Face to face with ... Sharon D’Mello

Friday 24 February 2012
Kairos Catholic Journal

Sharon D'Mello is a 29-year-old information systems coordinator with Caritas Australia, Melbourne. Here, she reflects on visiting Uganda last year.

23-02-p19-sharon-350Why Uganda?

Our global education adviser for Victoria and Tasmania, Mary Anne Collins, and I accompanied a group of 10 primary and secondary school teachers from around Victoria, meeting Caritas partners and visiting communities that had benefited from the work of our programs in Uganda.

What will you always remember about the trip?

People in their simplicity and zeal for life, making the most of their opportunities and being grateful for what they have.

How did Uganda affect you?

Uganda taught me to sit back and look at the bigger picture, both in my personal life and professional life. Many times I get stressed out or buried under deadlines, project issues and all the things related to a 9-to-5 job, forgetting how much more there is to life and forgetting about these wonderful people who are struggling for the most basic needs, like clean water and food. The next time I think of complaining over the internet speed or the air-conditioner, I will remember these people, who don't have a computer and sleep under a thatched roof all their lives.

What was the most challenging part of your experience there?

Trying to understand how people would be smiling and hopeful after years of poverty, civil war and violence.

What did you learn about the Caritas programs run in Uganda?

Most Ugandans are subsistence farmers but, in spite of rich fertile soil and regular rainfall, they suffered during the regime of Idi Amin and the subsequent civil war.

Caritas Uganda runs the Integrated Food Security project and is training these farmers in sustainability. The beneficiaries have an improved variety of crops throughout the year and sell the surplus. Many farmers have bought livestock from the sale of surplus crop and also built semi-permanent houses.

Caritas partners help people become independent; hence they run a lot of skills workshops, and fund educational programs on gender equality, disability and climate change.

There were many positive stories and I am very hopeful for the future of Uganda and its people.

Where else have you travelled?

I went to Caritas Australia's office in the Solomon Islands a couple of years ago to help them with their data/information management set-up.

How did this trip influence your faith?

My trip to Uganda has taken me to remote communities where the Church works with the poorest of the poor, our partners empowering the marginalised communities—this to me was living the Gospel.

Best memory: Being at Mass with prisoners at a district prison.

Even in the darkest phases of their lives the men and women there had hope and aspirations for their future.

Favourite place: Nakabiso Village community in Kiyinda Mityana, Uganda.

Words of wisdom: "Become people of peace and builders of peace." Pope Benedict XVI (World Day of Peace 1 January 2012)

Photo by Fiona Basile/Kairos Catholic Journal (copyright).

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