I am spending 12 months volunteering as a teacher in Kyenjojo, West Uganda from August 2013 to August 2014. I am doing this alongside the not-for-profit charity Project Trust. - http://www.projecttrust.org.uk - I will be teaching English and Art whilst encouraging Drama and Music.
All of the contents in this blog are completely my own opinion, experiences and encounters and not the opinion of Project Trust.
I have arrived
safely back to the UK and this marks my last blog post. So, first a thank you
if you have been keeping up with my life in Uganda every so often. It is still
hard for me to believe that it has come to an end.
P.6 Class at breaktime.
As I said in my
previous blog post, July was the time where I had to say goodbye to my Primary
Six class. It has never been easy teaching up to 100 children especially with
such a huge age range. My youngest in the class were 11 and my eldest were
16.This meant that some had a pretty
confident level of English and for others it was much harder. So teaching involved patience and perseverance! When I first
arrived to start teaching maybe only three quarters of the class would listen
and complete the work whilst the other quarter would be disruptive. I
eventually won them all over by being “A very nice Madam today” to then be
“Strict Madam” when they were not behaving well. I hardly ever raised my voice
because I just sound stupid when I shout so I had to learn the skill of
projecting my voice and silencing 100 children! I seemed to gain their approval
when things didn’t quite go to plan – such as falling on my bum in the mud
outside the classroom, occasionally getting my words in a muddle when teaching,
a spelling mistake and drawing awful animal diagrams on the chalkboard that
made me wonder if going on to art college is such a good idea... I feel that to
them, because I’m white with “yellow hair and goggles” (goggles meaning
glasses…) they thought I was someone very different to them so it was being
relaxed and making a mistake now and then that made them realise I was just
definitely a bigger challenge than I first expected but well worth the effort
and time. I am very proud of my class for working so well and their English has
improved so much that I had a few people who live near the school telling me
that the students actually talk to each other in English outside of school
rather than in their local language of Rutooro. This is a huge step upwards as
English is rarely spoken outside of the classroom. All aspects of their English
improved and that is what I came out to Uganda to achieve.
The remainder of
my time in July was spent at Home Again orphanage. We did art club endlessly! I
even played a few games of basketball with the younger ones, which didn’t go
too well as they refused to learn the rules and when I scored a goal for my
team instead of celebrating they accused me of “stealing the ball.” I quickly
learnt that it was better to not score goals and to just pass the ball on to
someone in my team!
week in Kaihura was when it really sunk in that we were leaving and that we
would not be living in Uganda forever. That is when we all started to find each
day very difficult on an emotional scale. The first time it sunk in was when I
was doing art club. It was one of those days where I was on a bit of a short
temper as it was one of the hottest days I had experienced in a while, the sun
was burning us even though we were in the shade, the children were in a
particularly hyperactive mood and had forgotten their manners so were up
screaming in my face, “Bella! Bella! Paper! Paper! Give me paper! Bella! I want
a pencil. Give me pencil! Bella he has my pencil. Belllaaaaaaa!!!! Paper! And
me and me and me and me paperrrr.” So I was smiling trying to give out paper as
fast as I could and eventually it calmed down and I had about 30 seconds to
breath. We do art club on the steps outside the dorms as we have no tables, so
I was sitting on the top step glaring at them all/ looking at them lovingly as
I can be annoyed with them but I can never stay angry for long and I realised
as high maintenance these children are in a week or two I am not going to have
them in my life everyday, for every week, for another year… Then Margaret cut
her toe on a stone and started screaming and Joseph stole Vincent’s pencil with
lead to a few tears and a few firm words from me to resolve it and thennnn… I
lost it! I gave the paper to Jodie (one of my Project Trust partners) to take
over and had to go and sit at the bottom of the hill for a little while. People
tell you about all the amazing people that you will meet on a year overseas and
how the hardest part is settling in but no one emphasizes how difficult or
emotionally scarring it is to leave!! And also how it tends to hit you all at
once, not gradually. From then onwards, I think for all of us, every time we
spent time with the children we were practically holding back tears.
What the children
found difficult was that they were so used to having us around. We may have
gone away for a weekend of the odd week or two in the holidays but we always
came back. During my year there have been a few short-term volunteer teams and
they have done really great work in Kaihura. When they were here, we suddenly
become “old news” but when they left they would be waiting for us again. It was
hard to communicate to the children that this time when we go away we are not
coming back. (I hope to go back to Uganda but sadly it will not be in a week or
Saying goodbyes to
everyone in Kaihura really brought into focus how many friends I have made over
the last year. Ugandan’s from my experience are not as free and open with their
emotions as people in the UK so when some of our adult friends started crying
it was the very last thing we were expecting!
For our last week
in Uganda we went to Jinja to unwind and relax. Almost all of the Project Trust
volunteers were there so it was really nice for us all to have a catch up.
Being back in
England has been slightly mind-blowing.
Playing at Home Again.
All year I have
mostly had to cook with only 8 ingredients – Pasta, rice, flour, oil, tomatoes,
onions, cabbage and avocado. (A very
exciting, rare find would be some green peppers, potatoes or a cauliflower!) So
can you imagine how strange it would feel to me walking into a Tesco where
there is food everywhere…
Two things I need
to stop doing now that I’m back in the UK are:
strangers in the street.
I have come to notice that I will either be ignored or
looked at like I’m scary when I walk past some one and say, “Hello! How are
2. Sitting on
In most public areas there are chairs available so I
no longer need to sit on the floor. I also caused my friend some embarrassment
when I suddenly decided to sit on the floor in the middle of Topshop…
My year living and
working in Uganda has been phenomenal. I have met the most welcoming, caring,
unique people that have become some of the best friends I shall ever have.
Living in such a different country took a while to adjust to but has been such
an irreplaceable experience with many challenges but I have learnt so much from
it. I went out to Uganda hoping to give as much as I could to the people I
would be working with but I did not realise how much Uganda and its people
would give to me. Every hardship I faced would be made up with many more
positives. I have come home feeling like I have achieved more than I thought I
could and knowing that I have left something very good. It has been so
satisfying watching my class grow in confidence with their English and on a
more personal level watch the children grow up at Home Again orphanage. They
have been the best of friends to me and it was heartbreaking to leave them.
I have also
watched the charity Bringing Hope To The Family expand. It is a fantastic charity
set up by a wonderful lady called Faith who always kept an eye out for us over
the year. It consists of Home Again Orphanage, Hope Again Medical Centre, Hope
Academy Primary School, Village Art (Cafe, Workshop, Craft Shop, Bridal
Boutique and Hair Salon), a vocational school and the Bringing Hope To The Family
Offices. Without Faith setting up this charity which started on 5,000 Ugandan
Shillings (£1.25) there would be a lot of homeless, unloved children. So I
would like to thank Faith and everyone who works for Bringing Hope To The
Family for all their inspiring work.