Bridging Two Worlds: Sharing My Native Culture While Helping in Uganda

Sydney Farhang highlights some of the things that she has experienced in her trips to help a third-world country.
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Sydney Farhang, 23, the granddaughter of Billy Mills has made two trips to Uganda, the most recent one on June 17, with members of her family volunteering with New Hope Ministries. Farhang recently submitted a column highlighting some of the things that she has experienced in her trips to help in a third-world country.

I first arrived in Uganda in August 2013. I felt the burden for orphaned and vulnerable children, and decided to spend five months after college working with New Hope Ministries in Uganda. My university education gave me an in-depth knowledge of child development and effective, culturally appropriate care for children in extreme circumstances, and I knew early into my academic career that this was the direction I was going.

New Hope is a grassroots organization in Busia, Uganda on a mission to care for orphans and educate vulnerable children. At New Hope, I have worked as an intern for their orphan care ministry and primary school. I was involved in the fundraising and grant writing processes for the organization and its programs, and in the administration of their primary school. I arrived every morning to work at the one-acre New Hope compound, a place complete with classrooms painted in bright colors, makeshift soccer goals, and a giant beautiful guava tree planted in the middle. I worked with the director in writing a grant to kick start a Girl’s Education Advocacy Program, providing adolescent girls with sanitary resources and educating their families the importance feminine hygiene and keeping their girl children in schools. We also wrote a grant and fundraised to expand a small goats farm, one that exists to generate income and empower the organization toward self-sustainability by rearing goats and selling their milk and meat.

I learned the local language, danced traditional dances, and washed from a basin. I bandaged bleeding toes and rolled around in the grass. I showed the children how to take pictures with my camera, and they showed me the proper way to eat a mango.

On June 17, 2014, I brought my family back to the Pearl of Africa with me. My grandma, mom, aunt, and I enjoyed seven days together immersing ourselves in the beautiful culture. We spent some time in the bigger cities of Uganda, weaving in and out of busy city traffic, eating fresh avocado, and breathing in the Nile. Our journey ended with a few days at New Hope, where I saw the beautiful collision of my two worlds – my Ugandan family and my American family. They held the little ones, they played games and told stories, they laughed; they saw the reality of life as an orphan in extreme poverty, but more importantly they saw the joy and promise in the eyes of each child.

I have wholeheartedly embraced my desire to continue my education and move back to Uganda permanently as a social worker, and am continuing my fundraising in order to return. My journey began with a heart broken for the vulnerable and the poor of Uganda, but it will continue with a heart captured by their beauty and hope.

A native of California, Sydney graduated from University of California Santa Cruz with a degree in Psychology. She plans to pursue her Masters of Social Work as she follows her dream to serve long-term in Uganda. She keeps a blog of her journey at thingofbeautyjoyforever.net.