Why did you decide to volunteer abroad with GVN in Uganda?
Caitie: I I decided to volunteer abroad with GVN when I realized a had a passion for travelling and an innate instinct to learn more about social justice, human rights and development. I had recently graduated with a degree in Business and decided my ideal career lay somewhere in the international business/development field. I figured that getting a career in development with no background might be a bit challenging. I thought volunteering in Uganda would be a great opportunity to do something that would confirm if this was a career path I might want, as well as challenge myself to be a global citizen, learning more about new cultures, people and ways of life while making an impact in a community that had far less resources than my own.
What made this volunteer abroad experience unique and special?
Caitie: The entire experience was unique and special for me. It was my first time living in a developing country and my first time with a host of other things! The most special part of the trip was the opportunity to meet so many amazing people. From Leslie, the woman who works with all the volunteers GVN sends to Uganda and is always there to support you, to the people I worked with in the village. I learned how people have far more in common than I had considered. I also think the experience helped me to trust my instincts and recognize that I am capable of more than I gave myself credit for. I think it was also special because of the things it didn't do; I didn't walk away from the experience feeling I had the answers I came looking for, and I actually left with far more questions! It definitely had a profound effect on the choices I made afterwards, in my career and life in general.
Do you feel like you made a significant impact on the local community? Why or why not?
Caitie: If I'm very honest, I don't. Volunteering is a funny thing. I think you always get much more out of it than you give and this is true back in Michigan (where I'm from), or abroad. I'd like to think that perhaps inspired a child to study a bit harder or to think critically, or provided some advice for one of the women in the health clinic that convinced them to do something that would improve the health of their newborn, but I can't be sure. What I am certain of is that I made friends I still have to this day and they continue to make a significant impact on my life!
What's something interesting about Uganda that the average person doesn't know?
Caitie: There are so many things! One that most people don't know is that in Uganda, rolexes are cheap and delicious! Found in any village, a rolex is the name of a chapatti that is rolled around scrambled eggs with veg, typically tomatoes and onions. Basically, it's an incredible breakfast burrito for about 75 cents. Uganda was also just listed as the most ethnically diverse country in the world!
How has this experience impacted your future? (Personally, professionally, etc)
Caitie: It's impacted every part of my life. I still remember many parts of it vividly (it's been almost 4 years!) and it played a role in the career path I took immediately following. Personally, I think it helped me mature and I credit the generosity of Ugandans for that. I also learned a great deal by from the shocking realization that I was a classic overconsumer and had some pretty nasty overconsumption habits! Again, I credit my time in Uganda for helping me become a more conscientious, responsible person. Writing this, I feel so selfish with how much I took out of an experience I intended to do to help others!