Volunteer Name: Jayme Ward
Project Location: Bulenga, Wakiso District, Uganda
Program Dates: May 20th-27th 2012
Volunteered At: Orphanage / Community education
How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA? Everyone at ABV was very prompt to respond to my multitude of questions I had before my trip. Sarah was great helping me work out the dates of my trip, even when we had to change things up a bit.
Would you consider volunteering again with the our organization? I would most definitely consider working again with this group in Bulenga.
Did you get on well with the local ABV Staff and feel supported during your stay? Derrick, Sam, and Drake are some of the most inspiring people I have met. I have never known people so willing to support me in my efforts to help their organization. Everyone was above and beyond my expectations. During my stay, I got really sick with the flu. When he found out, Derrick the ABV Director dropped everything he was working on and took me immediately to get medical attention. He stayed with me in the hospital for over 3 hours while we waited to see a doctor. He took us to the supermarket to get water or crackers when we needed it and always made sure we were comfortable. Drake was also one of the kindest, most supportive people. Anything we had questions about–Drake was the man with the answers. I will miss all of those guys so much!
What was your favorite memory of this trip?
My favorite memory of this trip was walking to the center in the mornings. The walk is pretty rough–don’t get me wrong, it definitely was hike-esque. But once you finally made it to the main road up the hill, you would see the children waiting with Drake on the other side to walk to school. I loved seeing these kids in the morning. Everyone wants to hold the Mzungu’s hand and walk to school, so at any given time during the walk there’d be about 5 kids hanging onto each of your arms. Doing the “Elephant” song with the kids was pretty fun too–even though I am sure they thought I looked ridiculous doing the dance. Overall, my favorite part of this trip was knowing that I challenged myself to do things I never thought I could–and then meeting and exceeding those challenges.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
The most difficult thing I experienced was being entirely mentally and emotionally unprepared for what Bulenga was all about. Somehow I must have had certain expectations for what Bulenga would be like, since I had stayed in Gulu for a week before. I should have left all my expectations behind because I was totally culture shocked and homesick the moment I got to Bulenga. I cried and thought I wouldn’t be able to make it through the one week (one week, I know..) that I would be there. But I decided to challenge myself and try to stick it out and I am so so so glad I did. I met some amazing, unimaginably kind people in Bulenga. I saw things that broke my heart and things that filled me with overwhelming joy. This trip was the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and the easiest thing I have ever done all at the same time, and if you go, you’ll know exactly what I mean. Bulenga knocked all the things I thought I knew about Africa clear out of my head. It changed me. I am a stronger, kinder, and more humble person than I was when I left and for that, I feel really blessed to have been able to do this trip.
Any tips for future volunteers… (Clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
#1) LEAVE EVERYTHING YOU THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT IT’S GOING TO BE LIKE BEHIND. It’s not what you think–trust me. If you want to come out of this experience a better, stronger person, than this is exactly the trip you need to take.
#2) A package of Hanes white tee shirts and jeans and a few skirts is really all you need. I over packed–excessively.
#3) Try to go to the craft market in Kampala
#4) Eat Rolex, Chapai, Fried Bread, Pan, Cassava, G-Nuts with Rice and Porridge at least once. Go get ice cream at the gas station. (Most of it is street food, and I never got sick)
#5) Bring candies for the kids and keep them in your day pack for giving out
#6) Learn a few of the local phrases “Ki kati” (for What’s up?), “Webele” (Thank you) “Jabale Ko” (Hello/How are you)
#7) Take a Boda-Boda everywhere, and negotiate prices before you get on the motorcycle.
#8) Bring pictures of your family to show people. They get a kick out of it.
#9) Buy a phone if you are there for a long time. MTN or Orange are the cheapest.
#10) Let Africa kick your butt. Africa slapped me in the face and made me realize everything I thought I knew was incorrect. Documentaries can’t prepare you. Books can’t prepare you. YOU can’t prepare you. Only Africa can show you who she is. Ask her questions, look deep, find her, learn, be changed.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
Before I left for Uganda I really thought I knew was I was getting myself into. I thought I was well prepared and knew everything I needed to get me through. What I realized when I got to Uganda was that I was totally unprepared. I guess I was experiencing culture shock on a massive scale. When I arrived, I really thought I wouldn’t be strong enough to make it through. You see a lot of things that you don’t see at home. I didn’t expect the smells, the tastes, the feel, the homesickness, the heartbreak, the poverty, the hardship–which made it rough for me at times. What I also didn’t expect was to be welcomed by some of the kindest people in the world, to be treated like a celebrity by a swarm of 7 year-old kids, for someone to devote their day just to do the things I wanted to do, for me to devote my heart to staying connected with these people, to have a new favorite food that comes from a roadside vendor on a dirty street, and to become who I am now as a result of what I experienced in Uganda. It’s worth while to do the things that scare you. It makes you realize who you are and what you’re capable of. It’s so worth it. Go.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? Yes–I should’ve done that. Please email me any questions.