I’m often asked by prospective volunteers what our volunteers go on to do with their lives, after their experience with our programs. Is volunteering abroad a catalyst for better things? Is it a career enhancer? Or does volunteering abroad naturally attract movers and shakers? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I tend to think that people up for volunteering abroad in the first place, likely have interesting lives and careers ahead of them. But deeply connecting with Uganda is inspiring in so many ways, our volunteers often leave here with a new confidence.
I thought I’d take some time today to briefly highlight 3 former volunteers who have gone on to start their own non-profit organizations. My hope is that it inspires others to think outside the box when planning their careers. Travel, volunteering, and creative collaboration goes hand in hand with education and work experience! Please click on the highlighted links to read further about each organization.
Lee Koelzer: Lee volunteered with The Real Uganda for 3 months in 2006. (Waaaaay back in the day!) After volunteering she travelled extensively through east and southern Africa, then returned to Uganda to perform random acts of kindness for local people (she gave away a number of chickens to the delight of many single-mothers). Lee fell in love with Uganda – the people, the climate, the way of life. By spending time and slowly building relationships with women in Uganda, she realized that offering a hand-up, rather than a hand-out, would make more of a sustainable difference. With that in mind, Lee started Grassroots Uganda – Empowering African Women (GRU). GRU focuses on skills training and fair trade handicraft marketing and sales. More recently, GRU started an organic farm and built a number of libraries in Ugandan slums. They have a host of programs on the go. Check out their Global Giving page. If you have a couple bucks to spare, think about sending it their way.
Andrea Reyes: Andrea volunteered with us for 6 weeks in 2007. While she was already a fashion student, and aspired to be a designer, she originally came to work with children in Uganda. Through creativity, encouragement and love, she inspired her students to study hard and follow their dreams. She led by example and started her own social enterprise (with her sister!) when she returned home. A.Bernadette works with artisans in Jinja, Uganda. They create accessories, bags, and apparel made from recycled materials. Traditional African weaving techniques, combined with a modern aesthetic, are used to make unique items that deepen the conversation with consumers regarding conscious consumption and supply chain awareness. Fast forward 6 years, A.Bernadette is attempting to do this in the most sustainable way, slow and steady. The Real Uganda is proud to have been there at the beginning! Want to shop for some rad fair trade goodies? Click here!
Kate Silverman: Kate volunteered with us for one month, in 2015. She came to The Real Uganda after a number of months working and travelling in southern and eastern Africa. She joined our agriculture and conservation program and loved her time living and working with a local family. Upon returning home she collaborated with another soccer and travel lover to officially launch Woza Soccer, “wosa” being Zulu slang for “pass the ball”. Woza Soccer offers international service trips for high school soccer players, using the game to create connections across cultures and to support development through sport. They currently offer trips to Costa Rica, Peru, and South Africa. Soccer, service and travel are the focus. If you’ve got a young soccer junkie in your home, check out their 2016 catalogue.
Looking for inspiration? Getting to know another culture can really open up your world and show you alternative ways to live your life. Looking to turn your ideas into action? Meeting like-minded people can be the motivation you need to finally take the plunge. Volunteering with The Real Uganda may be your perfect fit. Check out our website. If you like what you read, fill in our online application form. We have placements available for people looking to grow themselves!
I’m working on future posts about our inspiring volunteers. Watch this space… if you wish to be a part of the discussion – like us on Facebook, we love to shout about former vollies doing rad things!
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