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Memoirs of a first time volunteer

Upon completing her voluntary placement in Uganda with Nurture Africa, Sue Kraftsoff, writes about her experience from the moment of deciding to commit to the placement through to her return to Ireland…

“The idea of volunteering abroad had always appealed to me; however it wasn’t until the IMPACT (Irish Trade Union, which supports the work of Nurture Africa) newsletter advertising a 2 week placement with Nurture Africa in Uganda that this idea became reality. Having replied to the ad, I had then attended an information session and an interview, gaining one of five places reserved for volunteers sponsored by IMPACT. During these preparation stages, I wasn’t sure what to expect and had a million questions, all of which had been answered in the course of the pre-departure meetings with Kevin, our volunteer coordinator and the other volunteers, all in a fun, friendly and very informative manner that had put us all at ease. Having covered everything from an overview of Ugandan culture, values, staple diet and basic vocabulary to the essential items for building and teaching in schools, our expectations, hopes and fears and everything in between, we were all set and rearing to go.”

“Once we had safely arrived in Uganda, our small group of eleven-strong all-female volunteers readily rolled up the sleeves, eager to get stuck into whatever work had been planned for us. And our Ugandan coordinators did not disappoint. After staff-volunteer orientation and taking in some local sights (like our short road trip to the Equator!), we were put to good use by helping out with building a perimeter wall around the health centre, teaching secondary school kids first aid basics and primary age children – English literacy across a number of schools. We also went on home visits with outreach workers to observe primary care in its essence – provision of health sustaining medicines and health check ups to HIV positive adults and children; and witness incredible resilience and hard work paying off for those on the sustained livelihoods programmes who are benefiting from small start up loans to create business opportunities to feed their families and gradually build a better life for themselves. And as for their enthusiasm for life, gratitude for such opportunities, soaring confidence in their ability and belief in themselves – that is something I will remember with great admiration.”

“Of course, among such incredible high moments they were also very tough ones, like the acute realisation of the gulf in the standard between our lives seeing firsthand how different our worlds’ every day struggles are – be it for single parent families striving to keep their children healthy and afford to send them to school or the babies’ homes caring for many babies with limited resources and no clinical supports for those that desperately need them. These times also have an effect on you. But being there, knowing that you are a small part of a much bigger change for the better in the people’s lives, part of years of tireless work by all volunteers from the moment when Nurture Africa was but a twinkle in its founders’ eyes, makes the whole experience worthwhile, unforgettable and invaluable not only for every single volunteer but all the others benefiting from his/her time and skills.”

“Two weeks flew, and in a blink of an eye it was time to go home. It felt like a short time to us but we knew we had achieved a lot in our two weeks in Uganda and in turn felt great satisfaction in knowing we gave it all in that time, be it in teaching, building, and learning about the incredible body of work done by Nurture Africa and seeing the tangible and immense difference it is making every day in people’s lives. That is near to impossible to quantify or describe and do it justice.”

“We met again as a group under the experienced mentor-ship of our coordinator to talk about all our experiences, share new and common feelings about ourselves and the world around us with our new-found Ugandan perspective and ease ourselves into our own realities here in Ireland. We were a very close group and some of the friendships, new and old, forged and strengthened during the trip, we hope, will last a lifetime.”

“All in all, it’s been an incredible journey and I can’t wait to do it all over again. And I dare you, a first time volunteer, not to feel the same after your two weeks in Uganda!” :)

Sue Kraftsoff – General Skills Volunteer 5th – 20th April 2013

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