Uganda is a country in East Africa with a diverse landscape, abundant wildlife, and picturesque national parks that attract large numbers of tourists each year.

Aubrey Haskins, a student at Ripley Middle School, recently took a trip to Uganda, not as a tourist, but to spend time with her aunt, uncle, and cousins who have been living there as American missionaries for the past two years.

While in Uganda, Haskins visited several places including markets, a children’s home, and a missionary school. She had some very “interesting” experiences on her trip.

Uganda does not have a public school system. If any of the children attend school, they must pay for the opportunity.

Good Shepherd’s Fold is a children’s home with a school in Uganda. In order to spread education, they have people sponsor children. They then go into the villages and pick up around 400 kids that they bring to the school in order for them to learn to read and write.

Haskins attended a missionary school while she was in Uganda and noted the differences in their schools versus schools in the United States.

“We have higher quality schools. They don’t have text books or anything, the teacher just writes something on the board and the students copy it down, that’s how they learn,” Haskins said. “Their doors are made out of bamboo where ours are made from steel.”

One of the reasons Haskins wanted to go to Uganda was to take school supplies to the children’s home school. She collected items including pencils, erasers, and notebooks from Ripley Middle School and Calvary United Methodist Church. It took seven crates to ship all the school supplies she had collected.

Meeting some of the kids from Uganda and seeing how they learned was one of Haskins favorite parts of her trip.

While in Uganda, Haskins’ aunt and uncle adopted a 10 year-old little girl and she was introduced to her new cousin for the first time.

“I was nervous and excited because I wanted to make a good first impression,” Haskins said. “I didn’t want her to feel like I was the worst cousin ever. Once I met her, I was very excited and realized she is awesome.”

Haskins recalls swinging on a rope swing into the Nile River. She described it as crazy. Due to the hazardous conditions of the water in the Nile, she said she had to close her eyes and plug her nose so that no water would enter her body.

They do not have running water in Uganda. The water is carried from the river in jugs or taken from mud puddles for drinking and bathing. This is something they do daily.

“Ugandans live with barely something to eat every day and run down houses with no electric,” Haskins said. “It made me feel bad to see how they live, it made me think, ‘Why do we deserve to live the way we do, but they don’t?’”

Posho and beans is the main food of Ugandans. Posho is made with maize flour and water, mixed up to resemble a solid lump of mashed potato. It is then paired with stewed beans. They eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with fruit.

“Sometimes they only have enough food for one meal a day,” Haskins grandmother Debbie Higginbotham added. “The one thing they do have plenty of is fruit. There are all kinds of fruit trees.”

Haskins noted another item they eat that is popular is called a rolex. A rolex is considered a breakfast luxury that can be purchased on any street corner. It is a breakfast wrap consisting of an egg omelette and vegetables wrapped in a chapati, an unleavened flat bread.

“A rolex for us would be a very expensive watch,” Haskins said. “For them it’s just a wrap with some eggs inside. It’s actually pretty good.”

Haskins also said she is thankful for good roads and a good driving system in the United States. There are no paved roads or stop signs in Ugandan villages, she recalled the traffic being “crazy.”

Toilets and toilet paper are two other items we as American citizens should be thankful for according to Haskins.

“The bathroom is a hole in the ground with a little plastic thing in it with a hole dug under it,” Haskins said. “Once the hole fills up they just dig another hole.”

Wildlife is everywhere in Uganda. Haskins took a boat ride and saw all kinds of animals like monkey’s and birds. They then went to a rescue zoo and saw rhinos, chimpanzees, and giraffes.

“We were able to hug and feed baby elephants,” Haskins said. “It was also one of my favorite parts of the trip.”

Traveling to Uganda is a tiring experience in itself. It requires a 22 hour plane ride and there is a seven-hour time difference between Uganda and the United States.

Haskins said the flight over didn’t bother her as much as the trip back. She feels the time caught up with her and made her really tired.

“This experience taught me to be grateful for what I have,” said Haskins. “That is the one thing I want to bring back to teach my friends, to be grateful for everything.”

Overall, Haskins said she thought she could handle living in Uganda – other than the toilets – and said if she would ever get a chance to go back, she definitely would.

For more information on the Good Shepherd’s Fold, to make a monetary donation, or to sponsor a child, visit gsfuganda.com.