11 years is a long time. A decade. A lifetime for the young. An eternity in Uganda’s Acholi Quarter. January 2017 marked 11 years since the “official” inception of Project Have Hope. In that time, I have seen children born and namesakes grow. I have seen children graduate from high school and from university. I have seen children become mothers. I have seen mothers bury their children and children bury their mothers. I have been a witness to life at its best and its worst. I have grown in unimaginable ways. And I continue to do so. In October 2005, when I was first invited to the Acholi Quarter, I was young, fool-hearted in thinking that I “just want to help.” Of course, I had no idea how to help or of the journey I was about to embark. Or that maybe I’d be the one being “helped.”
I learned to listen (and must continue to hone these skills). I learned to listen to words. Nuances. Actions. I learned to listen to silences. I learned to listen to my heart and with my heart. I learned that there’s so much I don’t know and will never know. And now, I am also learning to listen to my voice. A voice that has grown with wisdom and strength thanks to this journey. A voice that can speak for those who are not always afforded the means to have their voice heard, paired with a mind that must keep learning to be quiet and listen.
Over these eleven years in the Acholi Quarter, Project Have Hope has made it possible for children to graduate from high school and from university, and pursue their dreams. We have made it possible for mothers to feed their children and provide them with essential health care. We have stood together, hand in hand, at so many junctions. And together, we’ve all learned how to dream just a little bigger.
We have achieved this by working together. Listening to each other. Learning from each other. Just as the Acholi Quarter community has been forever changed by the presence of Project Have Hope, I personally, have been forever changed by the community.