Melissa's Experience in Uganda, April - May, 2008
Last Days in Uganda
2:35pm, May 12, 08
Well, my time here in lovely Uganda is almost over... I'm excited to come home and see my family and friends, but I'm very sad to leave this beautiful place. My experiences here have been wonderful, and I've learned so much.
Since my last note, I've been very busy getting the school ready for operation. Painting, puttying, cleaning, organizing, drafting handbooks, creating LOTS of spreadsheets (so that everything will remain organized once I leave), and much, much more. Bridget and I (and now Frankie) are continuously bringing people into Masaka to go to the clinic to receive treatment and/or testing, as this is something most people simply cannot afford. I've also taken on the task of helping to organize, fundraise for, and put on a conference for the people of the area in (hopefully) June. We hope to get numerous speakers from all over Uganda to come and speak about issues such as human/women's rights, entrepreneurship, family planning, etc. We've been presenting seminars every Sunday in different regions to the women's groups, but we hope to get both men and women to come and hear seminars on multiple issues all in two days from speakers that are more local (and who speak Luganda). It should be a very beneficial endeavor, so I'll continue to plan this event from home.
Since my last update, we've had two more volunteers arrive: Frankie from Dublin, and Kate from Vancouver. They're both fitting in very nicely, and I know they'll do great work once I'm gone. There are also a lot of other volunteers coming in the following months from all over the world, so I'm confident that things will continue to progress at Uganda Rural Fund. As well, there is talk of starting up a Canadian branch of the organization, so perhaps I'll continue to be highly involved.
Like I've said before, the people here are the best. Everyone is so warm, friendly, and inviting. I've never felt uncomfortable or uneasy, and everyone treats me like I'm either their family member or that I've known them for all my life.
I think I'll miss the kids the most. I hope they remember me because I'll never forget them! Ugandan children are all so beautiful, inside and out. Their spirits are so loving and innocent; their smiles will remain locked in my heart forevermore.
On that note, I can't wait to come back. I hope my internship later this year will bring me back to Uganda, but if not, I hope it's close so that I can visit frequently. I was a little skeptical of the organization at first because it's not a large organization, but I'm so glad I chose Uganda Rural Fund. This truly is one organization that is succeeding in helping to empower people and develop rural Uganda. If any of you ever want to donate to a worthy cause, this is it. Like I've said before, there are no admin fees or money paid out for salaries; all the money donated goes to help the people here. A big thank you to the host family and all the volunteers here at Uganda Rural Fund! (A special thank you to Fred, Adrian, John, and John Mary!)
Okay, I suppose I'll be seeing some of you very soon! I hope this finds all of you well! As all of you know, I have a very hectic schedule, but I hope to find time to get together with all of you to tell you more about my amazing experience here! Until then, take care! With love, M.
Earlier posting by Melissa - if you have time to read:
Updates from Uganda
4:48pm Sunday, Apr 20
Well, I've been here for almost a week, and I must say, I have fallen in love with the place! The people are amazing! I want to hug every child I see!!! And yes, I'm taking lots of pictures! I hope to have some of them up on facebook later this week.
Our biggest priority is setting up the school. Hope Integrated Academy will be a primary, secondary, and vocational school for the entire community. As it stands, some kids are walking over 10 kms to and from school each day for school. This will help hundreds of children, youth, and adults in the area.
In the past few days, Bridget and I have been very busy trying to set up the library. We've been making library cards, sorting books, and inputting them into a database. If we have power tomorrow during the day, we will be able to finish that project! (My OCD highly enjoys completing things I've started!) The next major project is the office in the school, which we hope to complete by the end of the week. So far, only two classrooms have been completed because the organization lacks the funding for finishing the floors and walls in the remaining 12 rooms. SOOOOO, if any of you have any extra money that you're looking to donate, here is an EXCELLENT cause! No admin fees, no advertising fees, no salaries being skimmed off, EVERY penny is spent on projects that I see taking place FIRST HAND! If you're interested, please email me or check out www.ugandaruralfund.org or www.hopeacademyuganda.org. There also is a section on child sponsorship to send kids to school. These are all kids I've met (they come to the after-school program because it's free, but they can't afford to go to real school), and to send them to school for a term costs about the same as a night out for us.... ;)
The major daily activity we engage in is teaching the aforementioned after-school program for different age groups in different subjects. We spent three days last week doing sex ed. It was fantastic how many good questions they asked. We discovered and corrected a lot of misconceptions about sex, pregnancy, and STDs, so we're very happy about that.
If you read the first note I wrote, you might remember the two teenagers who are living together because both sets of their parents have died. Yesterday, Bridget and I took them into Masaka (the nearest town; population 65,000) on a shopping spree! We bought them some new outfits, undergarments, toiletries, and other household items they lacked. After shopping, we took them to a cafe that we had heard about from a German girl we had run into last week. The cafe specializes in European cuisine, so we all had cheeseburgers and fries! LOL! Although the food here has been very good, it's nice to eat something familiar!
The weather has been decent. It is their rainy season, and it has rained most nights and mornings, but it is clear, sunny, and warm during the afternoons and evenings. No tan as of yet, but I somehow managed to burn my neck and shoulders (thank goodness for aloe!). Hopefully I can get some sort of colour before I come back to Winnipeg; by the sounds of it, you're having fab weather and you'll prolly all have better tans than me!!! grrrr!
Tomorrow morning we will be conducting our family outreach program, which we do twice a week. Basically, we go to a family of one of the students from our after-school program to talk with their family. It gives us a better understanding of the child's situation and problems they may be facing. I've gotten to know quite a few of the students already, but there are so many to remember! Some of them are so smart; I know they'll go on to do very big things!
Anyway, it's time for bed (it's almost midnight - I believe there is an eight hour difference; I lost track of it during my five flights to get here!). I hope all of you are well! I've been feeling very healthy and strong (knock on wood!). Take care, and I hope to talk to all of you soon! xoxo, M.
First days in Uganda!
3:18pm Tuesday, Apr 15
Once I finally got into Uganda, I stepped off the plane and immediately felt warm and comfortable. Everyone was so happy, helpful, and friendly, and my host family greeted me so warmly!!! I loved it! On the ride back to the village (4 hours from the airport), we stopped in the capital city so I could exchange some money. Well, I went to an ATM to withdraw money, and because I was trying to figure out the conversion, my session on the ATM timed out and it swallowed my card!!!! What was I to do??? Thankfully, Fred and Adrian (the guys from my host family) were able to talk the bank into getting my card back, even though their practice is to only do that the following day. Anyway, I was able to finally get money, and that seems to have been the only bad luck so far (knock on wood!).
The village here is really nice. My host family is amazing! The food is good, and although we don't have running water and the electricity is sporatic, I'm loving it! Today was my first day helping out with the after-school program, and the kids are wonderful! There is another volunteer here, Bridget, and she's from Vancouver. She and I have had such great times together already, talking about things that only Canadians would, like Tim Hortons, back bacon, and our over-apologetic nature (for example, if someone steps on your foot, YOU say sorry...lol!).
Today we went to a child-led household (a boy and girl who both lost their parents, so they are living together to support one another), and Bridget had bought things for their 10'x5' house (yes, there IS a place smaller than mine!) like a tarp for their roof (it was leaking), 2 floor mats, 2 matresses (they had been sleeping on clothes on a dirt floor), sheets, blankets, 2 mosquito nets, shelving, dishes, and a lantern. They were so excited and so appreciative. How great! And what is so ridiculous is that ALL of these things only cost her about $150...which is what we spend on a night out....these things change lives, and we waste our money on stupid things when we could be helping so many...Anyway, it just astounds me how much can be purchased here for so little of our money.
Tomorrow I get to go see the orphanage, so I'm looking forward to that. In our spare time, Bridget and I have been organizing things to get ready for the new school that is being built. (Which, for those of you that know my OCD, is AMAZING FUN for me!!!! hehe!!!) I'll be sure to send another update soon. When we have electricity (which is most evenings), I have as much internet access as I want, so feel free to send me messages!!! I hope everyone is well!!!! Ttys! xoxo! -Melissa
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.