My return journey to Atin started back in Canada in June, when I purchased my plane ticket to Uganda. I was returning to Uganda for the fourth time, after a long absence away (one year and a bit, which actually felt like much longer). It had been a difficult year, and I longed for the warmth of the Equatorial country, including the comfort of close friends and loved ones there. Soon, the time came when I was landing down in Entebbe airport again. The same feelings of excitement, awe, hope and immense gratitude came to me, just as I had experienced them before.
Not long after re-settling in, plans were made for the journey back to one of my favourite places in Uganda, as well as one of the country’s best kept secrets- AtinAfrika. Atin has a sort of magic about it. Lives are transformed there. The love and compassion that drives the work at Atin are infectious and tangible. More than just a set of values and a mission statement, Atin brings to life the idea that everyone deserves opportunity and that no child is a “lost cause”.Atin does not give second chances because there is no such thing there. The door is always open.
I have seen this in children like Jimmy, who return to the streets because of a variety of reasons- maybe they didn’t feel ready to be at Atin, or maybe they found home life difficult after resettlement. Despite the cause, no child is turned away when they enter through the compound door for the second, third or fourth time. Some might view this as regression- a sort of backslide for the organization and for the child. However, it is quite the opposite. It is indeed success. Atin is that reliable, safe and accepting place for the child. The child can return with the knowledge that s/he is worthy and has not been forgotten. This is an accomplishment for both the child and Atin. It speaks to the courage and perseverance of the child, and to the special nature of Atin.
For me, as it is for many children, Atin is a place of refuge and solace. Amidst all the motion and noise that goes on there, there is serenity and calm. Every time I enter into those compound walls, I feel happy and at peace. When the children run up to greet me shouting aunty, I feel I belong and know that I am in a place where I am loved. However sad I feel when I leave again, I take comfort in the fact that the door to Atin is always open.
Auntie Laura xo