October 2014 Uganda Volunteer Group Blog
As preparations for our 37 volunteers bound for Uganda this October continue, this blog will document Nurture Africa input and the volunteers personal journey from the pre-departure training phase in Ireland, on to their experiences of life volunteering with Nurture Africa in Uganda, and finally sharing their new perspectives having completed their collective experiences in Uganda, and fitting them into their lives having returned home to friends and family....
"The importance of pre-departure training for volunteers is of vital importance to us, and we put a lot of preparation into ensuring that we are delivering the information and content that the volunteers need. Most often, there are two overriding emotions for volunteers when they sign up to volunteer with Nurture Africa. These are "excitement and nervous/anxiousness". Our job during this phase is to allay some of that nervousness and enhance the excitement (!), and prepare our volunteers for their new surroundings and culture in Uganda as well as ensuring that they are informed of essential policies and role descriptions for their work in Uganda. The importance of this phase cannot be understated for the success of every volunteers placement. That will ring through during their time in Uganda. It also shoots the roots for new friendships that will last a lifetime!"
"I didn't know what to expect if I'm being honest! Immediately as I entered the room for training, I felt welcomed and at ease. There was a great flow of information from the moment we started through Nurture Africa staff and my fellow volunteers. Pre-departure training really does help you to understand what to expect from the volunteer experience."
"Spent two great days at pre-departure training for our upcoming trip to Uganda. There was lots of information coming our way and I feel much better informed having attended."
- Anne Fortune
"Very informative days, and also very enjoyable! Getting very excited for the trip now!"
- Ann Marie Sexton
2014 Student Placement group work (Pre-departure)
"Very impressed with the pre-departure training. Every question I had in my head was answered. I have a nervous excitement about heading off to Uganda now."
- Laura Hanratty
"Before I left Uganda I kind of made up my mind that I'd like to return, but wasn't sure if this year would be too soon. However, the chance to see again the many lovely people I met on my first trip and the ability to hopefully see progress in Nurture Africa's projects since my last visit prompted to me to sign up again. I'm really excited about the trip but also a little nervous about what it will be like to be there on the ground again. This time I have promised myself to slow down and spend more time taking in and experiencing everything!"
- Brian Furey (Return Volunteer)
Oct. 2013 Volunteers Expectations exercise
“It seems a little silly now to have been apprehensive about volunteering with Nurture Africa. Following the pre-departure sessions I am much more informed about the role I can play and the value that I can add within the greater good that the organisation delivers. I feel connected with likeminded people, empowered and just soooo excited to be part of such an amazing experience. Roll on Oct 24th !!!!”
- Sarah Duff
One week to departure for Uganda
"I’m feeling excited and nervous about the prospect of what’s ahead. Mostly excited though. Not looking forward to packing-last minute as usual. I just hope it all comes together. The sooner Friday comes the better!"
- Lorna Hurley
"I am looking forward to getting to Uganda and excited to be part of this venture.... Actually, I can't wait! Still reading about and researching all topics Ugandan and will be planning until I depart!"
- Teresa Orton
"I'm excited and nervous for going! The nerves are less about being in Uganda and more about the preparation - there feels like there's still loads to organise but I know once I get on the plane I'll forget about all that. I'm just really looking forward to getting started and stuck in once we arrive. I'm sure it'll be as amazing as we expect!"
- James Mulhall
"I’m feeling nervously excited about the trip, but much more excited than nervous. I’m looking forward to experiencing a new world, a new culture and getting to know the Ugandan people, as well as fellow volunteers for that matter. And even though I have an idea from the training about what to expect when I get to Uganda, I know that it’s only when I get there that the reality of why I’m there, and what I have to do will kick in.
So I’m hoping that the reality kick is something I can handle, because I want more than anything to do the best job I can, and I look forward to everybody working together as a team.
I also feel privileged to be a part of it all and I’m blown away by all the support and generosity I have received to date, from family, friends, work colleagues and even strangers in the build up to this trip.
So I am already really, really grateful for the experience and I haven’t even gone yet. So bring it on!"
- Carol McGuinness
"As we are now in the final week before we set off for Uganda, the excitement is really beginning to set in. While I have been preparing for this trip for a number of months now there is so much to think about in the final week, and I am really trying to work through lists to ensure that I am not forgetting anything. As I have never volunteered before, or been to Africa at all, I am quite worried that I am preparing correctly. Today I did my 'pharmacy shop', which, to date, was the most stressful part of the pre-departure as I know that having the right medicines and essentials with me will be so important, as I don't think that these are things that I will be able to get over in Uganda. Tomorrow I am going to run back over my preparation for the First-Aid class that we will be teaching in Uganda, and I will also finalise my packing. I am very excited for Friday morning!"
- Marian Mulhall
"Less than 24 hours to go so I'm really getting excited now! I've never volunteered before so not sure what to expect. However the two training days were extremely useful and completely put me at my ease! I learned loads and although I am a little apprehensive I reckon it's going to be quite an experience. I only hope I give as much as I get. Nansana here we come!"
- Ann Marie Kilkenny
Arrival in Uganda
"Over the next three weeks, 37 volunteers (7 of whom have volunteered previously with Nurture Africa) will experience life in Uganda in a very authentic way. They will live in homes within the community of Nansana, surrounded by Ugandan people going about their daily business. They will eat local Ugandan food, greet many people (in their newly acquired Lugandan language skills!) who will be overjoyed to welcome them, and although they don't know it yet......their anxiety and nervousness about this experience will disappear within hours of their being here!
They will use their expertise to assist the communities within which Nurture Africa works. They will also learn from their interactions with those working with, and benefitting from the work of Nurture Africa. They will be challenged, and will step outside of their comfort zone; personal development the reward! A range of emotions will be experienced...... they will experince a level of poverty they may never have thought about before. The great contradication being.....they may also experience more happieness, laugher and smiles amongst Ugandan people than they ever imagined possible!
We always commend each of our volunteers for their personal decision to volunteer with us. They are taking a step into the unknown for themselves, and that is never an easy step to take. We believe that through this experience, each volunteer will be rewarded for their decision to volunteer with us during their time here and after returning home. We look forward to witnessing Uganda capturing your hearts over the next 3 weeks...."
"I can’t believe how little I had to worry about. Getting off the plane was difficult- asking "What am I doing here?"- already getting off that plane was worth it! The welcome, and the smells, the atmosphere and the people are warmer than I had ever expected!
- Lorna Hurley, (evening of first day)
Our volunteer team receiving warm welcome and dance lesson from the
Nurture Africa Youth Dance Troupe
"Day 1 in Nansana and we had a great day!
Being honest I hadn’t spent too much time picturing what it would be like out here but I am delighted that I didn’t! I thought and hoped that I would love it, but the experience has been so much more than I could have ever expected!
The pace of life is wonderfully peaceful, the children are so happy and people are content with what they have – sustainability and happiness. What a humbling experience!
Sitting around the table at home in the evening (eating supper in an open thatched roofed circular hut in the middle of our accommodation yard) we just spoke about the one thing that has surprised us the most during the day. For me it was the professionalism of the Nurture Africa setup. Being in there today going through orientation with the Country Director James Kimbowa, and a representative from each different section of Nurture Africa was striking – better than any orientation I have ever completed. These people are clearly on the ball and extremely passionate about the incredible work that they are doing. Now I just cannot wait to see this work first hand!
On a side note 3 of us got completely lost on the way back to the accommodation! Complete darkness fell with us going around in circles without a clue. How nice all the local people were attempting to help us at each and every turn. While we may have been worried that we wouldn’t get back home we certainly were not worried for one second that we would be in any trouble with the people. Eventually Kevin, found us back in the town and we made it home. Phew!!"
- Billy O’Donovan
Our local orientation with Ugandan staff
"On our long flight from Dublin I was feeling a bit apprehensive about what lay ahead of us - as I wasn’t sure what to expect. But after our first day I can honestly say that all nerves, worries and uncertainties have quickly disappeared.
The Nurture Africa centre is amazing – the building is so colourful and welcoming! The staff and everyone we met during the day could not have been more welcoming and grateful for us being there. I can’t wait for the rest of my time here!!"
- Aisling O’Sullivan
"Prior to arrival in Uganda I was unsure as to what to expect. I had images in my head of poverty ridden shanty towns, dusty roads and scorching temperatures. These images proved to be accurate but these are certainly not the prevalent images in my head now. Through experiencing the culture of the country it is the happiness of the people that has struck a chord with me. Everywhere the volunteers go, we are greeted with a friendly smile. On navigating the streets of Nansana I have witnessed some strange and funny sights, but despite this I have never felt safer."
- Odhran Keane
Odhran Keane and Sinead Foley facilitating a library reading session with local primary school chioldren
"A great and tiring day at school today for Library Outreach Programme. Initial impressions was sparseness. Limited and very basic facilities, but that was immediately put to the background because of the welcoming smiles and faces of the children. I was so glad we put in so much preparation last night. The sea of smiling but also curious faces waiting for the session to begin. So we launched in with the picture books that we had with us and they very keen to engage with us. The morning session in the classroom was probably a little too long. Next time I think we will break it up a little. After reading, we had a truly amazing time during games activities, and once again, without our preparation we would have struggled to keep the kids with us. By the time noon arrived I was exhausted after the running, the jumping the dancing and the laughing. Flapped down as soon as we reached the house for lunch."
- Breege Cardiff
Play activities in St. Josephs Primary School, Nansana
"My first day as a Nurture Africa volunteer- visiting a local school P4 class. What a wonderful group of happy and enthuastic children. We were made very welcome by the Teachers and pupils. English reading class were fun and we learned lots from the children. A school full of very happy children in quite a confined area. For our playtime activities it did not matter that the playing area was not level or that stones protruded… the children only saw fun… In Ireland we take so much for granted so its quite an eye opener to experience the genuine happiness and contentedness we have experienced today in people who we would think have a lot less than us."
- Ann Fortune
"To be remembered by name by someone you met a year ago in a far away place while part of a bigger group is a really humbling experience. It feels great to part of something special and the work that Nurture Africa does on the ground here in Uganda is certainly very special. The local staff, supported by their Irish colleagues, really do deliver a vital range of services for the local community. That idea of community that we talk about a lot at home is very evident here. Nurture Africa, rather than sitting as an outpost in the village, is in fact intertwined with the local hustle and bustle of Nansana and the people that live here. So as a Nurture Africa volunteer we are welcomed into this community and in a little way, while sound cliched, the other volunteers and I feel like a member of the community albeit for a short time.
However, as I have learned, that sense of belonging stays with you even after you leave Uganda and get back to the normal day to day life in Ireland. That's why people like Caitlin, Gina and I decided to return and I think. Any other first time visitors will also."
- Brian Furey (Return Volunteer)
"Yesterday I accompanied members of Nurture Africa’s Community Healthcare team as they visited the homes of three families affected by HIV.
Having worked for Nurture Africa in Dublin for almost 4 months now I knew all about the duties the team is tasked with. However, going along on a home visit and seeing the work that they carry out in person was a truly eye-opening experience.
To witness the resilience of these families as they attempt to live with as little disruption from HIV as possible was truly humbling.
They welcomed me into their homes with such pride and happiness. One mother explained how her life has changed in such a positive way since she was accepted on the Nurture Africa Healthcare programme. To understand how she can now speak with her neighbours about her condition without stigma, and access life-saving treatment with ease was extremely inspiring."
- Colm Ashe (Staff member)
Volunteers Carol McGuiness, Sinead Foley, Laura Hanratty and Lorna Hurley delivering a first aid workshop in Jet Valley Primary School, Nansana, Uganda.
"There are so many smiles here in Uganda - and what I've realised is that there are even more smiles because of the fantastic work that Nurture Africa is doing!
There is hope in more homes and for more children because of the work they do here. I truly believe that the impact of Nurture Africa's work here in the community is great! And I'm so delighted to be able to see the results first hand during this volunteer placement..."
- Lorna Hurley
"As work drew to a close this evening a young couple arrived at the Nurture Africa health centre requesting to test for HIV. Voluntary Counselling and Testing for HIV (VCT) is very common in Uganda. They received counselling from the team here and I tested them both before providing their samples to the laboratory. Both results were negative and it was lovely to see their faces as the counsellor imparted the good news. Here in Uganda a couple are encouraged to share each other’s HIV status before “getting together”, in order to keep themselves safe and prevent the spread of HIV… "
- Teresa Orton
Nurture Africa staff nurse Shamim Nabawesi and volunteer nurse Teresa Orton counselling a young member of the community on safe male circumcision (SMC).
SMC which is performed in Nurture Africa health centre can reduce the chances of HIV transmission in young men by up to 60%
The poem below was written by Carol McGuinness upon her return to Ireland from Uganda
Hello Uganda, what can I say, you touched my heart, in such a big way
The welcome smiles, was second to none and working together, we felt as one.
Hey Mzungu, the kids would shout out, so happy to see us, there was no doubt
We waved, and made each other smile, and I felt like a celebrity, for a little while.
Walking into the classroom, from the very start, had the biggest impact, it touched my heart
The kids so confident, all wanting to read, and sing and dance, oh yes indeed.
Going out to play, was so much fun, we were kids for a while, yes everyone
The “Music Man”, was my favourite game, as we danced, like we were all insane.
Then working together, on a building site, we did our best, whether wrong or right
And slow but sure, before our eyes, two water tanks, surprise surprise.
Home visits were challenging, but positive too, they could bring about, a tear or two
But the visits brought hope, and so worth while, and again, there was the welcome smile.
Sustainable livelihoods, was great to see, I’m impressed by the service, you offer for free
Training, money, and business advice,if we did that in Ireland, that would be nice.
The health care centre, the heart of it all, to pick people up, whenever they fall
Minding the sick, preventing disease, and you do it all, with professional ease.
We had fun at night time, don’t you know, and learnt to dance, to Cotton Eye Joe
Charades was fun, with everyone, but let’s not mention, Victoria won.
The debate was impressive, between the two schools, the kids so confident, calm and cool
Debating in English, a sight to behold, it’s “taught” not “teached” one student was told.
The discussion we had, made everything clear, as Ugandans explained, the impact we have here
As I sat there and listened, I was left in no doubt,how better the world is, when we learn to reach out.
Well Nurture Africa, you blew me away, with the work you do here everyday
Supporting the community, the way you do, Healthcare, Education, Small business’s too.
So Volunteers and Ugandans, what’s left to say, it was an honour to work with you, day by day
Such a worthy cause, I enjoyed the craic, and as Arnie says “I will be back”.
- Carol McGuinness
“Going to Uganda with Nurture Africa has to be the one of the most eye opening and inspiring experiences of my life so far. Uganda as a country is captivating, as the people are the happiest people I have ever met, but yet so many have so little and have to endure such extreme poverty, illness, and hardship! Getting to witness firsthand how our worlds are so different was difficult at times. However seeing the incredible work done by the Nurture Africa team on a daily basis and the positive and sustainable difference it is making to the lives of people in Uganda, is truly impossible to describe and give justice to in just a few words. Getting to be a small part of what they do and contributing to the lives of these people in Uganda for two weeks was truly an experience I could never forget, and it has had such a positive impact on my life. I take away such incredible memories. I can’t recommend enough volunteering with Nurture Africa in Uganda!”
- Róisín Deasy
Deloitte Volunteers Odhran Keane, Roisin Deasy and Aisling O'Sullivan providing Financial Capacity Building workshop in Nurture Africa partner organisation CCCU
Nurture Africa places a strong emphasis on the importance of debriefing as a means to bring this whole journey/experience to a close. The returning home phase of any volunteer experience can be as challenging, or even more so, than that of arriving in Uganda initally. Family and friends are very keen to hear about the Ugandan experience and yet as a returnee, it can be very difficult (sometimes impossible) to find the words to sum up the experience! Having experienced poverty and the challenges associated with it in Uganda, "problems" at home can sometimes feel insignificant to a recently returned volunteer.
The debriefing session (which takes place 4 weeks after returning home) provides everyone who volunteered in Uganda together, the space to discuss the experience of Uganda and of returning to Ireland. Any aspect that a volunteer wishes to discuss is covered and the support and advice of the group is provided to anyone who is having difficulty with any issues resulting from the experience of Uganda or challenges upon returning to Ireland. It also provides the space for us the celebrate the positive contribution that our volunteers have made and to share some life long memories and stories...
"The debriefing session is an important part of the volunteering experience. It’s the end point of the journey where we can meet again on home soil and tell stories and swap memories. It also gives us the opportunity to discuss any challenges we encountered on the trip or ask any questions we have had since we came home. It’s a good space to chat and get support from the other people who were there too and who know exactly what we are talking about!"
- Brian Furey
"As well as being a great chance to catch up and see everyone again- the debrief was such a good opportunity to step back and evaluate the whole Uganda experience.
I didn’t realise until I was there, in the thick of it- that it was something that I really needed.
After returning, as much as you might fight it- things go back to normal, and very very quickly..
At first, my explanations of my time in Nansana were lengthy and colourful- but after a few days my reply to ‘How was it?!’ from interested friends, family and colleagues – became almost repetitive ‘great/amazing’ or some other unworthy ‘one- word summation’ of the whole life changing experience!
The debrief was like a refresher for my mind and my memories- an airing of all the thoughts and feelings that I consciously or subconsciously had while I was in Uganda.
And the thing that I valued most from it was sitting and listening to the views and experiences of the others, those who had been with me the whole time!
Actually listening and understanding and considering how they had seen and perceived and reacted to -the exact same situations that I had been in."
- Lorna Hurley
"My placement in Uganda was emotionally challenging at times but overall it was a very rewarding trip and one which I would recommend.
I never experienced such extreme poverty first-hand, and yet the children especially seemed so content with their lot! As a teacher myself the students impressed me significantly. Walking into a classroom in
Nansana where there can be up to 150 pupils at any one time had a huge impact on me.
Children were extremely enthusiastic, eager to learn, well disciplined and for the most part happy!
I arrived home exhausted but delighted to have contributed in my own small way towards Nurture Africa's attempts to create a better, more equitable world and I look forward to returning some time in the future!"
- Ann Marie Kilkenny
"Looking back on the experience as a whole, there was never a dull moment. We partook in various activities ranging from painting, construction work, business visits, library sessions and games with school children. However, the Home Visits were the highlight for me as they epitomised the nature of the work carried out by Nurture Africa. Offering assistance to those infected with or affected by HIV is how Nurture Africa first laid its roots. Experiencing first-hand the impact the work of the organisation was having on these people’s lives highlighted the value of the work they do. Interacting with those people who are infected with HIV and seeing their positivity toward life makes you think…
The Crane House was great! Our host and chef, Fahad, was a joy to be around. He kept the gang entertained and cooked up some exquisite meals and the food was plentiful. I lived with a fantastic group of volunteers who had travelled to Uganda for this particular placement too. It made the experience far more enjoyable then I could ever have hoped for."
- Odhan Keane
"I first volunteered with Nurture Africa in 2013 and returned for this placement. It's the hope, spirit and resilience of the people who Nurture Africa work with that brought me back...
Will I return in 2015???? I've already started my fundraising!
- Gina Corbett
Gina Corbett and Brian Furey facilitating a Library Reading Session in Wisdom Junior Primary School, Nansana.
Nurture Africa would like to thank all of our October 2014 volunteers for taking the time to compile this blog.