Shocked is an understatement when I told my family and friends that I was going to be volunteering in Uganda for four weeks. I was constantly asked why, with many people fearing for my safety. In my eyes, experiencing a new culture as well as engaging in community development was a good enough reason to volunteer in Africa.
The beginning of the overseas volunteer trip with VMM International started on Friday 22nd July 2016, when I stepped off the plane in Entebbe Airport, Uganda. I was unsure what to expect when I signed up for the trip as I’d never been to Africa before, yet the month that I had fulfilled all expectations. The constant buzz and beeps of traffic from jeeps and motor cycles (boda boda’s) to lush greenery is something that I was very surprised at. Children at a young age of 2 were street wise and knew to avoid moving vehicles, something that children in the UK would not know. This small piece of knowledge shown by someone at such a young age highlighted the importance of independence within the country.
Throughout my four weeks in Nansana, Kampala, I assisted in two very different schools; St. Joseph’s and St. Noa’s. Both schools started at 6am, with the school day ending at 4pm, but for those sitting exams it was not surprising to see children leaving school at 6pm, with only short breaks throughout the day. Education was taken very seriously, with some children walking over an hour each day to attend. I realised then, how much I took education for granted. Each morning I would help at St. Joseph’s school which was in the centre of a small town, with more than 60 pupils in each class. Due to the importance of education and large class sizes, it was very unlikely that the children got to participate in any Physical Education. By the end of the month, I had worked alongside each class, playing football, netball and circuit training with the older classes, and ‘duck, duck, goose’ with younger classes. Although the heat could be exhausting, the children were very enthusiastic and enjoyed having lessons outside being active. One teacher even told us that their P.E. lessons consisted of staying in the tiny classrooms!
St. Noa’s school however, is situated in a more rural area, and had only 8-12 pupils in each class. The difference in the class size meant that I got to know the children at St. Noa’s individually. Although this school lacks resources, and had few teachers (some were teaching two different classes), the children were very appreciative of the time we spent with them teaching and improving their English. Furthermore, the children were captivated and eager to learn more about the English and Irish culture, asking many questions, and were shocked to find out that in the UK it usually rains throughout summer!
Aside from teaching in the schools, I also got some time to go sightseeing, and I was filled with joy to see such optimism and simplicity when I visited the beautiful Eastern African country. Sightseeing included a safari at Murchison Falls which was incredible, visiting the equator and witnessing traditional tribal dancing. For all everybody was worried about my safety, I never once felt scared…in fact I felt very at home. The whole community were very welcoming and polite, making it difficult to say my goodbyes!