They Call Me Abua
a small glimpse into my 2011 internship with ROWAN
When Kelsey asked me to guest blog about my summer internship with ROWAN I was suddenly overwhelmed with amount of stories and moments I wanted to share. I had no idea how to describe on paper what was felt and experienced so fully in the heart. However, I want to share with you guys a glimpse of my journey to and from Mawanga and my hope is that it inspires you to be apart of the ROWAN family and GO.
I was born with a heartbeat for social justice and that part of me came alive in high school when a teacher mentored me towards a better comprehension of so many human rights violations occurring in the world every single day. During that time I learned about the evils happening in Uganda and the only thing to follow was activism. I was blessed with incredible parents that let me sleep in New York City parks, skip school to lobby in DC, and rescue ride in vans with total strangers so we could spread the need for change with resilient hope. The end goal for so many of us was to go to Uganda and be in person with the people we were fighting for.
Little did I know that goal was not the end, but the beautiful beginning of something I now carry with me every day.
When Kelsey accepted me to come along as an intern there were no words to describe how excited I was to finally go meet and help them. Oh how naive I was! Naive to think that I would show up and change their lives, when the exact opposite happened. I arrived in Mawanga and without hesitation the people welcomed me to their table, into their lives, and they called me Abua. It was my life that was changed and I traveled home a few months later knowing so much more grace, love, healing, joy, and feeling fiercely alive!
There are so many reasons why I left that special village changed, but one thing I will always carry with me is how we began and ended our day as a family. We would wake up to find that Pastor Paul and Mama had already been up before the sun praying for the day ahead and preparing breakfast. We would drag ourselves out of bed and meet them at their humble breakfast table and this definitely-NOT-a-morning-person would begin her day with popcorn, a sense of full presence, and a vision for the day ahead. Then we would be sent out and our job as interns for the summer was to collect stories, observe, gather information, and brainstorm self-sustainable programs that would practically empower and support the orphans and widows.
For me, the absolute best part of our job was to love the orphans and the only gift we had to give them was our time. So the majority of our day was spent breaking the language barrier with dance and trying to play soccer in our skirts. When that golden African sun came up we were apart of their day-to-day routines and when the sun went down I had never slept so well in my entire life. We worked hard all day and slept hard all through the night. Well, expect for one night when a spider bit Kelsey on the face and I crashed a boda-boda in the village center. I can’t paint a picture of the entire summer being blissful and perfect. No matter the scale, every day there was something challenging that came our way, but we would learn from what was thrown at us and our own mistakes as a team.
The end of our day was always book-ended back at the table as a family with tired bones, heavy eyes, bug spray in our pockets, and potently smelling like wet-wipes. I remember so clearly how we would spend that time sharing about our day, reflecting with so much gratefulness, and in stitches at Pastor Paul’s hilarious little stories that can bring even the groggiest of interns into eye watering laughter.
For me the internship was everything I hoped for and more because of the orphans’ infectious joy and that humble little table in Mawanga, Uganda.
Wherever you are in life I hope that you have a table where you gather with your family; and if you don’t I hope that you that you seek or create one! So that you can be filled up, challenged, loved and then sent out into your day/life/dreams/moments feeling fully known and fully loved!
Maybe you did not spend years dreaming about Uganda and maybe it is not a journey you need to take to discover yourself. However, wherever you are in life I hope that you always always always take the chance to bring yourself, just as you are, to gather around the ROWAN table. If you have the chance to GO I hope you say “YES!” to visiting Mawanga to become apart of this beautiful family!
Join a future ROWAN trip