I have written ad nauseam of the trip to Uganda that many students from Heathfield Community College returned from a couple of weeks ago, but this article shall be my final on the subject.

On the 17th of February, the eighteen students and three teachers touched down at Gatwick Airport after a twenty-five hour journey from the rural village of Kabubbu a couple of hours outside of Kampala, Uganda’s capital. Over the ten days that the party was in the equatorial nation, they completed a range of tasks, ranging from Church-building to literacy teaching to maize farming. On the Sunday that the group was in Uganda, they even went and visited the church. One of the group was asked to speak at the service and tell a little about his own faith.

In his talk, he said that “Uganda is astounding. I have not yet met someone who has not been kind or welcoming to my school or to me”. He was right; Uganda is a beautiful country and many of those who went stated that they were surprised at how green the nation was, and how they had been expecting it to be very dusty and yellow, typical of a sub-Saharan African nation.

Despite everyone’s enjoyment of the trip, there was an alarming casualty rate. Almost half of the group fell ill at some point during or immediately after the trip, and there were very few present at school the Monday after they returned. The Health Centre in Kabbubu had to be called into the resort on two separate occasions to administer a number of blood tests and to prescribe antibiotics to the group. The irony of the situation was not lost on a lot of the group members as they, who had gone to help, had ended up needing the help and all but wiping out the medicine supply of the village.

Despite this, however, everyone in the group had one thing to boost their happiness: the children. In Lugandan (the regional dialect spoken in Kabubbu), the word for white person is Muzungu. The etymology of this word contains some humour. Its base word is Zungu which denoted the dizzy look that one occasionally gets on their face. This word was used to describe the first white people to land in Eastern Africa because of their uniform dizzy and disorientated faces. Virtually every child in the village, upon their catching sight of a student from Heathfield, would shout “Bye, Muzungu” (bye being the only word the younger ones know in our language). They enjoyed spending time with the British students, shown by fascination with their hair and the whitening of the skin when pressed (which their skin does not). There was a flurry of letters received by the resort on the last day of the group’s residence, written in handwriting much better than the British students that read them.

Now that everyone’s back in the totally different world of the rural South East, it’s hard to reconcile what they saw in Africa to now, particularly after the extraordinarily heavy snowfall that East Sussex has weathered – along with the rest of the United Kingdom. They all remember Africa with fondness and many have verbally expressed a wish to be back there for it truly was an “astounding” nation.

Callum Caldwell - Heathfield Community College

All images ©Callum Caldwell