My Experience in Uganda with URF, Frankie Keegan, Ireland
I have returned home from my experiences in Uganda and I am currently settling back in to the high quality of life that I had taken for granted for so long. The three weeks I spent volunteering with Uganda Rural Fund have really helped me put my things into perspective and has left me with a much broader outlook on life. For this I am forever grateful.
It had long been an intention of mine to work on a volunteer basis in Africa but with work commitments I was not sure if I would ever get the opportunity. However, this year I was granted a period of unpaid leave from work and I felt it would be a good idea to use part of this for my voluntary work.
Having never done any before, I knew very little about volunteer work so I set about looking for options on the internet. It was during these searches that I came across Uganda Rural Fund and Hope
Academy. I made contact with John Mary and it was organised that I would do three weeks work during the month of May 2008.
On arrival in Uganda my first impressions were of a naturally beautiful country with very friendly people. All greetings were very warm and genuine. As it was my first visit to a developing country I was also struck by the poverty that was evident in many places we passed on the journey from the airport. It was all very new and interesting and straight away I knew I liked it!
The drive from the airport in Entebbe to the village of Kyetume (pronounced chetumay and is where hope academy is located) takes about four hours. I had read the information on the website about the living conditions to be expected but I was pleasantly surprised to find them very comfortable. We ate very well (thanks to Jja Jja), the sleeping conditions were very good and although the toilets were holes in the ground in an out house, they were very clean and certainly not as bad as many public toilets I have used. The electricity was more reliable than I expected, bottled water was available to drink and rain water was collected to wash with. Overall it was very pleasant.
Besides getting used to the living conditions on the first day, I also met the other volunteers and the family members who were all very friendly and welcoming. My first afternoon also had me introduced to the kids who were attending the after school project and it was such a breath of fresh air to witness their friendliness and genuine enthusiasm about the presence of the volunteers.
Very soon after arriving I did my best to start helping out with projects that were being run and any jobs that needed attending. The other volunteers ( Bridget and Melissa at the time. Kate, Laura and Kayla arrived later) informed me of the projects which included the piggery/poultry projects, the women’s empowerment meetings and the family outreach programme which requires us to visit the homes of the kids who were attending the after school project. With the building of the school in progress there were also a number of D.I.Y jobs to get stuck in to such as painting and window fitting. It was all very new to me but I did my best to help out in any way that I could. We also ran the after school project with the kids in the evening which meant doing a bit of teaching and general management of the children. Again the enthusiasm and willingness to learn shown by the kids was very rewarding and it was always a joy to interact with them.
Some of our work required road trips in a crowded car to the town of Masaka and to Kampala itself which were about one and two hours north respectively. These trips were generally to facilitate medical attention to some of the kids who accompanied us. We also used the trips to pick up supplies that were not available in Kyetume.
And so this work continued for my time in Uganda with every day providing me with memories that I will never forget. One of the highlights of the trip for me was playing football (soccer for those of you in the US and Canada) with the kids of Hope
Academy and some other local players. Being the only “Muzungu” (white person) playing amongst these extremely fit and fast players in their bare feet on a pitch of the likes I had only ever seen on television was a very surreal and amazing experience for me. A memory I will always cherish.
The time for me to leave came far too quickly but boarding the flight home I had a good feeling about my short experience in Uganda. I had learned so much myself and I hope I provided some good for the people of Kyetume, Uganda.
Settling back in to my normal routine now, I approach my daily tasks with a different perspective on life and I also fully appreciate how lucky I am to lead the life that I live.
I have also managed to convince myself to run the Dublin marathon (26.2 miles) in October of this year in order to raise money for Uganda Rural Fund.
Wish Me Luck!!!!