Immersion Programme: ‘We talked for hours about our similarities and our differences’
Weronika Kurdyn is a Sixth Year Student at St Joseph’s Secondary School, Rush. She travelled to Masaka, Uganda in June 2019 as part of the Aidlink Immersion Programme.
In June 2019, I was lucky enough to take part in an immersion project organised by Aidlink Ireland. I, along with a group of students and teachers from my secondary school, St Josephs Rush, travelled to Masaka in Uganda to immerse ourselves in Ugandan culture and the day-to-day life of local communities in the developing world.
We arrived at Masaka Social Centre on Tuesday the 6th of June. After a long and tiring journey, all I wanted was a hot cup of tea and a comfy bed, however, as soon as we entered the gates, all my wants and negative energy disappeared; lots of joy and love filled my heart. We were greeted by a magnificent music group that performed for us and we were warmly welcomed by the staff that works in the Social Centre. That night we had a fantastic dinner and Anne Cleary, the CEO of Aidlink, introduced us to the programme.
Before starting school with the Ugandans, we had a few other visits planned. We traveled to a local primary school to plant coffee trees, play with the kids and see the amazing work Aidlink does to help them live a better life. The principal of the school was extremely hospitable and excited to show us the latrines that are funded by Aidlink – little things like that can make a huge difference in someone’s life. I felt extremely special and emotional as the little children greeted us with open hearts and minds in their school. They were all young, talented and full of energy. Together we enjoyed a game of netball and a spectacular football match. I was highly surprised when we were saying our goodbyes, as the children got attached and really close to us in a short period of time.
Although I’m not a farmer, visiting the Caritas Maddo supported farm was one of my favourite and most memorable things we did in Uganda. Everything on the farm was so natural, different and organic. The local farmers welcomed us with excitement to their home and workplace. I saw how proud they were to show us, the mzungus, what they have accomplished. It was beautiful to see Anne and Tom from Aidlink, coming back to the farm and all the farmers remembering them. I could see how Aidlink and Caritas Maddo changed their lives and made everything easier. I absolutely adored picking the coffee beans and helping with dinner preparation. All the food was delicious and natural; it’s not comparable to the food we eat, which is highly processed and full of chemicals. When I was chatting with the farmers I realised that they suffer from the same issues as us in Europe; climate change. They are worried about their crops due to the constant change of temperature and different amounts of rainfall. At the end of our visit, Anne called me out to say a few words about our experience. I was extremely proud to show leadership.
After a weekend full of new experiences, it was time to start school. Attending classes at Archbishop Kiwanuka Secondary was incredible. At first, I was anxious , I didn’t know anyone from my class and was nervous about meeting my new Ugandan peers. However, as soon I walked into class, I was welcomed by a group of girls that wanted to get to know me. Ugandan students were happy to see me and help me around, some of them were a little shy, but as the week went by they opened up to me.
I bonded with my Ugandan peers and created great friendships. Everyday we talked for hours about our similarities and differences. I became aware of the luxurious life I’m living in Ireland and was upset that my Ugandan friends don’t have the same opportunities. All of them inspire me, due to their enthusiasm towards education and spectacular talents. In school, they all accepted me for who I am and made me feel comfortable. I adored them for being so raw and straight forward with everything. During the week of school I realised that I’m a lucky teenager and I should be more grateful for what I have. I had a wonderful time in Archbishop Kiwanuka Secondary School, I hope all my Ugandan friends will reach their goals and will continue being so ambitious and amazing.
The immersion project has been a wonderful and educational experience. I have grown as a person and learned many new, incredible things. The memories that I made in Uganda will always have a special place in my heart. Anne and Tom are special people that truly inspire me, and the work that Aidlink does is highly visible when in the local communities, or talking to the Ugandans. I will continue to support Aidlink, every step of the way. After the immersion project I fell in love with Africa and I am sure that I will be back.
Weronika travelled to Uganda on the Aidlink Immmersion Programme in June 2019. Weronika is a Sixth year student at St Joseph’s Secondary School, Rush.
For more information on the Aidlink Immersion Programme contact firstname.lastname@example.org