Chilubula 08.93 to Karuma 08.98

This is no ordinary August. In fact, it’s a bit of a double anniversary for me…

If you’d have come looking for me fifteen years ago, you’d have needed to get yourself to Chilubula, a small town about an hours drive from Kasama in northern Zambia, where I was working on a building project. In little over a month, about fifteen of us (aided by a fair number of children, it must be said) turned a pile of locally made bricks, more than a few bags of cement and a dozen tins of paint into a new school building. Pretty impressive stuff (assuming, of course, that it’s still standing).

It was my first taste of any kind of overseas development work, my first ever trip to the African continent, and it really got me thinking. Chilubula turned out to be a major turning point in my life, and set the early seeds for a decade later.

Five years after Chilubula – August 1998 – I was well into my journey and in the middle of studying social anthropology with development studies at Sussex University. It was my second year summer break, and the little money I’d saved from an IT job in Brighton and some programming work at Jersey Zoo got me to Karuma Wildlife Reserve in Uganda. For three months about ten of us camped out in the reserve, carrying out biodiversity and rural livelihoods research. (Karuma Wildlife Reserve hugs the southern boundary of Murchison Falls National Park, and is designed to act as a buffer zone between the people and the park).

But it wasn’t all work. Here, Robert and I enter a small village during a two week break, and are greeted by a crowd of excited children. Part of the trip also saw us spending time in Masindi, a town I returned to earlier this year during my work with Grameen Technology Centre, and which also featured in the opening paragraph of my recent Vodafone receiver article.

My flat in Cambridge is littered with cassette tapes, masks, ornaments, paintings, photos, letters and memories from my many Africa trips over the past fifteen years. It’s hard to believe that it started so long ago, hard to believe the places that journey has taken me, and hard to believe where it’s landed me today. After all, none of this was ever planned.

Where next, I wonder?

One thought on “Chilubula 08.93 to Karuma 08.98

  1. Ryan contamina says:

    While i was searching about certain information about chilibula i saw you wonderful experiences helping the local people of chilubula in terms of building new classroom. Yes i beleived so that chilubula was a place where i can say how lucky we are. I once went there for my immersion experiece at st. Fediles mission hospital. I remembered when i was still in my country philippines taking my masteral in journalism i dreamed that one day i whant to experience leaving in a very far from my place inded my dreams made to reality. I arived zambia last september. And i went straight to chilubula and i was warmed wilcomed by the hospital worker in st. Fediles mission hospital and the sisters of the child jesus. At the beginning the ofer me a place but i told them pls put me in a family where i can possibly experience the life leaving with family. Inded i was put in the family where i can say that my life in chilubula was not easy. But i was very glad because i learnt i lot of thngs in there, as what u said it was true. I hope u enjoy your experience always remember that we are not alone and we are born for a service and to journey our life i a very meningful and lifegiving manner. So good luck for u’r next adventure. Cheers to life. Ryan

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