Wow. I cannot believe that my time in Uganda has drawn to a close. It has been such a meaningful, challenging, and rewarding experience. The timing of my departure was rather unfortunate. Just as it was time for me to leave, SAFE was gearing up for a six-week, “marathon-long” series of training in the Rwenzori region, which has recently been troubled by a lot of unrest. And, as the unrest continues to escalate in South Sudan, my office was taking in many development workers who were evacuated from Juba. While part of me wanted to stay and continue to learn from the people at SAFE, I also know that it is time to get back to law school. That said, it felt strange and a little surreal to simply pick up and fly out of the familiar hustle and bustle of Kampala that I have grown fond of this summer.
At my internship this summer, I have gotten a very eye-opening look into the world of NGO development work. I have witnessed a wide variety of obstacles that can come between a well-intentioned organization and the goals they are trying to achieve. Everything from constant funding constraints, to changes in staff, to general bureaucracy, to not being able to predict how much longer they will be able to stay in a given location can have great impacts on the work that they can accomplish on the ground. I have also learned just how difficult it can be to measure the impact of an NGO’s projects, even though they may be doing great work. This summer, I have simultaneously gained more appreciation for just how important development work is, but also gained a deeper understanding of how much must be overcome in order to make a lasting impact.
Outside of work, it’s been a summer of extremes. I’ve been rafting, kayaking, and bungee jumping on the world’s longest river, I’ve hiked to the world’s most powerful waterfall, and I’ve climbed up a volcano to world’s largest lava lake. And those are only a few of the outdoor adventures that I could have had here. The sheer power of nature here is astounding, and I am incredibly thankful that I had the opportunity to experience a taste of what is has to offer. The best part about these adventures is, of course, the people who you meet along the way. I have truly been touched by the locals and travelers who I have met here, and will continue to carry their stories with me.
Honestly, I am not sure that I contributed much more than very small pieces of the puzzle this summer, but this experience has also reaffirmed my passion for studying law. It will, I believe, help direct my future career path in profound ways. I look forward to earning my J.D. because I see it as a tool that will help me to better analyze these issues and tackle them more effectively. Perhaps more importantly, though, I look forward to continuing to reflect on my time in Uganda and spending more time in the field, because the stories you hear and the lessons you learn there can become your most important tools for tackling challenges.