I have arrived in Kampala, Uganda!!! I am so excited to be here. Today (August 9) we began our first day work at the Center. My field supervisors who are co-founders of Refuge and Hope gave me and my teammate our first main orientation. We learned about the history and purpose of the Centre of Hope (the refugee resettlement office in Kampala with which I will be working). I really appreciate how Refuge and Hope as an overall organization seeks to empower individuals within the community to be leaders for change within their respective communities.

We will be working with refugees from a variety of countries including: southern Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda. I have never worked with such a diverse population of people in this type of setting before. Attempting to learn about appropriate cultural norms and language phrases for so many groups seems overwhelming. I am going to do my best to learn as much as I can while recognizing my limitations.

After orientation, we had the opportunity to hang out with four teenage girls from Southern Sudan (3) and Uganda (1). They are part of the larger Center of Hope dance club. After we met, they asked my teammate and I to teach them some American dances for the purpose of representing America at the party which will be held at the center on Saturday. One of the girls said she was “concerned that America was not represented at the last party the center had.” Her comment was so funny. After dance practice, we ate lunch together and the girls began to share with us a bit about their lives. One shared about losing her father last year. She was only fourteen at the time. Another girl shared about what it was like to live in southern Sudan and then a refugee camp in Uganda. She was exposed to violence at such a young age. Both of their stories were really tragic. As they shared, I was also really amazed to see how much joy and life they had. Although they had experience so much tragedy in their life, they sought to live, laugh and love to the best of their ability. All four girls are currently in high school and have dreams for the future. They also had so much life and laughter which they displayed beautifully in their dancing. I really appreciated my time with them this afternoon. I look forward to more dance practices in the upcoming months.

Missy Ward is in Kampala, Uganda, to work with refugees and internally displaced persons. She is serving with Student.Go and will be teaching English as a second language and leading an art therapy group for women refugees. Missy is a student at McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta, Georgia. Visit her blog at http://missyinuganda2010.blogspot.com/