I spent six weeks in Uganda volunteering with the Public Health Improvement project. I was based in Mukono and each week travelled out to different villages to participate in some public health initiatives.
The first village, Kitale, we visited a Primary School specifically for children who are orphans. We were working right in the classroom, and teaching the students about sex education, as well as sanitation. We spent hours playing in the field - I taught them how to play Frisbee, a popular Canadian game where you throw a disc through the air, and the kids ended up playing better than I did!
The second village, Bugadu, was one of my favorites. We visited local homes and took surveys on the knowledge villagers had regarding their own public health - birth control, family planning, domestic violence, HIV/AIDS awareness, healthy eating, water sanitation, etc. In this village, we spoke with a local group of women, who diligently work together to empower each other economically - by growing corn, as well as making beads to sell. During a meeting in this village which was being conducted in Luganda, which I did not understand, I spent four hours just playing with the kids. Laughing, and dancing. Throwing balls around and again, playing Frisbee. It was one of the high lights of my trip. Just the kids and I.
In Kasana, the third village, GVN's partner organization was just visiting for the first time. We did a lot of initial work by consulting with individuals who were extremely passionate about the welfare of their home. This trip was full of meetings. By the time we were set to leave, we had plans to set up a water sanitation system, because the villagers were fetching their water from a mud hole as well as the Nile, neither of which are clean water sources.
There was one week that we stayed based in Mukono. During this week, we went to local high school and told them about GVN's partner organization, which hopes to be a public health leader within their school and community.
I loved being in Uganda. The GVN partner and her team were incredible, and I have kept in touch with all of them. Weekends were for free time, and there was tons of things to do in the surrounding areas of Kampala, Mukono, and Jinja, as well as the options of travelling to Northern or Western Uganda.
I've had a once in a lifetime experience, and I have plans to go back some day.
Everything runs on Uganda time, which can be anywhere from fifteen minutes late to a day late. It is very frustrating when in Canada, it is a level of respect to be on time. In this case, you need to prepare for all of the downtime. Bring word puzzles. Bring books. Talk to people. This is a cultural issue, not a program issue.