Here is the result of one woman’s amazing generosity: Jared Opio, a Ugandan student of Public Health graduated in December 2015! If you have been following us for a few years, you might remember Jared’s initial request that I posted on this blog at the end of 2012. He was looking for a sponsor so he could transform his life by gaining a university education. Bev answered his request and, after three years, Jared invited us all to his graduation in Kampala.
Road trip! We packed up two of Francis’ kids, Mathew and Miriam, and the four of us headed west. We were only ten minutes on the road when a crazy bus caused our first halt. It was passing us on the verge and was rocking wildly as it fell in and out of holes until one lurch made the bus rock so far as to bump us and shatter a back window! Fortunately no one was sitting there, but I was furious. Kenyan buses think they are kings of the road and have little regard for other users, just as long as they can get where they are going as quickly as possible. It seems they had caused such damage before however, as the conductor gave some cash to Francis and they continued their journey. When we found somewhere later in the day to replace the window, we found the amount he had given us was exactly right!
The rest of the trip to Kampala was event-free. We spent a night at Lelin Camp near Iten overlooking the Kerio Valley. The training centre for Kenyan athletes is at Iten and indeed as we drove through early the next morning we saw several running along the mountain roads.
We arrived a day early and so we spent the day catching up with Jared. We were pleasantly surprised when he handed us gifts – OTA t-shirts!! He had got our logo from the internet and had it embroidered on shirts for Francis and I. This is something we had been talking about doing for years now, and here Jared had shown us up! We are immensely grateful for the shirts and wear them with pride.
In the evening, we went to see the Ndere Troupe, a dancing and drumming show. The host was very entertaining and one of his sets involved getting an American member of the audience to demonstrate to the Ugandans how all the vowels actually have different pronunciations. He used the examples “hat”, “hut”, ‘hurt” and “hot” which can all sound very similar when a Ugandan (or a Kenyan) say them. Similarly, I’m never quite sure if Francis is asking me if I’m “hungry” or “angry” and the evolution of “hangry” in English has made things a bit easier for both of us.
The Burundian drummers had to be the highlight however. Their drums were massive and so the logical place to carry huge drums is of course on one’s head. They walked onto the stage beating the drums that sat horizontally on their heads. They then lowered the drums to the ground and you could tell how heavy they were from the way they heaved them down. It was incredible!
The next day was the graduation. Unfortunately, Bev had fallen ill a week before she was due to travel and so I was even more anxious to be there to report back to her about it. But when I arrived at the gate they told me I wasn’t allowed to bring my camera inside. It was very confusing – this is a big day for families to see their loved ones graduate from university and we can’t bring cameras in?! Meanwhile, everyone inside was taking photos with their phones and iPads! I’m still not sure about the reason for banning cameras but we got around the situation and I was able to attend.
Jared was beaming with pride in his cloak and hat amongst his fellow students. The Bachelors of Public Health were the second biggest group after the Nursing graduates and they let out a loud whoop once all their names had been called. The restrictions of the space meant that the students just stood up when their name was called rather than negotiating their way to the front to doff and shake hands. It was a much more efficient way to do it and the ceremony finished a bit early as a result.
Jared and his aunt invited us to lunch afterwards where we ate some delicious food and took photos in the garden….in between downpours! It was a short but sweet visit as the next day we headed back to Kenya. We are very proud of Jared’s achievement and of course we thank Bev so very much for affording him this opportunity. Jared has since secured employment in his field, working in refugee camps on the Uganda-South Sudan border administering vaccinations and improving maternal and child health.