperate need of it.
The things that I have in my life are things that anyone in Uganda would love to have. I have a loving and caring family that would do literally anything for me, while some of the people in this country have no idea where their siblings, mothers, or fathers even are, let a lone if they are alive. I also have a college education which is something that hardly no one in this country/world has. I should be ecstatic that I have a college degree from Creighton University, rather than just shrugging it off like it’s not an accomplishment even though it is a very big accomplishment.
As I stated above, after coming to Uganda last year, I knew I was blessed. This year, however, has been a great reminder as to how blessed I truly am and how I need to be more grateful for everything that I have in life; even the small things.
The filming process has begun and I must say that I missed it. Our first day of filming consisted of going to a vocational school called Ave Maria which is in Lira. It was an intense day of filming not only because it was our first day, but because the school had a whole jam packed day planned out for us. When we first got to the school there was an opening ceremony and then we started filming the dance and music that the students were performing. Later on in the day, there was a ceremony for John because he was made into an “elder” of the tribe; it was a very cool ceremony. The people of Ave Maria also surprised all of us with a gift from them. The gift was a shirt that had the U.S. and Ugandan flags on the front with the saying, “A friend is another self.” The backs also had the name of the school with the date that we were there. If that wasn’t already an unexpected surprise, they also had a tree planting ceremony for all of us. They said that us coming to visit them was a special event and when a special event happens they plant trees to remember it by.
Today we went to the village of Abia. We went to this village last year, so it was pretty cool and exciting to be going back again. It was exceptionally exciting because this was the village that we gathered donations for in order to get the community some oxen and plows to help them out with their planting process. The beginning of the day consisted of a welcoming ceremony and then we went to go see their chapel. After all of that was done, I ended up going to help out Sara with a project that she has been planning since November. I don’t want to take the spotlight away from her since it is her project and I was just helping out, but we went and interviewed a former child soldier and his grandparents. Needless to say, it was a very great and moving experience I thought because the former soldier said that he was telling us things that he has never told anyone before.
Once again I feel as if I have been very blessed in getting the opportunity to go back to the communities that I saw last year and seeing all of the people again. I can only hope that our last days of filming go just as well as the previous ones and we end up with great footage highlighting the wonderful people of Uganda.
So far, my return to Uganda has been everything I have hoped it would have been. The places, people, smells, and sights are ones that I remember very vividly from last year and am very grateful to be coming back and witnessing everything again. My personal goal for this trip is to re-process and find the deeper meaning in everything that I have already came in contact with. The shell shock of being in Uganda is gone; it was gone the minute I stepped off of the plane in Entebbe. I didn’t have the first time jitters stepping off of the plane because this was now familiar territory. I’m not the deer in headlights that I was last year; I know what to expect this time around and I feel that because of that, this experience is going to be very helpful for me in understanding what my purpose is for having the opportunity to come back here.
I have caught myself not taking nearly half as many pictures as I did last year and I really don’t know why that is. I half-ways think it is because I know that I have already seen these things and do not need photos to remind me of this place. Could it be something else though? Could it be that I have a greater understanding of everything this time around and am not the touristy type of person that I was last year?
As I said before, I’ve been doing a lot of personal reflecting the past couple of days. I see all of the people outside of the bus windows and catch myself wondering what their “stories” are. I mean, what do they do from dusk till dawn, where are they going when they ride their bikes, etc. I know that what I see from the bus windows are only a very small portion of what goes on in these peoples daily lives and it bothers me because I want to know more about each and every one of them. I would love to be able to stay with a family or individual for one or two days just to see what people from the buses and everywhere else in the world can’t see.
For those of you that know me and talk to me frequently, you may know that I have tossed around the idea of coming back to Uganda after this trip is over in order to volunteer. After being here and seeing the people of Uganda again, I feel very strong about doing this, however, I want to be certain that doing this is my calling. That is why this trip is so important for me, I do not want this to be a self-satisfaction type of deal; I want to be able to find the deeper meaning of everything and be able to really sit down and understand what my purpose/calling is in helping out the people of Uganda. This may seem like a bunch of rambling and unprocessed thoughts, but this has been what I have been thinking about since being here and I figured this was the easiest way to get it all out there.
1. Man, I missed this place.
2. Herbert is the man.
3. The smell of everything here took me right back to last year. For all of you who went last year, you know what I’m talking about.
4. White V-necks are so in right now.
5. Resembling a television actor off of the show Lost can get you some good deals when going to the market (that’s right, they remembered me from last year!).
7. Mosquito nets are going to be my friend again this year.
8. Don’t drink the water out of the faucet…yea I almost forgot about that rule on day 1.
9. Motorcyclists do not care about other traffic, they will do whatever they want.
10. Nile Special tastes just as good last it did last year, maybe even better.
These are just a few of my initial reactions upon entering Uganda again this year. It still seems a little unreal that we are actually here again, but I’m loving every minute of it. I can’t wait to get out of the city and travel North and start the video taping process. It’s going to be awesome!
A little over a year ago I was granted the opportunity to go to a place that many people only hear about, yet live to see. Since that year I have only yearned to go back as soon as possible and that time is now within hours away.
My first ever trip out of the country, let a lone plane ride, was to the beautiful country of Uganda. I remember everything that was going through my mind the days, hours, and minutes before landing in Africa for the first time; it is something that I will never forget.
It did not really hit me until our first day of meeting that I was going to be going back to the place that I have thought about every day for the past year. It seems unreal in some aspects because who would have thought that a 23 year old from the small town of St. Edward Nebraska, would have the opportunity to go to a place such as Uganda two years in a row.
We have a whole new group of students going this year and I am very excited about it because I believe our group chemistry so far has been outstanding. It takes a lot for a group of students who barely know each other to come together and be expected to travel with each other to a different country for two weeks; but something tells me that it will not be a problem at all. Do not get me wrong, the group of students that I went with last year were amazing because I made so many great friends that I will always remember, not only because it was our first Ugandan experience together; but because just being with everyone and getting to know them was a great and fun time in its own. I also know that each and every one of them would love to go back with us this year if they could which says a lot in my book.
However, the emotions that I am feeling right now are ones that are actually very hard for me to put into words for you to read. Heck, I can not even put them into cohesive and reasonable thoughts because there’s so much going on in my mind right now. I am anxious, excited, nervous, etc….I guess you could compare me to a little school girl who is getting ready to go on a date with her first crush. I mean these last couple of days I catch myself smiling for no reason other than the fact that I am thinking about going back to Uganda.
All in all, I’m ready, oh so ready to go back emotionally. Physically is not the same case because a year ago I would have been packed and would have double checked my baggage at least four times. However, I have yet to put anything in a suit case and still need to go to Target to get all of my awesome travel size gear (thanks a lot network tv for showing Cool Runnings; which I have not seen in ages). The only thing I am really worried about is not packing enough white v-necks and boxers; oh yea, and my malaria medication and contacts and glasses and ipod and converter and books and pens and notebooks and sunscreen and bug spray and camera (as you can tell I am making my list of things I need now)…..anyways, talk with you all soon!
I am a recent Creighton student who graduated in december of 2011 with a Bachelors degree in the Arts focusing in psychology. My future plans are to attend graduate school for psychology or counseling and to do volunteer work along the way. I was fortunate enough to go to Uganda last year with the backpack journalism class and am very fortunate to go again this year as a once again student, who is looking to further his education and gain more experience of going a to third world country. I have the high hopes and expectations for myself to gain as much experience as possible this time around and in the end, to go back to Uganda in order to further assist the people of the country in any way I can.
Today was our final day of class and I can’t believe it. These past five weeks have gone by so fast, its incredible. The documentary is coming along great and after a couple more sessions of editing with Peter and Tim, it should be ready for viewing!
However, as this journey comes to an end, I have to ask myself the same questions that we asked the many people we came in contact with while we were in Uganda. What is peace? What is Justice? What is forgiveness?
These questions are very hard for me to answer because the possible answers are endless. I have the utmost respect for the people in Uganda who came up with answers to these questions because they are very difficult questions to ask someone in any circumstance.
Peace to me would have to be a place where there is no violence at all. There would be complete tranquility all around and everyone would get along in unity. I also think that peace means people are not only getting along with others around them but they are also in complete sync and harmony with themselves. I feel that in order for there to be peace in the world, it has to start with everyone finding that harmony in their own lives first. I also think that peace is a state that people are in when they are free of worries and feel that everyone and everything around them is in perfect sync.
When I think of justice I think of the Golden Rule: do one to others as you want done to you. I feel that justice is exactly that. In order for you to get respect and acceptance from others, you need to show it as well. I also feel that in order for there to be justice, everyone needs to be unbiased in their decisions. People need to be able to hear all sides of the story in order for them to bring justice to the situation. Without unbiasedness, there cannot be justice in a society.
After hearing the people of Uganda talk about forgiveness, I feel that forgiveness is when someone does not hold a grudge against another person even though what they have done could have been very horrible. I also feel that forgiveness is when people take what has happened and put it behind them and look forward to the future and hope that in the end everything will work out for the better. Forgiveness is something that takes a lot of effort to show and I know for a fact that I would not be able to forgive Joseph Kony if he did those horrible things to my family, therefore I respect the people of Uganda so much because they have shown forgiveness towards everything that has happened to them throughout the years. Because of them, I know that I too can forgive, no matter how big or small the situation is.
Its been just over a week since we have returned from our trip and I am constantly thinking about Uganda. I always have these little flash backs of certain parts of our trip, whether it is an interview, one of the many bus rides we took, or interacting with the children that we saw.
It has been hard for me to come back and try to live the life that I did before I left just three weeks ago. I have become a lot more self-conscious and aware of what I say and how I carry myself in day to day activities now. I have been trying to take the words need and want out of my vocabulary because I feel that I no longer need to have anything and I shouldn’t want anything more than what I already have. I don’t need to go out and buy new things for myself because what I have is good enough.
However, tonight I went out to purchase a new shirt for work and it took everything in me to buy the shirt that was around ten dollars because I knew that it is not something that I needed to have because I could have very well continued going to work in my other shirt that I already had at home. When I was at the store tonight, I was thinking of the quote that we talked about during our trip, “live simply so others can simply live.” That quote says so much about how I feel after going to Uganda because it makes me feel sick that people in America take everything for granted and want more and more everyday. There is no pleasing us because we live in a place where anything is attainable and if we want it, we will get it. However, thats not the case with the people of Uganda and I remind myself of that every day so I don’t go back to being the way that I was before I left; a person who took everything for granted. Needless to say, it really bothered me that I could go and buy a shirt from Old Navy whenever I wanted and the people of Uganda can hardly afford anything.
On a somewhat lighter note, the editing processing is slowly but surely coming along. We have put together two rough cuts of everything so far and it looks as if everything is falling into place. Granted all of us getting tired and maybe even a little cranky, I know that in the end, it will all have been worth it.