Miriam Donohoe’s Call to Stay in Uganda

It’s 5.30 am and the drone of morning prayer drifts from the nearby mosque, waking me from a restless sleep.

A fusion of other sounds invades my consciousness. Cockerels crow, Ibis birds shriek, crickets chirp, dogs bark. I can hear a baby’s cry in the distance.

I open my eyes. My “shroud”, a white mosquito net, covers the bed. The heat is suffocating this morning and I am sticky and sweating. No air-conditioning here.

Still half asleep I feel confused and for a few seconds wonder where I am. With a jolt I realise I am not at home in my comfortable, cosy bed in suburban Dublin 14.

No, I am in Uganda.

I lie for a few moments pondering and asking the question I have asked myself several times in the last six weeks. “What on earth am I doing in Africa?”

If you had told me six months ago that I would be living in Kampala, feeling so alive and at home here working for Hospice Africa Uganda (HAU), a charity whose mission is to bring peace and comfort to people dying from cancer, HIV/AIDS and other serious illness, I would have laughed.

If you had told me that I would be extending my volunteering stint by several months to work as a consultant with HAU I would have said you were mad.

What me? The hard-bitten, driven, cynical journalist and media woman off on a mission to help the dying? Never.

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