Goodbye but not for long: a semi-final reflection

by KareMeKuc co-founder Max Clary

My time is almost up here, I will be taking the midnight charter bus from Lira to Kampala on Sunday to catch my plane in Entebbe Monday night (8/1). So as my time comes to a close and everything is really busy saying goodbye and making the final preparations, I felt it was important to make the time to send you all one last reflection on what has been accomplished this summer both in terms of Uganda Peace Project and the inter and intra personal relationships I have established here. Like usual I will address the project first and then if you care to read more about my personal insights then you may read on.

The goal set for this project this summer as been completely above and beyond what we expected. We fund raised to get here with the expectation that we will be laying necessary ground work for the building of the Peace Center and building a proper investor portfolio which includes all the specifics about how much money we need and where exactly it is going. This goal has been met and exceeded in a couple different arenas. First off, not only have we designed basic blueprints and outlines of all the buildings necessary but we have also now secured an architect to survey the land and draw in-depth floor plans for all of our buildings. All while doing this we are thinking about waste management strategies everywhere from placing buildings with solar in the optimum positions on the land, to our farm being at the lowest part of our land so we can make use of gravity for the rain water irrigation system we are setting up, all the way to designing where tanks will be stored under ground to store bio gas for our heating and cooking needs. These waste management strategies and others we are considering will not only cut down on our annual upkeep costs but will also make us one of the most ecofriendly schools in all of Uganda. CPU, the architect, district environment director and I hope that this initiative will pioneer this kind of development which is just beginning to take place here. With determining these floor plans and how we will work in all of our ideas for waste management we will have a comprehensive list of the building materials we will need and the cost for this for each building broken down into foundation, structure, roofing , plumbing , ect. A complete expense report for this should be completed by the end of September. In addition, the board members of CPU and I have gone through all the buildings and estimated all the internal materials needed ranging from lamps to beds to sinks and toilets to cleaning supplies, ect. From this list, my friend (and now Ugandan volunteer of Uganda Peace Project (I will get to this later)) and I have spent the past two weeks running around town talking to shop vendors to get estimated pricing of all these materials and we have just completed our list. Lastly, on top of all of this I have realized that there are many NGOs here providing various types of free services and my team and I have decided it is critical that we do not reinvent the wheel. As a result, Seren, Nellie and I have been working diligently to build bridges with local NGOs and government officials to use the resources they are already offering in our peace center. Now as you can imagine there is still a lot of work left to do on the ground in Uganda until we are ready to start building. I have asked my closest friend here, Isaac Odongo to be a part time volunteer for us on the ground and run operations like additional research on the proper building materials or providing contact information and research for local NGOs to address whatever need we may have. I am very excited to have him as a part of our team in helping create a peaceful future for the lives of the children we will work with and the greater Uganda community.

In addition to laying the material ground work for the project it was also vital that we laid the community ground work for this project. I have worked directly with both the children we will be working with as well as the general community members in Lira. You can read more specifically about my work with each of these groups of people in pervious blog posts. The essence of what I was doing here was to be a friend and a voice in the west for these communities. I played with the children, shared my story, and made certain that they knew I was there to help my brothers and sisters NOT to just take pictures and leave like so many white people have done before me. Because of this approach I was able to make real genuine friendships that transcended this project both with the children and the community members. Once these friendships were formed I engaged in both group and individual discussions about the struggles they are facing and the ways we can address these needs at our center. Many cited school, health, food security and physical security as their major issues and agree that the best way to start redressing these problems was to provide a safe and healing place for schooling and vocational skills where they can learn to support themselves and their family. Community members in Lira felt isolated from these village kids as they are often 10- 15 kilometers away from the Lira municipal area but they knew of their struggles and thought this Peace Center was good and important. Many who I befriended and talked to even volunteered their time to help once the center is running. In summary, I received honest and positive feedback from community members in Lira and our children beneficiaries about the issues that need to be redressed and the best way to go about doing this. Above this I was able to form beautiful connections with many people that are now my Ugandan family. These connections quickly and vastly went past what goals of this project were as it has not only helped me get honest feedback to improve what we are doing but has also altered my foundation as a human being to receive such love and openness despite our differences and backgrounds. Community members have decided to throw me a big going away party this Sunday before I leave where we will all dance, eat, drink, and to conclude I’ll probably make everyone uncomfortable by crying J . Although this work is not exactly the work I am used to doing in school where we produce a large amount of quantitative material, I could not be more proud of what we accomplished. Nellie did great work on setting up ground work of a medical clinic at the center and Seren will undoubtedly be our guide in implementing a successful and responsible program with the studies she has done this summer. Go team! Thank you all for your undying support. We will need you this year more than ever to make our dream come true.

As for my personal life, this trip has also been nothing short of amazing. This trip has both challenged me and allowed me to step back from my hectic work life at school and focus a large portion of my time on self-growth. Through this adventure I have learned about the power of having compassion for the people that frustrate you and beyond this having gratitude for them as your teacher in practicing understanding. I have attempted to further understand the power and the expansiveness of the mind as I have continued my meditation practiced and studied various philosophies of mind and spirit. Through this practice I have started to break down concepts of pain and attachment in new ways through observing how my mind is interacting with myself and the world around me. In addition, my understanding of the power of vulnerability was further bolstered by creating beautiful and heartfelt connections with people from totally different backgrounds just by opening up about my struggles and admitting to my imperfections. I have made so many friends along the way that have taught me special lessons and I can say definitively I will leave Uganda a different man than the Max who came here just two months ago. All of these avenues of exploration have opened up new paths that I am excited to venture down and experience the journey along the way. For details on each of these measures of added awareness please refer back to my pervious posts or talk to me over email, skype, facebook, ect. I was able to spend some time with Seren in Gulu a week ago and that was the first I had been around someone from home in quite a while. There I realized that I have definitely changed and I can’t tell you exactly how, I just know something is different inside of me. I am so excited to sit down with many of you and talk about my experience and you can gain your own notions of what we are doing and the change that is happening in me. I love you all so very much. Wish me safe travels home. Two Notes: the internet has been nothing short of terrible lately, taking me about 30 minutes to navigate to the website where I post this and then uploading it. I have tried to upload photos but for some reason now they all seem to be too big of files. When I arrive back in the states (night of August 2nd) I will post many of the pictures I was not able to post. Lastly, I am sorry I am cutting the personal section so short, I am strapped for time as I have been going going going this past week and it has taken me a couple days to fill in little spots for time to write this and now is my last chance as I run off to the villages in five minutes to say goodbye to my friends. Also, like I mentioned, I can tell you the things I have understood this summer and gained but there is something qualitatively changed inside of me that I don’t feel I can adequately describe yet as I am just observing it at this point. So I feel it is best for you all to come and talk to me and see for yourselves. As this trip concludes, I must thank you one last time for making my dream come to reality. On Sunday I will cry tears of happiness in the creation of peace and dreams and gratitude for all my friends all over the world. See you all soon. Thank you.

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