Saturday, January 17, 2015

"No One is Normal"

..we all have something that is different. A great quote shared by someone this past week that is so true and often times forgotten. 

This past week Ashley had the opportunity to participate in her first camp in Uganda. The camp was hosted by several great local organizations and two amazing Peace Corps volunteers. It brought together campers ranging in age from 5 – 27 years old in the Fort Portal area. This meant traveling about five hours, but it was more than worth it.

The week started with shy campers trying to feel out the environment, but by the end of the week they were full of energy and enjoying their time with their new friends. Camp Kuseka, it's name meaning Camp Smile/Laugh, is different from other camps here in that the purpose is to empower persons living with disabilities. Campers ranged from the hearing impaired, those with physical disabilities, learning disabilities and mental disabilities. Each camper was placed on a team with campers with similar disabilities and matched with a counselor one- on –one for the week. 

Red Team! RRRR….RED
Red Team Counselors

Ashley was placed on the red team, which was made up with campers with intellectual disabilities. Her camper was an amazing teenage girl from the area that enjoys drawing and reading and loves dancing. 
Ashley learns who her camper is

This week was a real learning lesson for everyone involved. The week helped to encourage and link resources to the campers and their families and gave campers the opportunity to participate in lots of great activities while learning life skills. Parents attended two full days worth of sessions and were able to learn, share and create networks for support. There were so many awesome sports, arts and learning activities for campers to participate in. Special Olympics Uganda did lots of great activities, there were several speakers, all with disabilities, who encouraged campers and reminded them that anything is possible, lots of opportunities for campers to showcase their talents and so much more.

Ashley's Week With Her Camper

When I first met my camper I was nervous. She was very shy and it took some time for her to warm up; at times she did not seem so sure of me and called me "obujungu". She is in her late teens and like any other teenage girl, she is very independent. At times she would get up and walk away without saying a word, and I would worry, ...oh no, where is she going. Thankfully, each time it was just a trip to the latrine. As the week went on she slowly started to warm up to me and others at the camp. I made it a personal goal to have her call me by my name, and with the help of the Rutooro speaking nurse to translate she started to call me by my pet name, Ateenyi. 

It took a while to see what she liked to do. She wasn't keen on being in large groups for sports and I tried to encourage her to participate with no luck. Library time was one activity I could count on that she enjoyed and used the time to work on her writing, something she said she needed help with. She is like a little mother, she loves children and always helped out with the younger children. When the music started to play I finally found what her passion is, dancing. She absolutely loves dancing like any other Ugandan child. Whether she was siting in her chair or walking to get in line for food, if music was playing she was dancing and singing. 

She said she wants to be a nurse when she grows up because she loves helping children; I think she will make a great one. This week was a great experience. I had the opportunity to meet some great people doing amazing things in their communities and some really amazing campers who only reinforce the fact that nothing is impossible.

Within the society here so many people with disabilities are cast away and left without much hope for the future. It is great to see so many people and organizations working together to end stigma and empower people. 

Remember... none of us are "normal".

Camp Kuseka 2015 Campers & Counselors

1 comment:

  1. That is so true. Everyone have a story to tell if wet only take the time to listen. Good job!!