Bridget Sangster, Canada (March 30 - June 26, 2008)
Bridget wrote to an incoming volunteer about her experience in Uganda. I thought you might also be interested in hearing what she has to say about her time in Uganda (esp. those going this summer) and with Bridget's permission I am sharing this with you. Bridget has been with URF in Masaka since March 30th and she is there untill toward the end of June. If you have any questions, she can be reached at her email below:
From: bridget sangster <>
Date: May 8, 2008 12:16 AM
Subject: RE: Hello! I am interested in volunteering in Uganda!
Thanks for your interest in Uganda Rural Fund. I am from Vancouver Canada, and am currently in Uganda on site at the Uganda Rural fund headquaters. I've been here about a month and a half almost. I will be here until the end of June.
Let's talk about Uganda first. Im not sure if you've been to the African Contient before (minus South Africa which in itself is not really like the rest of Africa- but don't tell my south african boyfriend that he gets offended haha although he knows it true!)
I have been to Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa- and let me tell you, uganda's natural beauty is second to none. It's so lush and green, and dense. It is winter here now, so it rains in the morning for a couple of hours, then gets uber hot in the afternoon (not unbarebly hot, like Mozambique, but a 'nice' hot). We stay in Kyetume, a small village about 35kms south west of Masaka. Our homestay facility is more than adequate (in my opinion- although other less flexible volunteers have found it less acceptable). You are provided with a bed with bedding- ive had my own room all this time- but there are MANY volunteers coming in May so im sharing with someone starting May12th. There are bunk beds. There is Latrine toilet (squat toilet) that takes some getting used to, but they are in an outhouse structure, and it doesn't smell like the outhousees at home do (like at outdoor concerts and stuff- those are so gross.) It's actaully quite a good system. There is not running water, but plenty of bottled water to brush your teeth and drink etc. You bath using a basin and a cup- ive bought a water heater so it's actaully pretty good- and saves so much water! Its not until you are bathing by the cup fulll that you realize how much water at home you use! There is a room inside the house for bathing. ELECTRICTY- there is more than the web site claims. I know John Mary is being conservative on the website becaue the power is very sporatic. There is USA/Canada power bars that JM brought in January, so anything you need to plug in (lap top, IPOD) can be plugged in and charged.
Because this is such a new and grassroots organization- it really really effects people at the basic and most important levels. The Ugandan people are so genuine, caring, curious.
We have many different programs running. We have an orpahange for about 20 kids. We are starting a secondary school (with real teachers not volunteers) for senior1-senior3 (like grade 8-11 type thing). There is an afterschool program where kids from grade 1-grade12 come afterschool and learn all curriculum as well as drumming, sports etc. Many of these kids can't afford school fees, so this is their only time to learn. Many of them are orphans, or live with their granparents- OR OTHER KIDS (what we call 'child headed' families.) The upper class in the after school program has an entreprenership (i hate spelling that) project where they are buliding a chciken structure with the goal of selling chickens and eggs to raise money for further education. Fred (the main volunteer co-ordinator on the ground here) teachs that class. We have a women's empowerment program - where we give talks every sunday to the women of the 6 nieghbouring villages on topics such as domestic voilence (which unfortunatly is common here), sex ed, family planning, women's rights, socail dynamics in the family, communication, child care etc. We also have two entreprenership project just for the women. The cathoic women have a Piggery- URF rasied the money to buy a bunch of pigs who are breeding and the women raise money by selling them etc. We hav had great feed back form the women about this program. Recently starte was the MUSLIM women's Poultry project- much like the Upper class chciken project. They are going to sell chickens and eggs to money to help their households (school fees, food etc).
We just opened our communal computer lab (10 computers- no internet on the teaching PCs-- but three other computers in the office have internet) to typing skills, word, excel, powerpoint etc. We also just open a communal library- the books are few, but the room is great and ready to accept more books. Inside is the text books for all the schooling, as well as business, health, sports, music, art blah blahb blah just like a normal library. We really need more books though!
We have joined forces with Engineers wtihout borders from Minnisoda (sorry for the spelling- the power could cut and i don't have time to go back and check the spelling) for a water and sanation project. Also another group of Engineers at Virginia Tech will be implement a solar power system for the school in December.
There is lots to do, and every single wonderful advancement is only accomplished through international donations. Along with actively working with these programs on the ground, i have me harrassing everyone I know for money (you're only in Uganda once right ??? Actaully once you come once you'll want to come back- ) so get more project goings. For instance- I recognnized that one of my little 8 years old in class was blind as a bat- so we rasied money to take him to the eye doctor and buy him glasses so he can see. There are many opportunities to help in this way- it just a matter of being here, and actively seeking out those who need help (medical, financail etc). AND THERE ARE MANY!
I have really enjoyed my time so far. I really feel like Im making a difference here, which isn't always the case when volunteeering with many other "established" NGO's. I was worried I would come over here and have nothing to do (again with many other NGO's that have rigid schedules and pre planned 'volunteering jobs' etc)- now I am worried that I don't have enough time to do everything!!!!! I would highly recommend this volunteering opportunity.
One note on African time- if you are really type A you might get a little frustrated. African time runs differently- things get started and finished EVENTUALLY. We have had a couple of volunteers who have been difficult to work with- as they aren't flexible to this different mentality of time. This isn't a 9-5 job. You work when there is work to be done- most of the time there is- but something if the power is off and its pouring rain- you might i have a half day where you can't do much- this balances out with the days that are really hectic. Some of the volunteers have been really rigid with this- and want everything done "here and now", but the facilities here don't cater to this mentality- which can be frustrating. At home to buy school supplies you'd go to walmart or staples and while there pick up EVERYTHING else you might need.....and be home in like 1/2 hour. Here, buying multiple items can take all day, and you feel like a pinball moving back and forth etc....which can be frustrating. just had to mention this technicality. It not just in Uganda either- that's why its called "African time" haha, but if you've been to india or south america etc they have a similar time mentality.
Please feel free to email more questions-and sorry if it takes some time to get back to you- power isn't always on- but the last few days have been pretty good.
Cheers, take care, and thanks for your interest
What We Do
URF operate: an orphanage, a vocational high school, after school programs, women empowerment programs, child sponsorship, and many more.
URF is a 501(c)(3) charity registered in Uganda, USA, and Canada. We focus on education, health, and community development in the most rural areas of Uganda.
News and Events
- Community Empowerment Seminar attended by 600 people
- 3 new homes built for child headed families.
- Men's group launched.
- Agriculture workshop for August. Business training workshop set for Sept.