A little over a month ago I received an email from a woman I knew at the American Refugee Committee (ARC) asking me if I would be interested in traveling with them to Uganda mid-June to work as their photographer & story-teller. June 20th is World Refugee Day and some of the 100,000 inhabitants of the Nakivale Refugee Settlement will be running a 5k race there.
It took me a long time to say yes.
I was scared at the thought of leaving my husband & young sons and traveling to the other side of the world... especially considering the history of political unrest in central Africa. I also had a very tight calendar including a wedding to shoot back in America a few days after the 5k!
Nevertheless, everything seemed to fall into place.. My husband, who has to suffer through all of my business decisions, was supportive and encouraging. ARC assured me they could have me on a flight scheduled to return in time to shoot the wedding. The bride of the wedding encouraged me to go and we hired a second-shooter who will also be a back-up in the event of missed/delayed flights.
I also spoke with my friend Brad Johnson who is a respected local businessman. He is the person who originally introduced me to ARC and has previously traveled with them. He spoke very highly of the organization and encouraged me to not miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Friends and family volunteered to help watch the boys and take them to their various camps while I traveled...
So here we are, one week until GO-time! I have visited the health clinic and gotten my 6 shots. I have made sure my passport and paperwork are up to date. I've gotten care for my boys all lined up.
This is trivial but I am still trying to wrap my brain around what sort of clothes to bring! I was told people dress-up more there. Skirts below knees, collared shirts.. definitely not my usual tank tops and yoga tights.. but I cannot justify (in my head) going out and buying nice clothes when I know that the people I am about to meet would have much better uses for that money!
I am not nervous or scared anymore. Once I made the decision to go, I felt a calm come over me. Now I am just excited.
I truly feel that fate has brought me to this point.
I have worked so hard at my photography and building my audience for the past 4 years. I know I have the skills to shoot the refugees and the audience to share their story.
I have also learned how good it feels to conquer my fears! In the past few years I have accepted & successfully completed photography jobs that were way over my head. I have gone on numerous adrenaline-producing adventures like hot air balloon rides, scuba dives and helicopter rides.
Every time I have taken on a fear, I have been rewarded with joy, a true sense of accomplishment and a growth in confidence and skill.
It is time to make use of these experiences and do something good!
From the minute I was asked to go to Uganda I felt a change. I suddenly felt so small driving in my car down the same road I have driven nearly every day, in route to take Arlo to his beloved preschool at a small Lutheran church in a suburb... There is a big world out there.. And people I may be able to help. And a path laid out for me to do so!