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Schuganda Sunset

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I really can’t believe my time here is over. I love this place. I love these people. It’s a bittersweet feeling…I am sad to go, but so thankful for the new relationships, the new experiences, and the new man Uganda, specifically Gulu, has allowed me to become.

To start, I want to thank Krochet Kids for giving me this opportunity. You guys took a chance on me, and this experience not only helped me grow professionally, but personally as well. The personal growth I experienced is something I don’t know I could have ever achieved on my own. What you started in Gulu is something truly special. The ladies, the mentors, the staff are all unbelievable people with unbelievable stories and unbelievable hearts. And I was so lucky to work alongside such amazing humans. The love I felt there is something I will cherish forever.

 

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Next I want to thank all my family and friends back home. You’re kind words and support never went unnoticed. My emotions were overwhelmed when I saw the final numbers for the Happy Kids playground GoFundMe, our goal was $900 and you raised $4,000. Speechless. You’re all incredible, and thanks for taking this journey with me.

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To my Ugandan and expat friends. My life has changed because of you. You showed me how to love unconditionally and what an amazing impact a community of people can have on one single individual. My first 6 months were extremely difficult, I was sick a majority of the time, I was going through a difficult break up, and was living in a completely foreign and uncomfortable place. Despite all these things, you were there for me. You made a place 8,000 miles away from “home” become my home. And for that, I’ll forever be grateful. I love all of you, and I truly mean that, please keep in touch and keep being the amazing humans you are.

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I think my good friend Frank Ocean said it best in his song Strawberry Swing,

Say hello, and say farewell
To the places you know
We are all mortals aren’t we
Any moment things could go
Cry, cry, cry
Even though that won’t change a thing
But you should know
You should feel
That I have loved
I have loved
The good times here
And I will miss
The good times here

And as for my next step, who knows, but what I do know is I have an incredible support system, and with that, anything is possible.

Schuganda signing off…

For now… 😏

 

 

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Happy Kids Would Love YOUR Help!

Happy Kids Would Love YOUR Help!

As some of you may know, my time in Uganda is coming to a close. My last day is December 14th, which is only a few short weeks away. I will reflect and share my entire experience in depth  when it’s/I’m ready, but for now there is one last thing I’d like to accomplish before leaving this country and these beautiful people.

Our ladies at Krochet Kids are amazing. They work unbelievably hard to provide for their families each and every day. Those of you who have been following my experience have obviously gathered that their children have found a special place in my heart. Alvin, Melissa, Demily, Arthur, Emmi, Abraham, Subra, Jovia, baby Blessing, Ruth, Gabriela (who is still scared/unsure of my arm hair haha), baby Matthew, and the newest member of the crew, baby Patrick :). The list of kiddies goes on and on and I am excited because these little friends are the future leaders and difference makers of Uganda, thanks to the example set by their wonderful mothers.


Fortunately, there is a place for all these little cuties to go while their mama’s work. That place is a school called Happy Kids, which is ran by one of our Krochet Kids graduates, Lamunu Kevin.

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Earlier this year, Kevin approached me about two improvements she envisioned for the school. Her first improvement was the construction of a proper latrine. With the help of my friends, we were able to build that latrine earlier this year. And let me tell you, that latrine has been put to good use (insert plugged nose emoji haha).

The second improvement is a playground.

Our goal is to see the construction of this playground come to life before I leave. This playground would include a swing-set, a merry go round, a see-saw, and a slide. Unfortunately, I can’t do it by myself, so Kevin and I are kindly requesting help from you :).

Cost Breakdown 
Merry Go Round= $290
See-Saw= $150
Slide= $150
Swing-Set= $200
Labor/Transport/Construction Prep= $110

If we can raise $900 by December 10th, the playground will be built just in time for when the kids come back from holiday break. Wouldn’t that be such a pleasant
surprise for our little friends?

It would be an unbelievable departing gift from all of you who have been so supportive of my experience, and would make the kids and their mothers sooo happy.

Dominic, Krochet Kid’s country director, and one of the best humans I have ever met, will oversee the construction of the playground and keep us updated on the progress.

So with all that being said, please like, share, donate, do whatever you feel in your heart that could make a difference.

https://www.gofundme.com/happy-kids-playground

Love you guys and thanks for all your love and support.

-Patrick and Happy Kids

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Celebrity Guest Blogger: Ezekiel Herndon

Hey everybody!!! As I said in my last post, I was hoping to get another guest appearance from one of the best people I know. I don’t have to hope anymore because the moment has arrived!

Check out Zeke’s thoughts and feelings on his trip to Uganda:
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Being in Uganda was a Unique experience.

Have you ever felt as if you were home but you weren’t home??
I’ve only felt it one other time and that was in Watertown at Patrick’s house with my second family. This time was different, it wasn’t just a family, it felt as if the whole town was welcoming me with open arms. It was my first time in Africa (definitely not my last) so I really didn’t know what to expect. Especially living in the states, all the media ever really shows about Africa is the poverty, and that’s true there is a lot of poverty. People live in huts and shacks and live off of maybe 2,000 shillings a day in Gulu (which isn’t even a dollar in the US). You never know when or how long electricity will be out. Hot water isn’t guaranteed and the weight of guilt being so blessed with those luxuries can definitely try to hold you down. However, it’s the things that they don’t show in the media that lift you right back up. The people in Gulu are blessed with extremely huge hearts and spirits that are out of this world. I would completely understand if the people of Gulu were mad and upset at the world, but they are far from that. Instead, they light up the room when they walk in, they show respect and integrity no matter what, and they are proud of who they are which was amazing to see. Especially because here in the US, that isn’t always the case and we are far more fortunate in terms of material things, which goes to show money isn’t everything. I could go on and on and would honestly be glad to if you wanna hit me up (909-200-7184) lol, but overall the experience was truly amazing.

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I was even blessed with a suprise from my brother Patrick and was taken to see the Nile River. Wow, is all I can say when thinking about the amount of history that went down there and who all could have possibly walked the same steps as I did that day. As an added bonus I saw giraffes, hippos and elephants.
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My trip to Uganda was amazing and I am forever grateful to Patrick for opening up and opportunity to do such a thing, I thank God for giving me the courage to go for it and trust that it’d be possible. And I thank everyone again who donated to our Go fund me and made this trip possible and the experience of a lifetime possible I literally couldn’t have done it without out you all and I appreciate everyone who donated……… Oh wait how did I forget the concert?!

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The performance was amazing! That day I performed in front of more people than I’ve performed in front of combine probably lol. 14,000+ showed up in Lira for the iKnow music festival, which raises awareness of aids and HIV in Africa and offers free aids and HIV test to people who are there. I was surprised at the response we got from the crowd considering most people there didn’t speak English but the energy and vibe from the crowd was truly amazing and something I’ll never forget. Performing in front of that many people was humbling, but at the same time it felt like the beginning of something special. I can’t wait to continue to share this journey with you all.

Much love🌺
ZEKE
Instagram, Twitter, SoundCloud: 
@The1andonlyzeke
Snapchat:
 @Zekeytaughther
Facebook: Ezekiel Herndon

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P.S. We have a super cool video coming your way soon!

P.S. P.S. It’s way better than this one haha

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Heartbreak and Highlights

What’s up everybody? Just want to give you a little update since it’s been a minute. I traveled back to Uganda from a 10 day break in the states about a month ago and I’ve been non-stop busy since I touched down.

I also haven’t been writing as much as I should. I am finding that the motivation to write down my thoughts and feelings comes in waves. I think the wave effect is due to my inability to properly articulate what living in Uganda is really like in just a simple blog post. There are so many things that I have seen, felt, and heard that I myself don’t even know how to comprehend. How am I supposed to put something into words, when I don’t even understand it?

What I do know is that while I was back in the states, people would ask me, “How’s Uganda? What’s life like there?”, and I would give the generic answer of, “It’s great, really life changing”, but in reality, my experience has been so much deeper than that. It’s been heartbreaking.

Not in a destructive way, but in a positive way. I’ve learned a lot about heartbreak since I have been here, whether it’s about my personal struggles, the struggles of others, relationships or just life in general. Living here has taught me not to shy away from how I am truly feeling deep down, which was something I used to completely avoid. Living here has taught me that it’s okay to feel heartbroken. It’s okay to feel heartbroken because my heart is a muscle and just like any other muscle, it needs to be broken down in order to grow. I am challenged everyday with situations that cause my heart to break, but I embrace it because I know it’s making me stronger. It’s making me stronger for my family and friends in Uganda. It’s making me stronger for my family and friends back in the US. Most importantly, it’s helping me grow to be the best son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend and man that I can be.

Whew…okay enough with the deep stuff Patrick, lets get into the dope stuff…

Alright alright say no more, let me tell you about some of the dopeness that has transpired since I have been back. To kick it off, I went to a music festival called Nyege Nyege in Jinja, which happens to take place on the Nile River. Yes, imagine a dark, muddy, majestic, musical labyrinth full of awesome people vibing out alongside the Nile. Pretty cool huh?

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The next weekend, my best pal Zeke flew all the way from California to hang here and perform at a little music festival called the iKnow Concert Series. And by little I mean OVER 14,000 PEOPLE IN ATTENDANCE. No that’s not a typo, you read it right, 14,000 people. And we were supported and surprised by some super awesome friends (shouts to you, you know who you are!) I don’t want to talk about it too much because I may or may not have another celebrity guest blogger make an appearance *cough cough* Zeke 🙂

 

As I sign off I just want to thank you for all the love and support you send this way. Love and miss you!

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Celebrity Guest Bloggers: My Family

 

 

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Hey everybody, I’ve missed you. I wanted to switch it up this time and give you a different perspective besides my own. My family came to visit last month and after giving them time to decompress and comprehend their visit, they wrote me their thoughts and feelings after being here.

First up is my lovely 13 year old sister MeiLi 🙂

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“I can definitely say that is it beautiful, it actually surprised me of what I saw. Gulu with no argument exceeded my expectations of what I thought. But when you look outside of Gulu, there are some people who are struggling, it’s definitely really sad and heart breaking to see, and even if you would compare Uganda to the United States. I found that almost everything is so much cheaper, meals, clothes, food, etc. And even so many things I kinda almost took for granted. Lets say for an example, having a power outage. Usually you would think in the US if the power would have turned off due to a storm, or a Tornado, and many other things that you would think of. In Uganda, there was at least 4 or so power outages in one week, and its not because of a storm or something, its because they don’t have the technology like we do…Something along that line. After seeing what I have been seeing, It has shown me that life could be way harder, for example, if you fail 2 tests in school, you might think that it has been the worst day ever. In Uganda, there are people who are getting seriously sick everyday and fighting stay alive. Coming to a conclusion, if you were to ever go to Uganda, it does make you realize that we have everything.”

Next up, thoughts from Jeffman:

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“I was amazed by the resiliency of the people considering the working and living conditions.  It taught me a lot about patience and faith.  Sometimes we aren’t thankful enough and we make big deals out of little things.  I felt considering the difficult lifestyle and conditions that I should’ve been finding ways to help him them, yet they were the ones trying to make me comfortable.  For example, when I was sick…people were calling around trying to make sure I was ok which really comforted me knowing that those are the very people looking after you as well. I loved the saying  “you are most welcome”, so much so that I have been trying to use that as people come to our home.  I was proud of you before you left but having spent even a few hours I was amazed by your patience and willingness to be uncomfortable for the benefit of others.  I honestly didn’t think I could make it and that was after 1 1/2 days in Gulu.  My highlights included our time with Bosco and Dom.  As a man, I was able to relate to Bosco’s pride in his family and home and was so thankful to have been invited into their lives.  I felt that being a father is often the same, wherever you may be….  I loved Dom’s excitement about empowering the women in ways that would enhance their futures.  He seemed to have a pride in the people and the land and a hope for a bright future.”

Last, but not least, thoughts from Ma:

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“I was sooo extremely excited to go to see of all the things and people you had told me about. Kampala was beautiful but as we were leaving that city it became more and more clear how things were going to look as we got closer to Gulu. At first it was sooo hard to see the people in the conditions in which they were living. Boda’s driving around with 4 people often little children with no helmets, children walking along highways, women walking with jerry cans, baskets with fruits on their heads, and a baby on their back with one or two along side of them as well. The people and animals everywhere out on the streets walking around…at first it was really unnerving. I can go for a few days and see only a handful of people outside. The first two days in Gulu were hard for me…I was adjusting to the lifestyle I was seeing you living, not easy for a mom. And also dealing with my own uncomfortable feelings of not having the things around that make me feel content. And then the guilt came in…how could I be selfish enough to think that I was more entitled to have those things that make life easier for me. My head was swirling… I wanted to connect with the ladies but my idea of walking into KK and helping quickly turned into me feeling very weak and not worthy of their time. They were so much stronger than me and their lives had been filled with an enormous amount of difficulty. When they would pray, they were really praying for some very deep things. My prayers have paled in comparison to them. I needed to get over the guilt or it was going to swallow me up and I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my time. I needed to stop feeling bad that I was born in a more privileged place and start connecting with the ladies. I sat with them and listened although I couldn’t always understand. I played with their children. I rocked their children to sleep. I took pictures and laughed with them. I began to feel their strength and things started to change. All of the things that made me uncomfortable became beautiful to me. I started to see the beautiful colors of kitenge, the beautiful faces, the camaraderie of the people on the streets, the children on their way to school to become educated, animals that would provide the families with money or food, a resilient bustling city that not that long ago was filled with fear, soccer fields always full of children and adults, women working hard to provide for their families, an enormous amount of love coming from those mothers towards their children. What was so painful for me to see just a day earlier became something I didn’t want to turn away from. I knew you were in a place that would teach you more about life than I ever could. Gulu made me feel more good and bad, happy and sad than any other place I’ve ever been to, It drummed up feelings I’ve never had. I feel like those people really live, hard as it may be, they are living in every aspect of their lives. Coming back to the US was difficult in that I felt guilty as i looked around. We have the potential and should feel the obligation to help those who are less fortunate. The people in Gulu don’t want handouts, they want to work and build great lives for themselves and their children. I learned that we are not that different in the core of our being. We love our families and want peace and opportunity. I learned more in those two weeks than any other experience in my life. I love my life but now there’s a yearning to bring about opportunities for those who weren’t blessed as I have been. It isn’t fair but I can work on making it more fair for someone suffering. No more looking away for this momma!! And my pride for you is BOOMING! You are amazing my sweet boy! I love you!”

 

21 days and I am home for a little while, see you soon 🙂