Earlier this summer, I had the privilege of attending the RUFC Youth Vision Trip in Uganda, allowing me to meet many new friends and be immersed in an incredible culture and country. Uganda is the first place I have traveled outside of the US and many people told me that I had picked “quite the trip” for my first international experience. Although this made me a little bit nervous, they were right; it was quite the trip. I had the experience of a lifetime and I cannot wait to go back.
Uganda was not only an exciting adventure, but also an opportunity to learn and expand my worldview. Even looking out the window on the bus, watching women carrying their babies on their backs and families buying food from sidewalk vendors, taught me something new. In my opinion, this is best exemplified through my group’s stay at Winnie’s family home, where my friends and I observed and participated in day to day Ugandan village life and culture. When we arrived at the family’s complex we were given a warm welcome and a tour of the incredible little huts we would be staying in. They made us a delicious feast of Ugandan food, including beans, rice, chicken, goat, and chapati (my favorite), a tortilla-like bread. After dinner, we passed out glow sticks and played with the kids in the complex. I played peekaboo with a five-year old girl named Eva. Although she did not speak English well, she would repeat everything I said and giggle and hug me when I would say “I see you!” While we sat around the fire, singing and storytelling, she curled up in my lap. In that moment, I felt so fulfilled and I realized that words are not needed to form a connection. Eva and I were able to connect and communicate through laughter and love. In the morning, we were awoken by the clucking of the chickens entering our hut and we set out to fetch water from the water pump. To my surprise, I had a knack for carrying water on my head! With one hand securing the water jug and the other holding my little friend, Eva’s, hand, I made it all the way back to the complex. It was definitely not an easy task and I now have so much admiration for the women who do it daily with such grace and strength. The home stay experience was one of the most memorable and rewarding parts of my trip because I left with a deeper understanding and love for Uganda and its culture.
I am so grateful that I was able to attend camp this year because the power and passion of RUFC is so apparent in this project. The moment I stepped off the bus at camp, I was taken aback by the spirit and enthusiasm of every single person present, both the staff and the campers. There was this unique, irresistible energy in the air that just made me want to smile and dance. And we did dance… a lot! I loved dancing with all of the campers and getting to see them show off their moves. Every day of camp there was a dance party, uniting us all through music and movement. The work that RUFC does is outstanding. Camp gives hundreds of children the opportunity not only to play soccer, but also to learn skills to combat challenges they face on a daily basis. I think the education that they provide in areas such as mental health, sanitation, and emergency preparedness, is invaluable. I was so inspired by the collaboration of the staff and the eagerness of the campers to learn and contribute. Overall, the most important part of RUFC to me is the sustainability of the program. Rather than just a one time experience, the program is an ongoing initiative. This trip, although impactful, was very brief and there is still so much more I want to accomplish with the organization. I intend to continue to be active in RUFC and I hope that I can return to Uganda next summer to help with camp. I also really want to encourage people at my high school, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, to become involved in Ray’s amazing organization and mission. I am overjoyed to be a part of the RUFC family and I cannot wait to see the program grow.
Ray Wipfli, RUFC founder, shares his thoughts.