Excerpt from http://donnaginatravelafrica.wordpress.com/2012/02/

By Gina Efstathio

Donna and I are childhood friends. We met at Lake Errock BC (go ahead and Google it) As kids we spent many summers and week-ends together swimming in the lake in the summer, skiing at Hemlock Valley in the winter, eating KD all year, and wondering if our parents did anything apart from playing cards. 40 years after meeting, we are planning a three week adventure to Uganda this spring. Donna has traveled to Uganda several times, and I’m fortunate enough to go with her this year. I feel this trip is spiritual journey, and as Donna has said to me many times “people go to Africa wanting to change things, but it’s really us who changes.”

Our flight will take us to Dubai for an overnight layover, and from there we will fly to Africa. The following itinerary is from some emails that Donna has sent to me about Uganda.

We will then fly to Uganda, and land in Entebbe, a city in central Uganda that is located on the shores of Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake, the second largest fresh water lake in the world, second to Lake Superior. Uganda is about the size of Oregon State and has a population of 32.7 million. Incredibly, about half the population is 16 years old and younger.

Joseph, Donna’s driver, will pick us up and take us to Kampala, about 37 km away, (population 1.6 million). We will spend a few days there exploring the capital city. Donna describes it as being a great city, very cosmopolitan, where you can enjoy shopping, fabulous lattes, or try traditional African, Indian, or even Chinese cuisine.

From there we will go on safari at Murchison Falls National Park, where we will enjoy a stay at the wonderful Paara Lodge. We hope to get an opportunity to visit Gulu, in Uganda’s war torn north, for an overnight. We will then head off on another safari in Queen Elizabeth Park, at Paara’s sister lodge, Mweya.

After that, it will be time to begin our volunteer work, a project at Outreach to Africa’s Paul Devlin Academy near the town of Fort Portal, in Western Uganda. During our time at Paul Devlin Academy, Donna and I will be working to collect stories, that we hope to be able to share when we get home. The students have already started writing their own personal life stories. When we arrive we will meet with the kids, listen to the stories, work on them together, and talk with the children about why they are important stories. Hopefully, we will end up with enough to put a book together. HELP!

We will use a “day camp” model 3-4 days. It is school break, and we are expecting over 100 kids YIKES.

Each day will have a focus, and we will pull the results together into a book when we return home. We hope this book will empower the children and teachers, help us to connect and get to know them, and that this project will highlight for them the importance and value of creating their own narratives.

I am told that this area of Uganda is breathtaking, the landscape is blanketed in tea plantations, and wrapped in the Rwenzori Mountains.

The school, along with medical clinics, a hospital, and a small church, are all part of the OTA (Outreach to Africa) initiatives we will have an opportunity to visit. They all serve communities of children and adults who are struggling to overcome the poverty and diseases that so much of sub-Saharan Africa faces.


UPDATE: What a Journey!
Our Last Day in Uganda – MAY 8, 2012

We finished up yesterday with a final Indian dinner. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before but the curry dishes here in Uganda are fantastic.

We are just getting packed up and heading to the airport later today. The past three weeks have been more than a trip for me – It has been a spiritual journey.

I have been awestruck by the beauty of the Ugandan landscape, and overwhelmed by the strength and drive of its people. Ugandans have impressed me everyday with their passion for life, and desire for a better future. Seeing and touching the children of this country, who have suffered so much, cannot be explained, it can only be experienced.

I am so grateful I have had this opportunity, and it was so great to share it with Donna.

Gina Efstathio
Ottawa, Canada


The Nile crossing over to Paara Lodge in Murchison Falls NP


Gina Efstathio, Evelyn Komuntale, Donna Striha

Giraffe in Murchison Falls NP


Professor Edward Rugumayo, Donna Striha, Gina Efstathio, Foibe Rugumayo


Kids at Paul Devlin Academy


Gina and Maggie working together at Paul Devlin School



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