Throughout the trip, I have been surprised by the refugees.
There definitely is no right reaction to having to leave one’s home and start a new life. Yet, the refugees have been so much different than what I expected.
I almost expected there to be more displeasure, and there is (I don’t want to make it seem as though I’m downplaying how terrible the refugee crisis in Uganda is), but often I found there was much more joy then I would have ever expected.
The church that we went to at the settlement was one the most joyous places I’ve ever been inside. Even though it was nothing more than a couple of sticks with a tarp, there was so much excitement and energy inside it that I found myself quickly forgetting where I was.
People were much more willing to smile or to wave at strangers as they passed then anyone in the United States were. There was more openness, more willingness to reach out.
The children had no fear. They would run with us as we took shots in villages, watching us film and playing with each other. They would wave at our bus or try to run with it as we went passed them.
Lewi, smiling as he showed us his house and family, Kizaza with all of his charisma talking of his music, the girls at the school with their passion and pride.
Yet there is always pain. Lewi told horrific stories of bombings and senseless killing, of sadness that he would never be able to go home. Kizaza was separated from family and lost everything while trying to flee the Congo. The girls at the school still are struggling, with threats of child marriage and a culture that doesn’t give them the choice they deserve.
Outside the church at the settlement, we walked through a village of refugees. For a short while, I tried to get footage of a girl, probably in her early teens, working on making a pungent liquid. The person who was guiding us through the settlement later told me that she was trying to make alcohol to sell. Others mentioned that this was often one of the few things that was easy enough for children to produce and sell, and was commonly something done by orphans.
She still smiled at me as she was working.