While planning my trip to Uganda, I was happy to have the opportunity to book my first night’s stay near the airport in an Airbnb hosted by the AidChild Leadership Institute. AidChild is an organization that I first connected with back in 2007 while working on a documentary project in Uganda. I’ve been impressed by their focused vision on the pursuit of an HIV-free generation and the innovative ways that they have cared for children along the way.
The AidChild Leadership Institute is a wellness and academic support program for the students who have been ARV-recipients and are nearing adulthood. The older students are referred to as interns and the younger ones are called novices. Their life together is orchestrated in a way that provides them with care, support, education and growth in character.
I’ve just embarked upon my fourth trip to East Africa and consider it a privilege to revisit one of my favorite regions on earth. I was invited to join a team from Bethel Seminary and to speak on leadership at two conferences in Northwestern Uganda.
Managing to book my flight over with an 8 hour layover in Addis Ababa I decided to look into my options for seeing the city. I learned that with a layover of less than 12 hours, one could purchase a hotel pass for $50 which would include a shuttle to the hotel, a meal, a place to rest and a shuttle back in time to catch my flight. All of this along with the opportunity to explore a city that I had never visited was too good to be true!
What would you like to do for your birthday? she asked. I had no idea at the time how complex this question was. Throwing out a number of ideas, some realistic and some silly, she casually included learning to fly. It didn’t begin to occur to me that learning to fly was a serious suggestion.
A few months later Bethany mentioned that she had purchased a surprise excursion that we had to use before the middle of May. When I finally discovered what we were doing I asked why we didn’t do so over my birthday like she had originally intended. “When I asked if you wanted to learn to fly you didn’t answer,” she replied.
Bethany had purchased a flight over LA from Justice Aviation in which we would both have a chance to take off, land and maneuver the plane in the air, under the supervision of a pilot. Bethany took her turn first, taking off from Santa Monica and flying along the coast of Malibu. The views were breathtaking and I sat in the back capturing photos and videos of the experience.
After landing, we switched places and I helped fly the plane over Los Angeles, by the Hollywood sign and around downtown. It was an exhilarating experience to adjust the controls on the plane and to feel it respond. The pilot was engaging and loved to fly. What an amazing way to explore the city that we would move to only six months later!
Stepping off the plane in Entebbe, Uganda, my immediate feeling was that I had arrived at my second home. I love being in East Africa and it feels great to be back. We spent our first day acclimating around Lake Victoria and preparing for our flight into Sudan the following day. One highlight of the day was enjoying a delightful dinner at Olubugo, a new restaurant in Entebbe built to support the admirable work of Aid Child in Uganda. Check out the great work that they are doing to care for vulnerable children at AidChild.org. Here are a few of the pictures of our first day in East Africa