On the 28th of June 2023, a group of eight Italian students namely, Lisa, Francesca, Milena, Leonardo, Alice, Marco, Vittoria, and Giorgia visited Meeting Point International (MPI). They had been hosted by AVSI in a summer camp. Drawing from a conversation with some of them, it was evident that there was a deeper apprehension inspired by their experience with the women of MPI.

Francesca said, “I came to Uganda because a friend of mine had told me about her experience. She told me she had seen happy people with everlasting joy. These people had no material things but they were overwhelmed by joy. I asked myself, ‘How is someone able to be happy without material things?’ It dawned on me that I had all material things yet I had a sad life. It is after this that I made up my mind to come and learn how to be happy by seeing happy people. My favorite moment during our visits to MPI Naguru and MPI Kireka was the time we were dancing. I felt welcomed and comfortable. What stuck with me as a life lesson is the fact that our conditions don’t necessarily have to be determinants of our happiness.”

From left, Vittoria, Alice, Francesca, Giorgia, Milena, Lisa, Marco, Leonardo, and the Communications Officer of MPI, Vancy Tomson pause for a photo at the AVSI headquarters on the 14th of July 2023.

The conversation started gaining momentum at this point as the previously quiet students developed an urge to share more of their experiences. Milena had found out about the summer camp through a friend called Marco who was among the eight Italian students. He had been obsessed with coming to Africa and when he told Milena about it, she could barely resist the urge to visit Africa.

“It was challenging to process my travel documents in time because according to what I had been told, I had to get my passport in November 2023 which meant that I would miss the trip,” said Milena with a faint smile. “My presence here is a miracle because my passport came earlier than I thought it would. Oh, how special I felt while the women welcomed us. In ten minutes, we became children to these women and they became our mothers. The look in their eyes was pure and captivating. It was warm and it communicated utter Joy.” nostalgically, Milena went on. “I wanted to be like them. I wanted to look like them. I was in love with the dances. They were so beautiful. I learned to say YES and not ‘I am able or unable’ but simply yes. Yes, to love, and yes to happiness. These women from Meeting Point International taught me the simplicity of life.” She concluded.

Milena being embraced by one of the MPI women, Abeja Josephine during their visit to MPI Naguru on the 28th of June 2023.

Giorgia seemed to be the quietest and most soft-spoken of the students. But when she started to talk about the girl she is supporting in Uganda, she beamed with glamour. “I was not expecting people to be so nice in Uganda,” Giorgia said. “I thought that in Africa, people are jealous because we have everything they don’t.  However, I instead found the exact opposite here. They loved us like their own children. From where I come, everyone can help anyone but no one does yet here they don’t have much but they share the little they have,” Giorgia continued.

“In Italy, one would commit suicide if they had half of the problems some of these women have. I kept asking myself why we are so sad yet we seem to have it all figured out. When we reached MPI Naguru, I wondered why they were asking for our names at first. They never asked only once or twice, they rather asked until they could pronounce them. They were interested in knowing us. It was so warm. Through this experience, I learned to see the positive in every situation.” Giorgia toned down as she concluded.

From left, Giorgia, Vittoria, and Milena having a good time at MPI Naguru.

Alice kept interjecting parts of the conversation that were not clear because all her friends called her ‘Google’. This was so because she somehow knew how to expound her friends’ points.

Vittoria, who was listening to her colleagues attentively then decided to say something. She said she came to know about the camp through her father who works with AVSI. “I did not know Rose or MPI. During our visit to Naguru, I saw happy women dancing. Their passion and strength were inspiring. It was at this point that it dawned on me that I do not have problems. When I go back to Italy, the strength of these women will still encourage me to keep moving on.” Vittoria proceeded.

Leonardo was one of the gentlemen on the team. He said he had heard of the trip from Vittoria. When he met the women of MPI, their smiles amazed him. Leonardo said he learned to always smile in every situation no matter how tough.

Finally, ‘Google’ (Alice) was ready to speak on her behalf after representing her mates during the conversation.  Just like Leonardo, she had learned about the camp from Vittoria. However, she had lived in Africa, particularly Mozambique for most of her childhood. “I simply wanted to come back and see the happy lovely people I once knew. I did not know Rose, however.” She said.

Lisa too came back to Africa because of her nostalgia fuelled by her stay in Kenya for a while. She wanted to badly come back to Africa. What stuck with her were stories of the women who had a horrible past yet they were happy nonetheless. “It is paradoxical how the women who should be sad are happier than us who should be happier,” Lisa concluded.

Marco on the other hand was directly invited by Rose Busingeye (the MPI Executive Director) to come and have this experience. He had had friendship issues ever since quarantine in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic. He had started high school and this made it hard for him to fit in. He was so lonely. “I had a meeting with Auntie Rose over the phone. I don’t remember what exactly she said to me but what hit me was the fact that a person from the other corner of the world made me feel loved even though she did not know me.” Marco said.

With a deep sigh, he continued.“This kind of love made me curious. When a friend of mine also shared his experience, I immediately knew that this was where I had to be” I said a prayer to God that he may speak to me through this trip and he did. This was because I knew I wasn’t self-made but needed someone to get the best out of me. My experience with MPI made me realize I am nothing but someone who can love because I am beloved.”

Marco learning how to drum at MPI Naguru.


Written by Vancy Tomson

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