Why did you decide to volunteer with AV in Uganda?
Kate: I had never been to sub-Saharan Africa before, and I was really keen to experience it for myself (aside from just the impression that you get from wildlife and fundraising programmes on TV). AV offered something special in that you had a real, long-term involvement with your school and a chance to really understand that people and culture of a place, before having some time at the end to do more touristy things and explore the region yourself. I also liked that you were put in a small village in a small group, going in pairs to teach, giving you an opportunity to really make the most of your time at school, and spend time socializing in the village. It was also reassuring to know that there was in-country support for the entire duration of the trip. I chose Uganda because it looked like an absolutely stunning country that was slightly off of the beaten track of East African tourist-traps.
Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Kate: A normal weekday would probably go a bit like this: wake up at around 7.30am, no need for an alarm clock, to the sounds of cow mooing, cockerels crowing and children playing by the well outside. After a quick breakfast, a dab of suncream, and packing up all of the sports equipment or books that we (my partner and I) would need for the day we headed outside for our 20 minute walk to school. This was probably one of the best parts of the day. We loved walking out of our village (waving at, or hi-fiving all of the little children who had stood up to say 'Jambo, mzungu! ('Hello, white person!') and then down the road towards school. We invariably bumped into children from our class, or fellow teachers along the way and enjoyed singing songs or chatting as we ambled (slow African pace) past the vast open fields towards our school building.
Once at school we'd get started with our lessons, perhaps maths for Primary 6, followed by PE with Primary 5. Then break. We would spend most of this half-an-hour playing with the cute little Primary 1s and 2s; chasing them across the football field, playing catch, or just tossing them over our shoulders and spinning them around. Oh, and taking pictures, of course! They LOVE pictures. Then we'd have a quick breakfast (insanely sweet, but nice, tea and some dough balls or samosas from the 'moving market' under the mango tree). A few more lessons later, and it would be time for lunch. We'd play with the children again, and then sit under the trees with the teachers eating posho and beans.
Our afternoons were generally spent doing more relaxed lessons, or painting the school building. At least two days a week we'd take the 105-strong Primary 5 class for art or music....teaching them the words and dances to songs such as 'Waka Waka' and 'Wavin' Flag'. I don't think I will ever forget the sheer excitement of the class that first day when we took the speakers to school and they heard the first bar of 'Waka Waka' - it was magical. After school, we'd enjoy a walk home with a group of people from our class, telling jokes, singing, learning some of their local language and traditional song. We'd head to the trading centre to buy a cold coke, and then go home to mark our books, eat supper and plan the lessons for the next day. Sometimes we'd go to another teacher's house for dinner, other times they'd come to us. Then....bed.
How has this experience impacted your future?
Kate: I think that the experience has definitely changed my perspective on everything, and also my ideas about what I would like to do in the future. I would definitely like to do a lot more travelling, and volunteering, and perhaps pursue a career in international development.