3 questions to ATIM for Uganda

Alice is an Italian girl, a midwife by profession and by passion. With her travels and periods of life in Uganda, she has moved my interest in a country that we, in Italy, almost don’t know, unfortunately. Uganda is located in central-eastern Africa, has a few more inhabitants than Spain and Argentina, so it is certainly not a small land, and is among the states in the world with the largest surface area of water in relation to its total surface. After a centuries-old slave trade by the Arab populations, in the XIX century the territories of Uganda were subdued by Great Britain, which remained there, but for less than 100 years. Having obtained the agonized independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, after a few years it found itself in the hands of the bloody “His Excellency President for Life, Field Marshal Al Hadji Doctor Idi Amin, VC, DSO, MC, Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea, and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular”Idi Amin, who was responsible for at least 100,000 deaths and a deteriorating in international relations. Although the political situation has been stabilized and some progress has been made in various sectors, some complex difficulties still remain, deriving from the armed conflicts of a recent past and the long periods of drought that tormented the country in the 80s, causing enormous problems for the agricultural sector, the one that employs the majority of Ugandans. Too often, however, from Europe we think of Africa as a single country and of the African peoples as a whole which, in reality, does not exist. Because of this erroneous view of the world, we often think that help from our side can be generalized and paternalistic, but we can now see that this is not true. For this reason, ATIM, the association that Alice’s mind helped creating and of which she is president, has chosen a collaborative approach and largely carried out on site, with those most in need. It could be defined as an equal relationship, with which everyone can grow. I asked her three questions about her experience, her activity and her approach.

Why Uganda?

Uganda was almost a coincidence. In 2011 I graduated as a food technician and started working in a cosmetic company. After a few months in the laboratory I realized that it was not the job for me, I needed contact with people. So after being fired the first time and resigning the second time, I decided to take a gap year and dedicate myself to what I had been hearing echoing in my head for almost two years: meeting Africa. I say “meeting” because it wasn’t a journey intended as a displacement, but a journey intended as a meeting of the other, of a new culture, of an opportunity for change (I was 20 years old and I felt the need to change into something new) and so I did. I enrolled in a course of the missionary center of Crema that had as its objectives the understanding of interculturality, of meeting, of course, of respect and of many other important issues for those who travel consciously. While I was attending these events, the various destinations were presented to us and the only one present in Africa that year was Uganda. I didn’t know anything about Uganda, but everything looked perfect. On June 2012 I left for the first time and, through the people who made that journey with me, I met for the first time that land that would take the name of home, far from home. Over time, the relationship between Uganda and me has amplified, leading me to go there almost every year and to carry out both the data collections and thesis projects of the three-year, and the master’s degree. The country has grown and was reborn since only in 2006 did the bloody civil war ended and every time I returned I could appreciate an extra beauty born of the strength of the Ugandans, especially in the Northern territories.

How did you combine your activities with the pandemic?

When we decided to start our projects, we followed an ethical choice that was based on the support of local realities and not on the dependence of people from the association in charge of developing the projects on site. There are three main figures with whom we work: Sister Giovanna, a Comboni missionary, who lives in Gulu (our reference city), Sister Maria, a Comboni missionary and midwife, who lives in Lira (also in the territories of Northern Uganda) and the local NGO of the Comboni Samaritans, of which sister Giovanna belongs. Through these people or realities we support the projects that the community expresses as necessary. We do not create projects based on what we would like, but we listen to the beneficiaries to understand what they prefer. This is only possible thanks to the presence of these heroes who live in our beloved red land every day and, above all, speak the local language. During the pandemic, therefore, we did not have to face too many obstacles except those due to the difficulty of getting together in Italy to organize fundraising events (we were lucky enough to make a trip in February 2020 just before the closing of the world). As Sister Giovanna would say, however, providence always finds its ways and so it has been: many donors have referred to ATIM even in moments of silence because they believed in the work. Social media helped out, but the network of people was the greatest force: we closed 2020 with almost double the donations received in 2019, despite the difficult year.

What will your future be?

Our future is all about discovery. Surely in my plans, as president, there is always the will to spend a little longer time in Uganda than I have always allowed myself to do, to meet more and more and be a witness of a real life, and then bring all of these experiences for those who are not lucky enough to be able to walk together on that red land. As for the association, we promise to be ever richer in energy and above all to always be able to involve as many people as possible in this journey not only aimed at charity, but above all at a sense of justice and fairness: when people ask me “why do?” I always reply “the fact is not because I am doing it, but more than anything else because you are not already doing it”. Sharing is the basis of everything, if it is done together then everything appears more colorful and rich in beauty. ATIM means born far from home and I hope to be able to bring more and more people to know that house, in the center of Africa, which contains within itself the courage of millions of worlds.

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