A recently returned VMM Short Term Volunteer has kindly shared with us how her placement has broadened her horizon and rejuvenated her love of, and connection to, community and a higher power. Volunteering can also serve to help work through difficult times: helping by helping others to empower themselves. Brigid-Lucy Molloy, a senior staff nurse from Surrey in England, recently lost her mother and volunteered with VMM partner organisation, Hospice Africa Uganda. Here is her volunteering experience, in her own words.
Motivation To Go Volunteering
I am a registered Nurse and whilst my lovely Mother was unwell, we made a pact. I would see her go from this world to the next and then I could go and do my ‘Charity Work’. Well my Mother passed on and she left us, her kids, a ‘few bob’ each to do as we wished. I knew mine was for me to go abroad and work.
The Right Volunteer Organisation | Brigid & VMM Find Each Other
Firstly, I went to India and whilst I loved India, the work just wasn’t what I expected or wanted. I then spent a long time looking and researching for a Charity that ticked a lot more of my boxes. In fact, it was my brother who found VMM for me after listening to a speaker at his Church and saving one of their leaflets for me. I just knew VMM was the one and after speaking to the Short Term Volunteer Programme Manager, who confirmed this, I started planning.
This was in November 2017 and I left for Uganda in October 2018 for three months to go and work with Hospice Africa Uganda. I knew it would take me this long to plan, because this time I decided to fund raise the money that I needed to go, instead of ‘just paying it’, and I also had my job and family to consider.
VMM Pre-Departure Volunteer Preparation Training
Prior to going, I attended two days of training, which was brilliant, and I met VMM’s Short Term Volunteer Programme Manager, who was amazing throughout my whole journey. I met other volunteers who were not only going to a different place in Uganda, but for a shorter spell. I booked and sorted all and travelled to my placement on my own, and in fact my whole placement was on my own. Some people, even now, just don’t understand why I was never scared or nervous of doing this. I just wasn’t. I think a lot of it was down to the planning and the backup crew of VMM, who were fabulous in every way.
Volunteering Also Includes New Friends and Safaris
I flew to Kampala and stayed here for three weeks whilst I found my feet, got registered to practice and got my bearings. I even met up with the other ladies that I had met at the training session and we went on a safari before I transferred to Mbarara – a satellite clinic west of Kampala. My bus ride to Mbarara was about 5 hours long and it was better than a ride at Thorpe Park (and cheaper) – stupidly exciting, sitting on my rucksack for most of the way and being the only Mzungu (white person) on board. I soon found out I was quite a source of entertainment.
I was placed to stay with the Priests at Montfort Missionaries – I am not sure if this was by accident or by design, (had VMM heard tales about me?) but OMG! What a wonderful place of Eden it was. Here, I met another volunteer with VMM, Linda, who by chance came from my home town in Bristol, and we hit it off straight away.
Volunteering Also Means Flexibility and Change
I was then asked if I would like to go to another clinic, but in a much more rural area. Wow! How amazing was that? I was so excited. So again, after another three weeks I arrived in the rural village of Kabuyanda and spent my last six weeks here which included Christmas. The clinic here covered a massive area, where most of the people lived up in the hills attending to the banana plantations. I would say that 98% of the people here had never, ever seen a Mzungu in their entire lives. Why would they? They were so poor, electricity was a luxury, and TV, books and WIFI was just a thought, and in fact, most of the people lived in mud huts, which at times, got washed away or had to be patched up after the tropical rains.
Volunteering Opens Up Eyes to Poverty and Charity
Just when you thought you had met the poorest of the poor, you would meet even poorer people. The two that really stand out in my mind, were two little boys, who had made up names for themselves as they had no parents, or even grandparents to look after them. We figured one was about six and the other was about three. They lived in a hut marginally bigger than a dog’s kennel. They had one extremely old T-shirt cut in half and this was used as their modesty covering for each of them.
When I gave one of the young boys some soap to go and wash before we gave him some old (but new to them) shorts and T-shirts, he went to put the soap in his mouth as he thought it was food to eat. We gave the children some balloons and chalk to draw on their huts and lollipops and a little food. I will never forget the smiles on their faces or the look in their eyes of disbelief that someone, let alone a Mzungu, would do this for them.
We also found children and adults, who had infections, and conditions that were treatable, but because they literally had nothing were unable to go to a clinic or a hospital, which in fact, was a long way for them to walk to anyway. So, with the little first aid that I was able to do, I was also able to make some of these lovely peoples’ lives, that little bit easier. I point out here, that I was just the delivery lady of these gifts from friends, generous sponsors and family back home, who were not able to make such a trip. I would just like to also thank many of my friends who were amazing at raising money.
Living in Community | A Home from Home
The Priest at Montfort Missionaries, Ernest, works in Mbarara (who seems to speak a thousand languages) and whether you are religious or not, he is an amazing man who works tirelessly in trying to help all of these people. He guided me and helped me and looked after me, in order for me to do this kind of work. I owe him so much and I thank him for his generosity and kindness towards me.
When I arrived at Kabuyanda, I knew what Madonna felt like. The attention was incredible because not only was I a Mzungu, but I am blonde and have blue eyes, which was always a source of fascination, particularly for the beautiful children. Hence, I also thank VMM for helping me to get to Kabuyanda. I just knew my God had this route mapped out for me and this was a place where I was meant to be.
A Volunteer Christmas in Community
I spent Christmas Lunch African style, up in the hills with Elias, a Community Healthcare worker who introduced me to his rather hungry and very poor village. I was very privileged to have Christmas Lunch prepared for me here, although it was exactly the same food as the rest of the year. Usually at Christmas time they try to have some meat but Elias’s family couldn’t afford it this year.
If Brigid’s story has intrigued you, click the links to read other volunteers’ experiences of VMM’s missionary approach to living and sharing and working in partnership with any of our many partner organisations, within their local communities overseas; or if you would like to find out more about our short term volunteering programme.