Amina’s story from Uganda (weeks 2 & 3)

Gave all the kids biscuits they never eat biscuits .. You know when I see their faces light up I’ve realised this is the purpose of life, this is why I am living, I finally feel like I’m doing something.

My heart hurts. The girl I’m holding is called Shirates. She’s so, so tiny and wanders about on her own. She’s very quiet and doesn’t get a lot of attention. She doesn’t speak a lot but when she sees me she slowly walks up to me and holds my hand. If I wander off somewhere she’ll find her way to me and won’t let go. I don’t know how often she gets cuddles but let me tell you, she loves them. Ya Rabb give me the strength to leave these children when the time comes. Keep them under Your protection and save for them a special and beautiful place in Jannah Inshaallah, Ameen.

“On observing someone using a lot of water for ablution, the Prophet (pbuh) censured him. He asked him not to waste a drop of water even when he is beside a river.” [Ahmad] Water. One of the biggest blessings in life. Where I’m staying we have a limited number of buckets that we use to bathe from. At first I found it so hard living like this but it’s surprising how you get used to it. Opening a tap and having water coming straight out of it seems so far away now and this is something I’ve taken for granted my whole life. Back at home I take warm showers every day and don’t think twice. Now the idea of having a shower is a luxury. We have a small circle stove with coal in it which we use to cook simple food. The people here ask me about ovens and toasters and washing machines and when I tell them about them they look at me in awe. Astagfirullah ya Rabb for taking these things for granted. You have to experience life like this to appreciate the small things in life which are actually really big things.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”- Muhammad Ali
So I’m getting used to life living here. Waking up at half 5, getting the school van with the village kids down the crazy roads (tbh I wouldn’t even call it a road), teaching at school all day, the long, muddy walk back to where I stay and continue teaching. By the time I get into bed quite late I am literally drained of every inch of my body but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Everyone here knows me now- I kind of stand out.. Amina the Muslim “white” girl from the UK.. A lot of people here are Muslim and they’ve never had a Muslim volunteer around here so it makes them so happy to see me. Madina has taken me to see so many incredible people and how they live and it has literally changed me. I don’t know how I’m ever going to leave this place. The Ugandan people are the most amazing, friendly, hospitable people I have ever met in my entire life. They have taught me that you literally don’t need anything but a strong heart to be a good person.
I have been blind my whole life and now I can suddenly see so much, I can’t go back to normal life after this. I want to stay here forever with my beautiful village kids. Words can’t do justice to even half the things I want to share with people. We all need to wake up, we need to travel, we need to see what’s happening in the world with our own eyes because some things in life you can only learn and understand through experiencing it.

Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”- I don’t think I ever truly understood this until I came to Uganda. This was the biggest jump that I have taken in my life, but now that I am here doing what I love best, I feel like I am truly living life.

I’m getting used to everything here and I can’t think about leaving these kids it makes me so sad… I don’t think I’m ready to come back on the 26th.. I am asking ICYE if they can extend my flight for an extra week is that ok?
I don’t know anyone that would be able to live like I’ve been doing its been really hard

People said that when I come here I’d experience “culture shock”. To be honest, I feel like I’ve more so experienced a serious reality check. I feel like I’ll be more shocked when I go back to the UK. It was hard settling in here and it took a while but the way the people here are, it now feels like home to me. I feel like after experiencing this life it will be harder going back and living the life I used to live.. I’m not quite sure why.

“Do not treat any good deed lightly. It is part of good manners to receive your brother or friend warmly. The same holds true for doing them a favour, no matter how small it might be.” [Tirmidhi]
This is my incredible friend Patricia. She is genuinely one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life. Her nickname for me was her “baby girl fresh meat” because I was “new to African soil” and when I first got here I was literally THE most confused person ever ahhaha!She’s constantly been checking up on me out of genuine concern. I remember being so scared and not knowing anyone but she welcomed me into her beautiful country and made me feel so safe. The thing about the Ugandan people is that if I ever ask for anything they won’t think twice about getting it for me. I asked her to take me to the Uganda National Mosque and off we went.. I have met soo many people here that have all inspired me in different ways, but Patricia will always be my first Ugandan friend.

“The believers are like a house in which every brick is inseparably joined with every other. They should help one another when in distress.” [Mishkat al-Masabih of al-Khatib al-Tabrizi]
How do I try to explain my experience at the beautiful Uganda National Mosque.. As soon as I got there I was welcomed by Muslims everywhere saying “assalamu alaikum” meaning “peace be with you”. There was an instant feeling of calmness and tranquility inside me. Everyone here treats me so well, they can’t believe that there is a mazungu (white) Muslim here. I’ve cried a lot here in my own private time but once I sat down in this beautiful mosque I couldn’t contain myself any more. Subhanallah, nothing can explain that feeling when you’re in a foreign country for the first time and have seen and been through so much and then you finally sit down to reflect, surrounded my so many people that have never met you before but understand you because we are all part of one Ummah. Our friend Fatima took us right to the top of the minaret and we could see the whole of Kampala. It suddenly hit me the love I have for this place and the people and everything about it…

Alhamdulillah I love it here but don’t regret my mother moving to the UK, this is not a place to live the living conditions are so poor.. to have ended up in the UK is such a blessing we take it for granted.

It was an amazing feeling… But being in the UK is such an incredibly big blessing that we seriously take for granted.. The things I’ve seen here the sick kids the kids begging in the street, you would never see these things in the UK. Alhamdulillah we happen to have been born in a developed country, we don’t even know what the word struggle means. I can’t hear anyone complaining about the UK because after what I’ve seen it really frustrates me when people complain about he UK we have everything right at our feet. People here are desperate to have the opportunity to even just see the UK and we are living there, living a good life and complaining about it.

“Gentleness is never part of anything without improving it, nor is it taken away from anything without debasing it.” [Bayhaqi]

Whoever among you is capable of helping another, you should do so.” [Muslim]

I found Muhammad sat on his own like this. He keeps asking me to take him with me in my bag but he doesn’t understand how it’s not that simple, I would do anything to bring him with me. I tried to extend my stay but unfortunately there were no available flights… As soon as Patricia heard that I couldn’t extend my flight she was off crying. And as soon as she was off, I was off. And as soon as the kids saw my sudden change of mood theirs changed too. I can’t even talk properly I feel so sad inside. The only way that I can leave Uganda is with the intention that I will be coming back Inshaallah, otherwise it would be impossible for me leave, but it seems so far away. I feel like there is still so much that I need to do here. Patricia is telling me to try to put this life behind me for a while and focus on my studies but I know that that will be so hard… Everyone here is sad, no one can believe that this day has come. The atmosphere has completely changed. Honestly, never in my life have I felt a sadness quite as heavy as this.

See you all soon Inshaallah xx

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