Welcome to Uganda...
On this past Saturday (21st Sept 2019) I began a 24+ hours journey from Jersey to Uganda, via Gatwick and Dubai. It was a endurance test not to similar from doing the 50-mile Island Walk back home. But with the equally same rewarding results (tho no medal, well not yet!) The reason — attending the 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference representing our small branch and island parliament — the States of Jersey Assembly.
The Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (CPA) brings together parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth and has worked to support and strengthen parliamentary democracy across the Commonwealth since its establishment in 1911. Jersey has been a member of the Association since 1961. Members from Jersey represent the Island at annual regional and global conferences. Jersey's work with the CPA is important because it raises awareness of Jersey on an international stage and helps raise awareness of parliamentary best practice. Working with over 60 countries and jurisdictions across the Commonwealth, including Jersey, the CPA designs tailored programmes and projects to support and enable knowledge-sharing and development of parliamentary good-practice. Programmes are intended to enhance parliamentary oversight, scrutiny and representation.
I was pleased to apply and be granted one of three spaces to come here to Uganda alongside Deputy Morel and Perchard. The three of us just over a year into being a states member and very excited to be able to make our mark here and learn lots! After arriving on Sunday we were met at the airport by officials who looked after us and after a slight delay our visa's and all important passport stamps.
Next was fascinating, given the security on show for this event we got a police convoy escort to our hotel. This being an absolute first for me, really was quite the moment. Whizzing through while startled locals watched us driving through as the sights of various locations of Uganda streamed by like watching a film in fast-forward but a sense of what was to come.
The impact of where we are really hitting home.
Everyone has been very welcoming and here at our hotel. You can tell what a big deal this is for their community. It was also amazing after checking in seeing a local wedding having their evening event. The culture really being felt in my bones and senses thanks to the vibrant sounds and smells too! Not to mention tastes, giving into a African buffet for dinner.
After a proper sleep (not on a pane sat up right with someone who kept stealing my pillow when I was too busy watching and laughing out loud to Fleabag on the plane!) Was a wonderful sight waking up to the sunrise over Lake Victoria all pink and wispy clouds. Our first proper day at the conference today also was a good experience. It is interesting to see how much investment has clearly gone in to make things go smoothly, a blog for another day. But again we got stuck straight in with a working lunch with delegates of the Small British and Irish CPA regions. Good to finally meet and chat with others who have also come that very long way.
Then off to our first real engagement which was the start of the 37th CPA small branches Conference.It was good to listen to other small branches speaking about similar issues or thoughts that we have back home. Then hearing how others are trying to bring positive changes exchanging insights and advice in such a constructive way. Only shows that sometimes its just the geography that separates that and only if we allow it.
Special mention to my colleague Deputy Morel, who once again showed people how accomplished he is already in his role. Direct, well presented, grasp of the facts. And I have no doubt Deputy Jess Perchard was asserting herself again over at the Womens Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We are here to make our mark as well.
But the real breakout highlight of the day was a spirited and inspiring performance by a children’s choir from a local church. They help children like the ones who danced and sung with such energy and joy, from as young as 3 months old who have sometimes been abandoned in rubbish bins or from the loss of family to illness or war. They provide them shelter, homes and community mothers. Now they have possible futures showing that EVERY child deserves that chance no matter what they are born into! Their faces show it! The little lad with the bow tie is my new hero! I got up and danced with them and high fived everyone of them as they left our room.
It is a reminder on the day that the Independent Care Enquiry released their follow-up report back in Jersey of what real culture change looks like when we say EVERY child matters and deserves that chance of love and hope. In all its only just got started but the benefits of being here are already inspiring me and re energising me to learn and bring back all that i have learned. This is something we all have the power to do. Focus on the here and now.
Don't let the past define you or us, but better us, so when it is our turn to leave this one life that we have that we have made the world just a bit better than we found it.
Tomorrow a full day as focus on what training and development is required to develop focused and talented parliamentarians. Pretty relevant with the current climate. My advice. Spend time in the company of happy, dancing children who sing with a mended heart spirit and soul.
Children who were born into nothing but given the chance can give you everything.