Cultural exchange success

2016 has been great as far as volunteers go. We’ve had absolutely no duds (Yay!!) Rather, we’ve hosted 18 men and women from around the world who were enthusiastic free hands in their respective communities. The small funding they brought also helped to keep local staff paid and created a few locally-led income generating projects.

And while I don’t play favourites (okay, I do), I want to highlight my Best of 2016 as we head into the second half of the year. Our upcoming volunteers have some serious shoes to fill.

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Rachel and the P6 Class of Hopeland Junior School, Kitoola

There are 2 women who are vying for 2016 first place so far. Glad to see our best are women, as last year’s winners were both men.

Rachel (February 15-March 15) rocked her placement because she allowed her students to show off their school pride in an amazing video that you can view here. She didn’t lead the kids, but allowed them to express themselves freely, while providing the technology.

Hannah (June 1 – July 15) is also in the running for Best of 2016, because she’s been so open about her experience and personal growth while in Uganda. She not only gave her two hands to help out women in their gardens and compounds, but she was totally game to join in on cultural stuff too.

When Hannah arrived, she was overwhelmed and wanted to immediately run home. Culture shock and jet lag are no joke, my friends. However, after a tough week of talking through her feelings, readjusting her expectations, and disconnecting from home, she jumped into her placement. She was open with her supervisors about her emotions and capabilities. The next 6 weeks flew by. She left us yesterday – shedding as many tears as she did on arrival!

What I loved about Hannah was how she reached out to me and her fellow volunteers for support as she adjusted to life in Uganda. Once she was set, though, Hannah jumped in with both feet. Working physically hard during the week, and travelling widely at the weekends, she fell in love with Uganda. As her time came to a close, she had fully bonded with the women she worked with. After spending 6 weeks helping to build a mud goat shed, outdoor kitchen, dozens of energy efficient wood stoves, and planting about 900 sweet potato vines, she allowed the ladies to dress her up in a gomesi, the traditional Kiganda dress. The women paraded Hannah around their village. While she was shy about all the attention, and sweating profusely inside that gomesi, the fun the ladies had showing her off was worth it. The local community LOVED seeing a foreigner looking so smart in their traditional wear. In fact, the ladies slaughtered a chicken for Hannah on her last day. And – because she’s that rad – she happily ate it, even though she’s a vegetarian.  For these reasons, Hannah is among our Best of 2016.

Here’s a collection of photos of Hannah working and looking fabulous in a gomesi!! Thank you Hannah for coming, for staying 6 weeks, for thriving, and (through your own blog) for sharing a positive image of Uganda with the world!

Anyone out there want to compete for Best of 2017?! Then you’ve got to volunteer in Uganda. We want volunteers interested in cultural exchange, personal growth, and exploring Uganda. As a volunteer, you’re not needed, you are wanted.

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