There are some moments in life where everything comes together in a naturally beautiful way. Be that a place you may be at, an event, or simply a feeling that’s welcomed itself to you to which the best things are illuminated.
My band, Eden Shadow recently released a song that refers to these moments, entitled ‘Elgon’ and I wanted to share with you the story behind my inspiration to write it.
When I was 16 years old, I had the opportunity of a lifetime. A teacher from my school was starting to become involved with a local charity called PONT (Partnership Overseas Network Trust). This charity was a development project that linked my local town with a town in Uganda called Mbale. Hospitals here linked to hospitals out there, schools also, churches, etc.
To build this partnership, members, doctors, teachers and preachers started to fly across the globe to meet each other to work on projects, from building schools, homes and communities to engineering facilities and hospitals. What my teacher eventually came to question was whether students could be part of building this friendship. When she asked whether anyone from my class would be interested, I had this instinctive message sent to my head that obliged me to go…‘Ryan, this will change your life’.
After a full year of intense studying and fundraising, I joined 9 other students in July 2009 on what would be a journey I would never forget.
In the 10 days I spent in Mbale, I learnt an overwhelming amount of lessons. I discovered Uganda to be a beautiful country, and for all the poverty and corruption that runs through it, I met some of the most warmest, friendliest people out there I have ever met in my life. I have memories of people whose attitude always remained bright and positive, even in the direst of situations. From a girl my age, looking after her 4 younger siblings by herself because of their parents untimely passing, to a man dying of AIDS, and with every struggle, insisting to stand up to greet us when we came to visit. I had also visited a school high in the mountainous region between Uganda and Kenya, where a landslide had killed 200 people of which many were young students of that school. Still 6 months after the tragedy, they rebuilt what had been damaged and with every sheer level of determination, humbly welcomed us as their guests. I struggle to put these experiences into words, so hopefully the following images may help.
After coming back, it took me a while to adjust to my normal life. It wasn’t before long that another trip out there was being organised for 2011 to give the opportunity to more students, and once again, I went to relive the experience. After my second visit, I had seen PONT as a charity in full effect and I was quite startled by the achievements that both communities had made and the challenges they had overcome. An engineering factory I had visited the first time was barely functioning; comparing this to my second trip, the factory was manufacturing a dozen hospital beds a month. In Schools, more computers were being installed into school facilities and struggling communities were becoming more self-sufficient. Much progress has been made. Much more work is certainly to be done, but with the faith that PONT is holding to, I have every sense of trust that it will be done. I hope to go out again some time soon, I hope that more students are able to experience the same things I have experienced and the partnership is able to build from strength to strength.
Throughout this time, I had been extensively writing material, and after my second visit, I was inspired to write a song that reflected some of the beauty I had experienced out there. I didn’t want it to be self righteous, political or riddled in the complications of poverty. I wanted it to be instead, about the beauty this world holds, and that would reflect the spirit of the many wonderful people I met in Africa despite the hardships and tragedies they had faced.
In a strange sub conscious way, the title ‘Elgon’ had approached itself to my mind; the name of the mountainous region that sits next to Mbale. I have gone to the top of that mountain twice and there are series of waterfalls there, known as ‘Sippi falls’. Through this series of waterfalls are numerous villages; most of which make their way by agriculture and cultivation.
As you climb up to the falls, the air gets very clear. You feel as if you can see the entire continent: that conjoined with the rich green scenery of the woodland amidst the waterfalls makes the entire place astoundingly beautiful. It is one of those places in the world that enriches me with a heightened sense of joy. Everything in life seemed lifted when I was there, and I could have cried with joy at the extraordinary beauty of that place.
That’s the feeling that inspired ‘Elgon’ and if there is any message that the song has, it is about experiencing those moments whenever you can. I think it is so easy at times to get bogged down in modern day life about worthless problems and be ruled by them. I have fallen victim to that time and time again. Hopefully by writing ‘Elgon’, I have a continual reminder of the wonderful gift that is life so that I can cherish it and be aware of the profound beauty that can be experienced in this strange world.
I hope you enjoy this article. If anyone has ever experienced something similar, I would love to hear about it! Also, anyone wanting more information on PONT, here is the website. Feel free to also contact me should you wish to hear about any of the experiences I had out there in more depth.
We are here, we can feel, we can shape, we reveal.