I am a UK registered nurse and was looking for opportunities to gain public health experience in low- and middle income countries but wasn't in a position – nor did I want to - give thousands of pounds to an organisation to organise it for me when almost none of that money would go to the local communities I'd be spending my time with. That's when I found The Real Uganda. The RG is run, almost single-handedly, by Leslie who lives in Uganda and arranges placements for volunteers with various local charities. I spent 4 weeks volunteering with FREDAfrica, a grassroots NGO in Uganda that provides vocational training to school leavers to improve job prospects while also delivering public health education and support to remote communities.
I have to say that I never expected such friendly, knowledgeable and genuine support when I signed up but that's what I got! I was met at the airport and taken to Leslie's house where I was given a very warm welcome and some time to kick back, recover from the flight and get used to my new surroundings. The next day I met some of the other volunteers who Leslie had arranged placements for and found I got on well with them all - before long we had all arranged a trip away together for the following weekend! I then met Travis, the director of FREDAfrica and we headed off to the small town in the area where we'd be working.
Travis, Sarah (another volunteer) and I spent our days preparing and delivering talks to remote communities on topics such as nutrition, sanitation, family planning and HIV, planting vegetables and meeting local teenagers who were enrolled on the vocational courses. There were certainly frustrations - the time it takes to do something/anything was very different from what I was used to. I wish I had come more prepared with teaching materials or thought about how i could use my nursing skills to teach, for example, wound care so think I missed an opportunity there. I did, however, learn a lot from the people and communities I was lucky enough to spend time with and what matters to them on a day to day basis. I learnt a lot about the challenges of providing public health services to remote communities and what is involved in order to deliver any such services.
I felt very privileged and touched to have been welcomed the way I was - the genuine friendliness of everyone involved meant I felt safe and settled in to my surrounding quickly. We work during the week and usually spend the weekends away with the other volunteers, travelling to other parts of Uganda. I would recommend The Real Uganda to anyone who wants to gain more experience of public health at a grassroots level in Uganda or even to gain a different perspective of that great country and its vibrant culture. It was an experience I’ll never forget!