In July of this year, a group of students from the John Henry Newman school, along with members of staff connected with KISS, set off for Uganda as part of KICA 2014. KICA has been running for the last two years and is an opportunity for Year 13’s to visit the KISS communities in Kasambya and Hoima – helping them to not only experience a foreign and vibrant culture, but also to witness firsthand the phenomenal work that KiSS does. The group set off for a three week visit to visit Hoima and Kasambya, as well as to take part in adventure-focused experiences such as white water rafting and safaris.
The trip itself was split up into three main parts, with the students starting and ending in the communities their fundraising helps to support. For the first week the team spent their time in the town of Hoima, one of the two regions KISS works with. On their arrival, they were greeted by members of the community (parents, families and children) who warmly welcomed them with a great deal of singing and dancing. Joe Allen, one of the Sixth Formers, said that the greeting in Hoima has really stayed with him and that it was “an absolutely wild and incredible experience, there were just so many happy people and children everywhere who wanted to talk to you. We were treated like VIP’s, everyone was so grateful.”
After experiencing levels of hospitality that pulled on the heartstrings, the team moved onto activities that got the heart pumping. One of the more adventurous opportunities offered was white water rafting, which was both incredibly exciting as well as a brilliant opportunity for the group to work and bond together as a team – despite a few rough patches nobody was lost overboard! Activities slightly more sedate, yet equally as fantastic, were the chimp trekking and safari; the group being able to get incredibly close to the wildlife, seeing hippos, lions and even alligators – truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
This wasn’t all however, with the adventure portion of the trip being rounded out by a visit to the Rock, a local landmark, where there was the perfect mix of climbing and relaxation, as the team watched the sunset from 4,500 feet above sea level. The peace and beauty of the Rock struck many as one of the most memorable moments of KiCA 2014 – using the opportunity to reflect on what they’d seen of the work that KiSS does.
Moving on from their adrenalin filled week in the Ugandan wilderness, the trip then brought everyone back into one of the KiSS areas; this time the town of Kasambya, about 50km from Hoima. Here, after experiencing such a fantastic welcome when they first arrived in Uganda, the team couldn’t wait to get involved in the community; first being taken into houses of families that KiSS supports. This was undeniably one of the hardest parts of the trip for many of the students, hearing about the difficulties and struggles that so many families in Uganda face – reinforcing how important KiSS fundraising is. However, whilst the stories were almost overwhelming at times, the sheer optimism and perseverance of everyone the group met was testament to the spirit, dedication and hope of the Kasambyian community. Encouraged by this, and wanting to give as much as they could, the team jumped at the chance to help build houses with the rest of the town (with many of the children and the elderly also taking part). Despite it being “really, really hard work,” the group finished in no time and were extremely proud to give something back to people who had welcomed them with joy and open arms.
Exhausted, overwhelmed and with their eyes opened further to the phenomenal impact of KiSS’ work, the team reluctantly got on the flight home. It’s safe to say that everybody who took part on KiCA 2014 had a fantastic experience – with many a lifelong memory being created as two students told me:
Osbert is a boy I had heard a lot about from the stories the Head Boy/Girl team brought home with them, but meeting him and being able to help him improve his life was an experience I will never forget. As a young child, Osbert was unable to move his legs, but was so determined to be normal and keep going to school that he would drag himself into town on his arms, causing the lower half of his body to be lacerated almost beyond repair. Fortunately, with the aid of KiSS he has been given a wheelchair to help him get around, and the house we helped to build this year has a ramp so he can get in and out and is very close to the road to help him get around. Being able to make such a tangible difference to an amazing young man and speak to him about how grateful he is about the incredible changes in his life encompassed for me all that KiSS is trying to achieve. – Kate Hetherington
KiCA was such an incredible experience, it really made me think about what we do for KiSS. We can keep on going, but no matter how much we give we all need to do more, we need to keep going out spreading the word. – Joe Allin