Thursday, 26 September 2019

It’s a culture shock

Like previous volunteers had written, arriving in Uganda is a bit of a cultural shock. Everything is very different, and even if I had traveled to Asian (developing) countries before and the organization had told us stories and shown us pictures, I was not prepared for Uganda.
Uganda is different from anything I have seen before.
Its capital Kampala is loud and polluted, and crowded and hectic. Pickpockets are everywhere and as Mzungu you are a very flashy aim.

Using public transport is still a challenge. You need to know exactly where you want to go, how much the ride will be and at what moment to tell the driver to stop (“Conductor, parking” is the magic sentence). It will most likely be crowded in the Matatu and of course hot. Traffic jams are normal and 12 km from Nansana to Kampala can easily take 2 hours. Sometimes they kick you even out, as a bigger group is waiting and you need to make space.

Crossing the road is another challenge. The boda-bodas (scooters) appear out of a sudden and cars, trucks and matatus come with an amazing speed. There are no traffic lights or pedestrian walkways and you have to try your luck or find a local and follow him/her across the street.

Power cuts are regular and electricity can be gone for several hours. You have to prepare yourself for showers in the dark, empty phone batteries and of course, think about what is in the fridge. And if it appears during the day, you may work as long as your laptop has battery.

There are a lot of restrictions in Uganda: 

  • don’t swim in the lakes (risk of bilharzia and other parasites), 
  • don’t use the water from the tap except for showering (risk of Cholera and other diseases), 
  • try not to be outside after sunset and don’t use public transport during the night (risk of rape and robbery), 
  • sleep under a mosquito net (risk of Malaria), 
  • avoid sex (risk of HIV),  
  • be careful with street food (risk of stomach problems) and of course, 
  • don’t fall in love with a mzungu hunter (risk of broken heart).

The truth is: it's not so bad :-)

All this information is very intimidating and on my first day I really wondered what I got myself into.
Even though!  10 days have passed and Uganda feels surprisingly good. After a first shock and deep breath, you realize, it’s not that bad. Because of its people. They are incredibly friendly.

Children in the village of Kikooba

Green countryside

Most of the people around Nansana speak good English and once you are used to the accent, it is no problem to talk to people and children and get in touch. We already know some of our neighbors and Nihia, our little Ugandan friend regularly shows up in our kitchen and prepares meals, plays UNO and teaches us some new words in Luganda.

After one week we are able to manage some daily tasks with confidence and even speak first words of Luganda.
Taking some language classes
I have started with my project on Monday and together with UPA we are currently assessing needs and defining first tasks.

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Getting started in Uganda

This is me

My name is Iris, I am 36 years old and I am a EU Aid Volunteer for Mondo from September 2019 until March 2020. I was born in the Black Forrest (Germany), studied product engineering and worked for various small and large corporations in Germany and Portugal for the past 10 years.

My European Aid Volunteer experience to be

The deployment with Mondo brings me to the Pearl of Africa: Uganda. It's my first time to East Africa and my first official deployment for the humanitarian sector.
For the next 6 months, I will be conducting marketing and IT trainings and workshops to UPA staff and other local partner organizations such as schools, community-based organizations, local authorities and other NGOs.
I will also assist in managing and upgrading the social media accounts and the website, develop information, communication as well as educational material for different occasions and help implementing a newsletter.

First days in Nansana, supported by local volunteers

What is my motivation to leave the corporate world, comfortable life and a safe environment to work as a volunteer ?

I am well aware that in 6 months I won't initiate a big change in the world, in Uganda, not even in
the close neighborhood in Nansana. But I hope that I can ease and simplify some of the daily office tasks of UPA and their partners and increase their online visibility. Like this UPA will be able to focus more on their vision to create a society where youth is empowered to enhance development.

Muhammad Ali once said:
" It isn't the mountain ahead to climb that wears you out, it's the pebble in your shoe". 

I am sure together with UPA I will be able to find some of the pebbles and remove them so the organization can focus on achieving their goals.

It's a learning experience also

But of course, I did not only come to Uganda to help UPA with trainings and workshops.

When I first heard about the project I hardly knew anything about Uganda, even Africa I dare say.
Since the preparation started in Estonia 5 weeks ago, I have learned a lot about Africa - about its geography, about politics, economics, and humanitarian work. I have also learned something about traditions, language, music, food, mindset and daily struggles in Uganda. There is still a lot for me to understand and I will certainly leave this country rich in knowledge and a better understanding of this green and fertile country.

Be part of my adventure

Most people come to Uganda as a tourist, or they don't come at all. I am aware that not everybody is able to experience Uganda the way I will. Therefore I would like people to experience Uganda through me.
I want to be the eyes and ears of the people at home. I want to tell and show them about volunteering, about Uganda, about Mondo and the humanitarian world.

Join me for this journey and watch this space!