This June, RUFC successfully implemented our fifth annual soccer and health camp. It came at the cost of a lot of work from us and all of our wonderful Ugandan partners, and I couldn’t be happier with how it went. For the first time ever, the weather held up! We didn’t have one downpour! That combined with four years of prior expertise resulted in an exceptionally well-run event. All our workshops ran smoothly and the energy on site was as positive as ever. It seems year after year our team just gets better. This year was a bit different as we ran our RUFC Youth Vision Trip at the same time as Camp. For ten days, myself and a group of high school students from around Los Angeles toured Uganda to obtain greater appreciation for the culture, as well as an updated global perspective. This was our second installment of this program and like the first I believe it was an incredible success - perhaps even better because the youth got to experience a few days of Camp as well.
Prior to the trip I was excited to share Uganda and RUFC camp with my peers, but I wasn’t thinking about how much more I would learn about Uganda myself. But in the end, even after 8 trips to Uganda over the last 6 years, this year I found there was still so much left for me to learn and experience. For example, I had never been to a traditional healer before. In Ugandan villages, the traditional healers are often the most trusted members of their communities. This sometimes presents a public health challenge when sick people choose to forgo professional medical services and seek to be healed by natural spirits. My good friend, Dr. John Jubilee, set up a meeting for our vision group to meet a local traditional healer during our visit to Mpigi. When we entered the healer’s hut, we were separated by gender and sat down on the floor. The healer walked us through how he became a healer and showed us the process through which he summons the healing spirits, which involved a lot of drumming and chanting, as well as some very questionable dance moves involving red hot coals. When he had successfully channeled the spirits, he administered individual advice and made predictions about our future. I was so impressed by my colleagues’ willingness and enthusiasm to participate. Interestingly, the girls’ fortunes all involved becoming mothers, with the luckiest among them forecasted to have twins. At the conclusion of each prediction, he would spit on the recipient’s hands for them to rub on their temples. Eventually, after we all had the opportunity to consult with the healer, he cleansed the spirits from his body by swallowing water - or so we thought until he began spitting it back out, showering us with spirit spit. Overall, the visit was an amazing, educational experience.
I also found that no matter how many times I participate in a home stay, each time is different and special in its own way. This year one of our partners at Global Health Network Uganda, Winnie, was kind enough to host our large group in her family’s compound. Her family was especially welcoming, even slaughtering a goat for our visit. We had an incredible night of cultural show and tell around the fire. All of us huddled around the fire in plastic chairs, telling stories, dancing, laughing, and singing songs until the early morning. I couldn’t think of a more beautiful and profound moment of cross-cultural exchange and connections for my peers to experience. The feelings I had that night were similar to those I felt that first time I traveled to Uganda, on the soccer pitch. I was reminded of why I started this organization in the first place. I wanted to show the world no matter where we come from we are capable of connecting and loving each other. That was why I wanted to take this group of youth to Uganda in the first place and I was overcome with emotion as I sat by the fire and saw my vision fulfilled so flawlessly.
Ray Wipfli, RUFC founder, shares his thoughts.