Sanyu: Finding Joy

A reflection of my 7 months in Uganda:

My neighborhood and daily walk to school.

In August, 2019, I set out for Entebbe, Uganda as an English Language Fellow with The US Department of State. I remember telling my husband, “I’m definitely not leaving early. I’ll make it all 10 months”. Fast forward seven months to a global pandemic. On a Friday morning, I got the notification that fellows were being sent home due to travel restrictions and the growing health risk around the world. I would be leaving Uganda & my fellowship would end on the following Tuesday. That gave me four days to pack, wrap-up my work, say goodbye, and try to process. I was able to do those first three, but it took a long time to process (maybe I still am).

At work at Nkumba University, my colleagues gave me a local name: Sanyu. Sanyu is “happiness” and “joy” in Luganda. Not only was it an honor to be given a Lugandan name, it was a privilege to be given such a sweet and positive name. A secretary told me it’s because I smiled everyday and greeted them. It’s easy for me to wonder what I could have done with 3 more months or question if my fellowship was successful. But, I try to focus on “Sanyu”: I was able to be part of a community.

So with joy, I list the things I was able to do rather than focus on what I didn’t get to finish:

  1. Led seven presentations / workshops
  2. Organized an education conference at the university with teachers from seven local schools in attendance.
  3. Taught classes in the School of Education
  4. Helped facilitate the donation of books to Nkumba University English department and a local elementary school
  5. Created instructional materials
  6. Traveled to Tanzania
  7. Traveled to Senegal
  8. Visited and hung out in airports in Ethiopia and Togo (this counts and both have stories!)
  9. Visited two national parks in Uganda
  10. Went gorilla trekking!
  11. Visited an island on Lake Victoria that was a reserve for chimpanzees
  12. Learned about local fabric, clothing, and visited ethical labor shops
  13. Raised $1100 for Dressember wearing local, Ugandan dresses
  14. Learned some Luganda and tried to greet everyone haha
  15. Traveled to a friend’s village and stayed with their family for a couple nights. One of my favorite experiences!
  16. Learned a lot about myself and grew as a teacher so much!
  17. Made some really great friends and relationships!

Half-way through my fellowship, but program asked me to make this video of my professional and personal life. I’ve added it here if you’d like to take a look: click here.

I can’t end this without saying a huge THANK YOU. So many of you supported me through this whole journey. I’m so thankful.

What’s next? I have no idea, but I’m ready 🙂

2 Replies to “Sanyu: Finding Joy”

  1. Darlyn Atwebembire

    I am happy to be part of your story. You are a great person, teacher, mentor and a friend, Kim.

    I wish we had you for the ten months because we had alot to learn from you, projects on the way and plans.

  2. Nextgen Energy solutions

    With the program cut short, that’s quite a list you were able to accomplish. Happy for you. Cheers…..

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