By Gracy Park
I woke up by the sound of Mr. Clapperton's drumming. As I climbed out of bed, I realised that it was the last day and finished up packing my bag. When I was leaving my room, I noticed Promise, a 15 year old TPC girl, tearing up because we were leaving. I reminded her that it wasn't goodbye, but my words made her cry even more. As I walked back to my room, I took a last look at the all the paintings we have done and felt a sense of accomplishment. I picked up my bag and slowly walked towards the stairs that leads to the canteen. I looked up and Amos had his little smile on, wanting to help me carry my bag. His little smile always warmed up my heart and that's when I realised I built a special connection with him and that his smile meant so much to me. This reminded me of when we were writing reflections about The Peace Centre together. Amos talked about how he was not happy about his life before he was at The Peace Centre. He said that his life was not good and he did not smile a lot, but now at The Peace Centre he is always happy and smiling. Something as simple as having a bed and the ability to go to school make their lives so much better. We think education and having a room to sleep in is normal but after being with the kids, you realise that we take so many things for granted.
After eating breakfast, we took a group photo and all the kids wore the shirts that they had made a couple of nights ago. Amos stood in front of me when we were taking the picture and I couldn't stop smiling when I saw his shirt. He drew a football, a book, himself, and me. When we took the picture, everyone was smiling and having such a good time. I felt a sense of belonging and that The Peace Centre was now my second home. I walked up the hill, a hill that I'd crossed a billion times everyday the whole trip, with Amos by my side. He was holding my hand a little tighter than he normally did and I knew it was because he knew it was time to say goodbye. We walked up the stairs and looked down at The Peace Centre.
It was time to say goodbye and none of us were ready. Two weeks seem like such a short amount of time but we had grown a bond that couldn't be broken. Everyone was heartbroken to leave and we were all filled with tears. As I was hugging the kids and all the adults, I came across Amos hiding behind the door. The kid that always smiles was crying, and this really got to me. I tried to comfort him but he didn't seem like he wanted to be comforted. It was time to go and I gave him a big hug. Once I was in the bus, I looked for Amos through the window. He was hiding behind one of the older orphans, still crying. This precious little 6 year old boy had so many emotions in him and I wasn't ready to say goodbye to them. When I came to Uganda, all I thought about was helping the kids and changing their lives. But as I was leaving The Peace Centre, I realised that I received so much more from these kids, particularly from little Amos, and that they had changed my life. It's hard to explain how exactly, but I know my heart isn't the same as it was before.
The bus ride to Queen Elizabeth was quiet and most of us were thinking, sleeping or gently crying. Very different to the bus journeys when we arrived where we were all laughing and singing together. When I was thinking, I came across the thought that leaving the orphans doesn't need to be sad because it doesn't have to be goodbye. I know I'll see them again, one day.
We reached the simple hotel in Queen Elizabeth National Park, had lunch and relaxed playing cards and chatting. It was a very peaceful place and a good place to come for reflection. We wandered down to the lakeside and saw more than ten hippos wallowing in the muddy water. The closest were as near as ten metres and it was a special moment being that close to nature.
After eating dinner, our team gathered in a circle and reflected on the last 36 hours of our trip. A lot of the words my fellow students said really touched me. When Mr. Reich read the letter Brian, a 17 year old boy and the first child TPC sponsored, wrote for us I started to tear up again. I did not get to know Brian very well because he sleeps at school and only comes to The Peace Centre on the weekends, but it felt like I was so close to him. He thanked all of us for supporting him and choosing him to be part of The Peace Centre. He used the word 'gift' saying, "thank you for choosing me as your gift, I love you." It seemed like the most appropriate word to use. Gift. And I guess that's how I see all of these children, and this whole experience, as a gift. The best gift anyone could ever receive. Thinking back to Brian's words of thanks, I felt like I should be the one thanking him.
Who are we?
A team working alongside Golden Magezi in Bukinda, Uganda, running an orphanage that provides kids with love, family and an education.