Life-changing weekend in the Savannah by Lauren McCullough

Last weekend I was finally able to do something that I have wanted since…well…since I watched the Lion King I guess. This weekend I visited Lake Mburo and Queen Elizabeth national park and went on my first safari.

It was obviously amazing. I went with my friend Katie and her fantastic aunt and uncle the DeLisi’s. Oh, and Mr. DeLisi is also my boss, or the American Ambassador to Uganda. Over the weekend I saw zebras, lions, elephants, hyenas, warthogs, and an endless amount of DLTs (deer like things). The scenery was incredible. We went on around 20 hours in game drives over 4 days, which doesn’t sound like that much until you realized we also spent another 20 traveling. Needless to say I was pretty tired on Monday from my “African massage” (what my guide called going over really bad/bumpy roads), but it was all worth it! Our cabins were beautiful and I was able to have wine and appetizers watching the sun set over the savannah. I was speechless.

 As awesome as EVERYTHING was, there is a particular hour that touched my heart in a different way. It wasn’t seeing the lions, having a stare down with baboons, or even sipping wine while watching the pink and orange haze softly falling into the horizon. This weekend, I met Deo.

Deo lives just outside of the border or Queen Elizabeth National Park. A few years ago, Deo was struggling to feed his family. While in the states, living on the edge of a “park” is often considered a great location, it is not quite the same when you have lions, elephants, and warthogs to cohabitate with. Deo was constantly struggling to keep elephants from trampling his vegetables and lions from eating his goats, so he decided to build a trench.

With the help of his neighbors, this small community has created a 22 km trench and installed numerous other devices to help protect their land.

His story is amazing. Not only has he created barriers for his own farm including a fence, noise makers, and other animal deterrents, but he has also taught his entire community to do the same so they can also protect their farms and adequately feed their families. While the trench helps significantly with elephants, he still experiences many problems as some animals are able to jump the trench. The trench also needs a significant amount of upkeep, so each early morning is spent on its maintenance. In addition to his wildlife deterrents  Deo has also created sanitary restrooms, soap dispensers, and build an “energy efficient kitchen.”

Yes the whole trip was amazing, but for me, there is just something about meeting people. I love animals, and I LOVE a good sunrise/sunset, but each day I am reminded how truly awesome people can be. People all over the world, just like Deo, are working hard just to feed their families and make tomorrow a little better than yesterday. Its times like this that I know, without doubt, my choice to work in social services supersedes any alternative career path I may have chosen, even if it would have added a couple digits to my salary. It’s not about money, it’s not about the car I can have or name brands on my shirt. My passion, my future career (whatever form it make take) is about people helping to provide opportunity for people like Deo and making sure that everyone has a chance to live a healthy, peaceful life.

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