IMG_0345Lots of us have blogged about our experiences on time spent in Uganda. But, today I wanted to share what it was like for me preparing for such a trip. I have traveled a lot in my life, and this type of journey was like no other.

A year ago, in early January 2012, Donna and I began planning our trip to Uganda. I was very flexible about when I could leave and how much time I could take off from work. We decided on three weeks and that we would leave in mid-April. IMG_0804We tried very hard to plan our trip around Evie’s arrival in Fort Portal, but in the end, Evie said follow your hearts and go when the time suits you both. Donna is so seasoned with traveling in Uganda and visiting the Paul Devlin Academy (PDA) that she made all of our travel arrangements, making sure we would see Evie at some point in our journey.

I was turning 50 last year, so going to Africa with my childhood friend, Donna, seemed like a fantastic way to celebrate life. It was exciting planning the trip, setting my cultural expectations and trying to imagine what Uganda would be like.

What really inspired me leading up to my departure date, was everyone’s interest in my trip. People, some I barely knew, were generous beyond what I thought was possible! People at work blogged about me, others donated children’s clothing, I received medical supplies, and many, many people gave money. I received funds which were used to buy much needed items at the schools we visited. When you travel to Uganda, you need to bring US $100 bills that are in recent production. So between the donations and my own personal funds, I was a little uncomfortable traveling with that amount of money. The CBSA dogs actually sniffed me out at the Toronto airport!

IMG_0482Apart from the donations I received, the other memorable moments were that I was constantly asked “What are you going to do there?” Doctors, nurses, and teachers are the traditional professionals that travel for humanitarian work; Donna and I are none of those, but we are both hard working, compassionate and awesome at raising donations. We really functioned as a grass roots movement. We couldn’t offer people tax receipts for their donations, we traveled at our own expense, we didn’t have an authoritative source to report back to – we were two women, lucky enough to be able to do this, who were looking to bring awareness and love to the children and teachers of PDA.

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Anyone can do this type of work. Everyone has something to offer that people in Uganda will accept with open hearts. Go and listen to their stories, provide a hot meal, accept their gift of song and dance, and in return come home and tell people about Uganda.

People still ask me if my trip to Uganda has changed me. I find it difficult to pin-point exactly how to respond to this constant question because it is so personal, but, basically, YES, it has!

Gina Efstathio

Ottawa, Canada


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