It’s guest post time again! I love these. It’s a chance for our readers to live vicariously (and totally get inspired!) through the experiences of real former volunteers. Please read about Kristen and Haley in our past posts. Today, we feature reflections from Carolina Vila. She’s an American school teacher who volunteered with us in July, 2009. Thanks Carolina for your thoughts and love!
“In 2008, at the age of 23, I decided to finally keep a promise I made to myself in high school. I would begin looking for a volunteer experience abroad for the following summer.
Being a teacher, I had few obligations during summer and could escape for a month to anywhere in the world. I had always been fascinated with the idea of traveling to Africa, and knew that going to the continent would be a perfect first solo trip.
Through some basic online searching I found Global Volunteer Network, a company which would later connect me to The Real Uganda in Mukono, Uganda. TRU is a much smaller organization that hosts volunteers and helps to set up unique volunteering experiences.
On July 1st, 2009, I boarded a plane and would never be the same. My 30 days in Uganda were tough, eye-opening, and beautiful. This post could not possibly begin to explain all the emotions I felt and all the adventures which took place. Instead, I’ll run down a few things that come to mind when I reflect on Uganda today, seven years after that memorable summer.
When I think about my month in Uganda…
I’m joyful and proud. I’m joyful for having experienced such a special place and proud I initiated that experience on my own.
I’m happy to have met other volunteers. Some of these friends I still follow on social media. I know we share a special bond.
I’m honored that Ugandans welcomed me with so much love and I’m honored to have been part of their children’s lives as their teacher.
I remember the day I spent whitewater rafting the Nile River. That’s still the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.
I remember spending one day and one night in the rain forest as part of a “Survivor” style tourist adventure. Second most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.
I’m thankful for the tough moments, including those times I was completely out of my comfort zone and feeling frustrated, homesick, or lonely. Interestingly, those are the moments I now cherish the most.
I’m glad to have spent a whole month in Uganda. Staying in one place for more than just a week or two lets you really settle in and taste daily life.
I’m grateful for the long-lasting effects. Because of my time in Uganda I have more inner peace and fewer materialistic desires.
If you’ve always wanted to do something like this, do it! And if you can, go for a month or two. I invite you to immerse yourself in the “Pearl of Africa” and let it challenge you, amaze you, and change you forever. If you have any questions about my experience, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Thank you Carolina for your words and photos. Any one here interested in looking into volunteering in Uganda? We’re looking for volunteers with 2 weeks or more to invest in learning a new culture and providing as much encouragement, creativity and love as can be spared!