Chameleons in development

Several weeks ago, three university students climbed up to a waterfall near Wanale Mountain. They had only been in Uganda for a few weeks and the trek was slippery and steep near the top.

All four of us made it with the help of local guide, Sam. He directed us to watch as our shoes made their way through muddy baby-trenches and ponds. So much of Uganda is like this – You need to make your way up treacherous climbs to see something valuable about the environment you are in. I have been in this corner of Mbale, Bududa, and Sironko for almost a year and I haven’t been shocked yet. What I can say is that the beauty of this place is overwhelming but the challenges even more so.

It has been great to share the newness of this place from the beginning get scrubbed off faces after a month or two. As Jessica, Kashif and Anne-Sophie transition into their departure to Belgium, Canada, and the USA I can see that they are all changed.

It is small, almost imperceptible change but it shows that they have become chameleons. They have learned to adapt to the fluidity of polychromatic life where nothing starts on time. They have waited impatiently for a latrine that they decide not to enter after barely opening the crack of the door. They have endured the data entry that needs to be completed after hours of field work. All this to learn about real life in the African ‘bush.’

Certainly the waterfall that day was lovely. Certainly the climb was not easy. However, you couldn’t see the Wanale Falls without spending at least an hour making your way through the shower, fresh water spray and steep trajectory.

Development work is a lot like hiking. The new ‘normal’ is not normal. The new ‘normal’ is fun and makes you hot, sweaty and tired. The new ‘normal’ does not always seem real.
At Bududa Learning Center, education is central to all of our projects. We know that it is important to the orphaned students we teach basket weaving and tailoring. Vocational academy men and women will use their English debate classes and entreprenurship skills to open businesses someday. The road to get there however is more than a short walk, it is a run.

As a professional with a business background I often want to apply marketing skills, management and ethics to our practices. This is important but perhaps even more so is recognizing the climb that so many of our students have to go through. Just like our interns this day.

When I see how far everyone has come I am proud. We go at a different pace than other places around the globe, but we have something to see at the end.

Life in Bududa.

Submitted by: KIMBERLY BEEBE
Assistant Director, Bududa Learning Center