I volunteered in Uganda with GVN's local partner organization and taught in the Children's Village.
I stayed with the family of the man who created the program, Valance. Valance and his wife, Doreen, made my stay very welcoming and comfortable. Doreen is an incredibly sweet woman with a big heart and cooks amazing food! The local food was good, not overly seasoned and high in dense carbs.
The people in Uganda were all very friendly and warm, and full of smiles. The children LOVE you! As soon as they see you they want all your attention! I felt kind of like a celebrity. ha ha
You take your life in your hands every time you get in a taxi or on a boda-boda (motorcycle that takes passengers). The boda experience is fun, but sometimes a bit scary. Taxi drivers are crazy and I recommend you sit towards the middle or back. You don't want to see them drive! Also, they will try to overcharge you so make sure you know what the price of the taxi or boda ride is before you get on, and negotiate the price before hand.
While I went through GVN, they put me in contact with Leslie who runs their partner NGO. She then placed me with Valance and his NGO. Leslie is a wonderful woman who really helped me out when I decided to come to Uganda. She was willing to answer any question I had no matter how silly it sounded, and she never made me feel silly for asking it. She was very welcoming and happy to have me there.
The school I worked with was great! The children didn't speak much English as they were learning it there in school. But the teachers would translate what I said to them during class time so we were all understood. The teachers were very supportive. My favorite teacher was Madam Sara who taught the Kindergarten. I could see that the children really enjoyed her class and were learning a lot! She understood that the little ones have short attention spans, and she would have them sing and dance and have a 5 minute break to run outside. She loved having volunteers come in and teach new things. She is very smart and full of energy. She had to be since her class had 50 students!
On my last day at the school I couldn't hold back and ended up crying as I said my good-byes. It practically broke my heart to leave them! We are told as volunteers, not to cry in front of the children because they will think it's their fault that you are crying. And I tried so hard to hold it in, but I couldn't do it! I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I cried for almost 20 minutes as I left the school and headed back to the taxi stop.
My volunteer experience in Uganda lasted one month. I spent the first 2 weeks feeling like I was on an adventurous vacation. In the 3rd week, the culture shock of it all finally hit and I realized I wasn't on vacation and I wanted to go home. By the end of the 3rd week and beginning of my last week, I was ready to move to Uganda. It was a very sad day when I left.
I have since been back to visit once, and plan on going back again! Uganda will forever hold a piece of my heart, and my experience is one I will never forget. I know I made a difference with some of those kids, but most importantly, that experience made a difference in me.