Later on in the day, the Uganda crew hopped into a boat and we sped our way across to Island Bushara. A palpable sense of anticipation grew knowing that we were about to meet the whole Peace Centre crew, who had all arrived from Bukinda that morning. We had arranged for TPC children, staff, volunteers and board members to all join us for the day at the lakeside for a swim and a special community lunch. For all of these children, and many of the adults, this was their first ever time at this beautiful lake, despite it being so close to Bukinda. It is always exciting seeing people experience something special and beautiful for the first time, and frankly, I couldn't wait! We all met amidst singing at the boat dock and then made our way to the swimming area. Clothes were being tossed in all directions; the Dulwich kids were eager to get into the water. However, the Peace Centre children lingered around the edge of the jetty, unsure of what to do. Encouraging words from Peace and other bystanders gave the children a feeling of comfort and they slowly entered the water. Still apprehensive about swimming for the first time, the children clung tightly to the edge of the dock or tightly to us as we held them in the water. Regardless of their inablity to swim, it did not stop them from learning and enjoying themselves splashing about. There are no words that could describe the amount of joy that flowed through my body after seeing the humongous smiles spread across the children's faces. Can you remember the odd sensation of swimming for the first time? That wonder, mixed with fear and intrepidation, at the sudden realisation that you cannot stand on this strange unworldly liquid...? That was what we were seeing first hand and it was truly special to witness.
Suddenly it was four o'clock. Our island adventure that had consisted of swimming, jumping off ropes, dining on delicious food, and playing with the Peace Centre kids was drawing to a close. I had had so much fun playing with TPC children on a swing and a slide, all of whom had never played in a simple playground before! Going down the slide cuddling some of the little kids as they experienced that mini adrenaline rush for the first time was a joy and a privilege! So at four o'clock the time to leave the island had come and all sixty five of us boarded two wooden boats to make the journey back to mainland. The boat journey was magical, as it was spent singing and laughing and sharing: this is community, I thought. But amidst all the excitement, I stopped for a moment and looked around. It seemed the vibrations from the children's voices caused the waves to ripple more vigorously. More excitement bubbled up as the children sang louder and louder, trying to overtake the other boat. (Check out the video of the boat journey we have posted on our facebook page to get a glimpse of what I am trying to describe!)
The bonds I have made here ensured a new home. Not a second home, but another home. An entirely different kind of home to the one I have already. But a home that I can call mine. A home where I feel I belong. Where I can love and am loved. I am overcome by everything that has happened with these children. They have undergone horrible situations and... and... and yet they are still able to open up and bond with every single one of us, and love us. They are loving us just as much as we are loving them. What an honour that is.
Looking to the future, I may not remember the exact words they say, or the precise experiences we share, but I will always remember this joy and this overwhelming love they make me feel.