*Reflections from Uganda visit 2019 with Community Outreach UK*
By Badrul Amin
As I lay in bed on the last night of our trip to Uganda, I take this moment to reflect and consider all the things I have seen and experienced and want to take back and encompass within my character.
I am going to miss this place immensely and inshallah will take back many many things that I observed.
Words cannot begin to describe, the feelings and the emotions I have been through on this journey.
Trivial but profound things such as a sense of community, brotherhood and caring amongst small children. Sometimes we didn’t carry enough sweets…..so we used to give 2 children (3/4 year olds) 1 packet to share. It was amazing to see the child with the packet in their hand used to open it and give the other child his share before eating theirs. These people are at the depths of poverty, yet they are so humble and caring and giving and even from a young age, and even from such such a tender age, realise the importance and significance of the beautiful Hadith of the prophet (pbuh) saying ‘Non of you truly believes, until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself’
We tried our best to provide as much donations, clothes, sweets, drinks, meals as possible. We weren’t always able to clothe all the kids so we used to identify the children with the dirtiest and most torn or no clothes and try and clothe them. There were many occasions where we had clothed one child only for them to take off their T-shirt or too and offer it to someone who doesn’t have one.
Alhamdulillah, we took more than 1000 small packets of jelly sweets from the UK. They were distributed everywhere, at every place we visited, on almost every road our car stopped. The recipients, mainly children and more often than not, orphans, absolutely overjoyed to receive them. May Allah bless all those that contributed towards them and accept their donations.
The roads were horrendous to say the least. We had 6, yes 6 tyres burst on us, throughout our trip. We would stop the car and change the tyre.
Maybe this was a blessing from Allah, as at every tyre change, we were able to distribute the donations you had given us. Be it lollies or jelly sweets or even balloons, we left your donations and took their duas. At one of the tyre changes, we noticed a little girl, completely naked and dirty. We managed to clothe her, she was absolutely overjoyed. One of the crowd turned to us and said ‘I wish we were all naked, then you could clothe us all’
As part of our scheduled programmes there, we visited, inaugurated and celebrated some of the places where mosque were built by Community Outreach UK, through your donations. The whole community used to come out to greet us, sing their traditional welcome songs and treat us like royalty. There were occasions where people used to hold our hands and point at the mosque Community Outreach UK have built through your donations and point towards the heavens…..doesn’t take rocket science to work out what they are trying to say. The areas where the mosques are, don’t have electricity, so, solar panels are provided, so that the mosques can be utilised at all times. This becomes the only place where there is lighting in the whole community, it becomes the hub of the community. The wells that Community Outreach UK have built, have all been carefully selected, by assessing the distance to clean water and sizes of communities. ALL the wells provided by Community Outreach, through your donations, have become lifelines for an entire community. More often than not, it’s the only well with clean water for 4/5km.
In short, the effect that a small amount of charity can have is HUGE, to both the recipients and the giver.
The following are things that I have noticed and want to appreciate more and encompass within my character:
1. Humility – be humble as we could have been in similar situations, but Allah chose us to have a more comfortable life than them
2. Patience – despite so many obstacles, the people here never complain about their life, they always smile and don’t steal or argue or cheat – they are patient and are happy with how Allah has provided for them. They may be poor due to their circumstances, but are rich in character and have not compromised their character even in the harsh circumstances they find themselves in
3. Appreciation – these People, despite not always being dressed in appropriate clothing covering Satar – always pray. They appreciate the help that others provide. They genuinely believe we are brothers in Deen. Allah has kept us in heaven. Inshallah I will learn to appreciate what I have, by not complaining and wanting more and by not being extravagant in spending more than I should.
May Allah make it easy for me…..ameen
Another thing which I noticed was that the most social and friendly and beautiful in character people were the ones where the villages didn’t have any electricity or even shops. They don’t have any money either – this really led me to the conclusion that social media, YouTube, Facebook, online games, TV, when used correctly can be brilliant tools, otherwise they are really just character destroying mediums which we should restrict in our lives and keep to an absolute minimum.
I took a picture of a girl in one village and she was absolutely horrified when I showed her the picture, perhaps because she had never see a picture of herself before.
I know we can’t save the world, but if each of us do our little part, in whatever way we can, we CAN make a difference to many many peoples lives.
In one place we arrange a meal for school children, a lot of whom were orphans. We provided, through your donations, goat meat, rice and drinks. The headmaster, when questioned about the last time these children had eaten meat, replied Last Eid. LAST EID!!! Let that sink in for a moment. You CAN make a difference to these peoples lives. A goat, costs a mere £40, that can bring about a ray of sunshine and essential sustenance for these needy children.
As we were an all male group, it was difficult to find out our what issues the women in these severely deprived communities were experiencing. We managed to speak to a few of the groups of women. It became quite embarrassing and difficult to ask probing questions. We did get some answers from them. In terms of women’s hygiene and sanitation…….NOTHING! No sanitary products, and often they refer to women dying due to lack of sanitation, or difficult childbirth. These women are eager to try and help their communities, maybe a manual sewing machine, or even oven facilities to do baking, could change their lives. Sanitary products and perhaps basic midwifery skills trainings would completely change the demographics of a whole community.
Above all, the main appreciation is to you guys, the donors, as we were merely only your ambassadors, passing on your donations.
Get involved, make a difference, small or big, and be part of changing whole societies in some of the most deprived parts of this world