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Four months in Kampala and am I making a difference?

Jun 21 • 1969 views • 3 Comments on Four months in Kampala and am I making a difference? Africa, East Africa, Kampala, Travel, Uganda, Volunteering

I’ve been here four months today. I’m realising now that I won’t be able to achieve anything like what I’d like to. I can still make an impact of course and I have already but mostly in the ‘softer issues,’ like showing Simpson (the gate boy) how to type and use email, educating Eva (the house girl) on all the sanitary uses of bleach (!) acting as a representative for the previous volunteer and his wife (handing a cash donation to Ggaba Primary School to help them build a nursery). All of these very simple things have given me an enormous amount of pleasure, perhaps because I didn’t anticipate them.

Because things have been quiet on the work project front, I haven’t had to deal with too much bureaucracy but on TV yesterday they said Uganda ranks 3rd in the world for corruption. And I admit the frequent requests for money (+ jobs + sponsorship etc) do wear a bit thin. I had two schoolgirls follow me home last week, one of them insistent (in not a very nice manner) that I give her 200 shillings for sweets. (I gave her a firm ‘nedda’ – ‘no’). This persistence is quite unusual though.

PHOTOS: Sister Vicky signs a receipt for the first stage of funding for the sustainabilty project we are project managing for the St John the Baptist Teacher Training Centre.

(N.B. obligatory photo of President Museveni on the wall above her desk).

The well-stocked Resource Room at the teacher training college contrasted sharply with the 20+ year old Gestetner copying machine (pictured) relied on by the primary school next door. The college uses papier mache for models and natural resources like banana leaves and lentils to make posters and teaching aids.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how I am adjusting to life here and how to get the team motivated. Here’s one of the email exchanges I had with a previous volunteer who set up the finance and admin structure here. His comments are in green.

I’ve felt the last few weeks could have been more productive, and I think it’s all part of the ‘VSO experience’ but I just wanted to share this with you.
You have 20 more months to be productive so don’t worry!
I guess I need to ‘choose which battles to fight.’
Focus on many small steps and achievements and you won’t be disappointed.
Comms have been a pain for the last week or so (nearly three in the end – cable had to be replaced after someone dug it up and stole it!) I’m receiving work and personal to the one email account so that can be distracting…. Finally after FOUR months I have Outlook up and running on my laptop so can separate work and personal.Having two long week-ends travelling was fantastic but probably unsettling so early on. I was invited along to pre-planned trips, which were great, especially for getting to know people and ‘build my support network’ as VSO would say.
Travelling around Uganda is all part of the experience and should be enjoyed and it is good to initially get to know your fellow volunteers.

“Living above the shop.” I feel very secure, Eva and Simpson look after me very well and I’m happy with the living arrangements although I was led to believe the office would be in the garage, not the house. People are generally respectful but I do find the African habit of leafing through your books and papers on your desk – or anywhere else – without asking very annoying!
Pleased everyone is looking after you. Eva is a treasure but don’t let her take advantage of you (she does try on occasions). You need to draw the lines whilst remembering that in a Ugandan home very few have their private space and as much accommodation which explains their ways I suppose.

Early successes
– good feedback on the Trustees reports and the bid submission, improved comms with Uganda Wildlife Authority (our main partner) and the Directors – gave me false impression that it was going to be plain sailing from now on! (VSO advise you not to expect to achieve much in the first few months). Agreed.Motivating the team. To be fair, when things get busy Patrick and Enid both react but there’s very little to manage at project level currently. I try and liven them up every morning (trying out my latest Luganda word on them!) although ‘working from home’ can mean it’s hard to liven myself up some days, let alone other people. Patrick and Enid were to some extent demotivated when I arrived but I think the mood has picked up.

I am sure they welcomed your arrival.


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3 Responses to Four months in Kampala and am I making a difference?

  1. lizziema says:

    My off the top of my head comment is….."Wow!"
    Haven't been up long enough to say more, but I will! Some sounds familiar……..

  2. Charlie says:

    Wow to the four months it's taken me to separate work and personal emails?! or to the 5 foot high papier mache giraffe?!

  3. […] I was a VSO volunteer, I was given a whole list of vaccinations (15 injections in total!) and a free supply of […]

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