Volunteer Name: Sarah Baird
Project Location: Bulenga, Uganda
Volunteered At: Community Orphanage
How would you describe/rate your experience working with the ABV staff in the USA?
The ABV staff in the USA was wonderful. My 18 yr old daughter and I had decided to spend a week working in the orphanage in Bulenga, Uganda with ABV before working in Kampala on a project of mine and then exploring other parts of Uganda, and our plans were somewhat complex. Early in the planning stages I had to change the dates a few times, and I am very grateful to ABV for their flexibility and support. I also felt very well prepared by the US staff for the trip with well-organized contact numbers both here and abroad and with in-depth descriptions of the projects, country, living situation, and expectations.
How was the local ABV Director and the support provided in-country?
Derrick was attentive, kind, informative, empathic, and a wonderful resource. I trusted him completely.
What was your favorite memory of this trip?
My favorite memory of the trip is teaching four young, wildly enthusiastic and grateful 12 yr old girls mathematics in a tiny, brick room with red-clay floors, no windows or door, a chicken clucking at my heels and a baby (who had wandered into the classroom and asked to be held) in my arms. After we completed the lessons with me writing on a slab of slate propped against a wall and a tattered piece of cloth (shared with another classroom and passed back and forth through a small hole in the wall) used as an eraser, we decided to sing children’s songs, clapping for one another and trying to make music together. These kids and the adults working with them somehow navigate their extraordinarily challenging lives with unbridled positivity and love. It was a wonderful memory filled with unfathomable amounts of joy and hope and was a life lesson in acceptance and gratitude.
What was the most difficult thing you experienced?
The most difficult thing I experienced was being so far out of my comfort zone in our living conditions. While I was expecting very basic conditions, I was unprepared for the overall intensity of the experience. I have never lived in a deeply impoverished (and fairly disheveled) place before and was unsure of how safe my daughter and I were. And all in all our experience was incredible.
What was the one thing you wished you were better prepared for?
I wish that I was better prepared for the conditions of the school and had brought even more pens and paper and workbooks and children’s clothing.
Any tips for future volunteers… (clothing, travel, personal items, donations, sightseeing etc)
Definitely bring long skirts and t-shirts and sturdy shoes you don’t mind getting covered in mud every day, as the rains wash away the roads. Bring tons of wipes and a good headlamp (especially for nighttime bathroom runs without electricity) and batteries and some movies on your ipod and protein bars. For donations, children’s shoes and dresses and t-shirts are probably the most useful thing for the orphans. They also loved the pens and workbooks and candies.
Don’t miss a trip to Jinja and if you have time you can go sight seeing around the country. We hired African Pearl Safari for 6 days and they were incredible.
Personal Paragraph (ABV Program Testimonial):
There is nothing more meaningful than giving back to others, and ABV facilitates life-changing trips. My daughter and I loved our time together and made lifelong friends. We both hope to go back sometime in the next couple of years.
Are you willing to speak to other potential ABV volunteers? yes