Spencer Caldwell (Uganda)

Born in Arkansas, raised in North Louisiana as well as New Orleans, Spencer was always an energetic and adventurous person from the start. Spencer has had many outdoor adventures, including hiking through the trails in the Olympics outside of Seattle, and the Black Hills of South Dakota and traversing the United States in multiple cross country trips. Upon joining the US Navy in 1999, his worldly adventures only increased, with deployments to SE and SW Asia along with many many months spent out to sea enjoying an uninhibited view of the stars and the oceans. His venturing outdoors continued by taking on of snowboarding as a hobby to coincide with rugby. Since then he has snowboarded in 7 countries and played rugby in 8. Recently, Spencer graduated from George Mason University with a Masters Degree in Public Administration concentrating in Non-Profit Management at George Mason University. As Spencer's graduate school experience is reaching its final semester, the door opened up for humanitarian work and the ability to apply by learned skills and acquired knowledge to the world around him. Life is about the journey, much less about the destination.

The Otim Family of Gulu

17 Jun

Below is the Otim Family of Gulu, Uganda, who reside in a village across the road from St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor.

The matriarch, Grace Otim, sits to my far right, and is holding the apple of her eye, her grandson Andrew, who is mostly deaf and mute and has limited use of his legs and arms. He smiles with a heartwarming grin and very big eyes when you say “Andrew, Andrew” to him, as Lucy was doing before this picture was taken.

Lucy is Grace’s niece and the young lady to my left, who is my neighbor, literally lives in a hut next to mine about 10 steps away. She is my hired cook, guide, and mentor to everything Ugandan. We were on the way to the local market to buy vegetables, meat, tea, cooking oil, and the favored okra, of which is the heart of the story. We stopped by to visit Grace and her father, Mr. Mariana Lucky, who is 97 years young. Mariana is like many old men the world over who enjoys sitting on his porch drinking tea and sharing the time with his family and his new friend, me. I was greeted with a warm smile, a handshake, and a hearty ‘Welcome’ for visiting. Seems most Ugandans enjoy a proper greeting and a smile when we meet and are very, very open and hospitable.

Grace, a spring chicken at 68 years young, or so she thinks (she is not certain of her actual age), is an expert on cooking okra. Those of us from Louisiana know that gumbo is not gumbo without okra. Seems Uganda grows okra by the tons as well as Kenya, but Kenya exports and Uganda does not. We chatted on how to cook okra, its wonderful taste and how it adds to a meal, no matter what meal, if you cook it slow at low heat in proper oils. I love her!!!

We met Lucy’s sister, a brother, and many family friends on our walk to the main road to catch a boda boda ride to the Gulu Market. Like I said, it is a village of Otims. One young man, Godfrey, came by to visit Lucy that same morning and we ran into him on the way back from the market. Lucy considers him a brother, a friend, and someone who will come to her aide in the middle of the night no matter what.

On a sad note, Grace Otim’s father was murdered by Idi Amin during the conflict between Uganda and Tanzania, which left her as an orphan in her teen years. She was a midwife for many years and is now not working so that she can care for her father and Andrew. She was extremely polite and welcoming to me and sat me down and just started telling me everything she could about herself and her family and I even had the honor of signing my name to her guest book. I felt honored to meet the Otim family and I am lucky to have Lucy as my neighbor.

Note: Lawrence, the lone guy in the above picture, is Lucy’s uncle and was happy to take the first picture and have his picture taken as well.

Posted By Spencer Caldwell (Uganda)

Posted Jun 17th, 2019


  • Sam Nass

    June 17, 2019


    Sounds like you fit right in in Gulu! This was a really fun blog to read because it sounds like you’re having fun as well. I know that you’ll be able to channel your friendliness and adaptability into great accomplishments in the work you do over there.

  • Emily

    June 17, 2019


    I love the personal touch you add to your writing! I really felt like I was experiencing your neighborhood with you. I wish the best for you and I’m excited to see the progression of your work in Uganda.

  • Rachel Wright

    June 17, 2019


    It seems as though you’ve already made meaningful personal connections within your community. I’m glad to hear about your experience so far and am looking forward to following the progress of GDPU’s project this summer.

  • Abby Lahvis

    June 19, 2019


    I think it is great that you are building these connections early on and are experiencing the culture with open arms. I think you will do great things with the community’s support! Excited to hear more news from Uganda.

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *