by Rodrigo Martín Munuera (EMDR Uganda Team)
Around April 2016 I was looking for a project to work with in a Sub-Saharan country. As a musician I was trying to get involved in something creative that would allow me to get acquainted with a new culture while volunteering and offering some of my skills.
During a concert in Madrid with one of my bands I talked to my friend and music enthusiast Patricia Villavicencio, also a psychologist working with EMDR Spain. She invited me to become a part of the Uganda Team, the project that had just been started to partner with Mupenzi Children’s Home. She explained that I could bring to the kids a few music games and ludic activities to be part of a series of interventions with the aim of enhancing these kid’s lives. The visit to the orphanage would happen in August 2016.
I said yes and right there the trip to Uganda started to take form with some preliminaries. In June I performed with my band Moongardening in a benefit concert to gather funds for Mupenzi and its NGO Petits Detalls. The venue was full and was a success. In July I travelled to Uganda and met people involved in other beautiful and intense projects: improvement of schools, neighbourhoods, investment in education, construction of buildings, wells, latrines, prosthesis implementation for collectives with disabilities, physiotherapy in camps for refugees…
And there I was playing music for the kids at every school I visited. The musicality and rhythm of the African people is notorious and every kid of every condition proved it along with their teachers, the latter sometimes visibly shier.
The time came to visit Mupenzi once I joined Patricia in Jinja for a week in August. Here lives a bunch of kids provided with shelter, education, food and love thanks to the efforts of their benefactors. Our visit intended to give these children a handful of fun activities which included not only music, singing and dancing but a visit to an amusement park, drawing sessions, and a magician. I myself got to know their stories from a closer perspective, and the feeling is that these kids have had very tough experiences and now they are very lucky to have each other in this orphanage, where every effort is being made to get the best out of them.
During my stay in Uganda I also got the opportunity to meet some local musicians. In Kamwenge some of the music teachers showed me how they rehearse in their classes, preparing for the annual National Choir Contest, which is a great opportunity for every kid in Uganda for personal growth. They use traditional instruments from every corner in the country and along with their melodies they nourish their cultural roots.
In that small town, Kamwenge, public concerts rarely happen, but I had the luck to perform in two of them, one specially organised at Lion’s, where avid listeners brought their curiosity to see and hear the mzungu, and at the new club in town where a special night for karaoke became a surprise when trained dancers made the scene with their synchronised and energetic movements.
In Jinja I met the people at Flavors, a club where once a month the Kelele Night (Noisy Night) opens the door to local and guest artists to perform their original material. The community run by Anthony, a passionate Jamaican, has gathered a group of musicians that accompany the performers at every monthly concert. I had the pleasure of being invited to perform as a feature in the August edition, chance that I took to play a song from every band I’ve been in the last ten years.
When my time in Uganda came to an end I took with me back home a glimpse of this culture that has showed me beautiful and sad stories, big smiles, lively eyes, and despair. I’ve seen people working for people, communities united as families, courage in the youngest of children. This green and rich land has been unbalanced through its history full of wars, invasions, greed, and crimes. I hope that initiatives such as those I’ve seen and the one with EMDR Uganda Team help on the right side of the balance.