Boda Boda

The staff meeting was scheduled for 9AM. Ishmael called to tell us he was at the hotel and waiting. We quickly finished up breakfast and went outside to meet him, but he wasn’t there. We soon realized he had gone to the other hotel. There was no way we would make the meeting on time if we waited for him. Our only option was a boda boda—a motorcycle taxi and a popular mode of transportation in Kampala.

Wind rushed through my hair as I gripped the back of the motorcycle with one hand—securing my sweater and backpack with the other. Kelsey had made clear instructions to drive safely and slowly and the driver obliged. I still held on tightly, looking away as we headed down a steep and winding hill. Although scary at first, I have to admit it was fun, and I would do it again. However, the ride was only a few minutes on back roads without much traffic. The thought of an extended ride through the highly congested Kampala traffic would be a different story.

For Lillian, Willow’s Program Director, that story is daily life. Lillian commutes to and from work on a boda. It takes her over 45 minutes each way.  You would never guess her mode of transportation as she always arrives impeccably dressed. Tailored jackets, silk tops, pressed trousers, and printed skirts. Hair neat. Matching bag in tow. She maintains this professional look all while sitting on the back of a bike, weaving between cars on uneven and dirt-covered roads, and dodging potholes in the heat and humidity. Rain or shine.

Lillian’s commute exemplifies the spirit of the Willow team. The 52 staff members employed in Kampala are dedicated, not easily intimidated, and they do what it takes to get the job done. They are highly adaptable—always ready to take on more participants at a moment’s notice. Despite the setbacks and delays that often occur in this line of work, they remain focused and anticipate future needs.

Whether it’s navigating the crowded Kampala roads or the complicated Ugandan judicial system, the Willow team faces each challenge head-on and never loses sight of the end goal.