Uganda: Volunteers Share Experiences

Two German volunteers, Francesca and Greta, came to Uganda to share and also learn from the people and culture in Uganda. Their adventure took them to the Alenga Parish in Northern Uganda, where they are working with the Little Sisters of Immaculate of Mary and a Comboni Priest. They shared their experience with us. Francesca’s Experience During my voluntary service in Uganda, I have been working in the Health Centre III of Alenga, most of the time helping the midwives in the maternity. My work includes examining expectant women, assisting during deliveries, dispensing medicine and vaccinating mothers and their newborns among other things. Though it was shocking in the beginning to see 15 year old mothers and the many children most of the women deliver, every time it is an amazingly beautiful and exciting moment for me when a baby comes into the world. While I was working in a hospital in Germany, I experienced a completely different environment. The quality of technology in Alenga is so different from the ones in German. This, for example, is exhibited by the lack of medical equipment - we only have one functioning blood pressure machine and many drugs are often out of stock. This reminded me and made me realise how lucky the people in Germany are because of the indiscriminative good health care system which upholds equality to all, whether poor or rich. I really enjoy spending time with my workmates. They always aid in clarifying difficult questions and explain to me about the culture of the Lango. Unfortunately, it is not easy to communicate with the clients because of language barrier, especially since many do not know English. But, I am doing all it takes to learn more about the Lango culture. Nevertheless, I like conversing with them and making them smile, even if they laugh at my pronunciation. After work, Greta and I are often visiting the midwives; Sharon and Gloria at their home. We usually have a great time together, eating and sharing about our different lives and habits. It is so interesting to get to know how they live and spend their free time. I really appreciate how hard they are working for a better future. Their salaries are meagre, but, they try to save money, before they get married and have their own family, go to the university and have the chance to offer their children a better education and a bright future. Greta’s workplace. In my voluntary year, I have had the chance to be a teacher of Computer and English in the Father Egidio Vocational Training Centre, Alenga. This is a boarding school for girls between 15 and 20 who are trained to become tailoress. Besides the lessons of Computer and English in the morning, I am their teacher for the weekly debate and available for the extra lesson in English for the few girls who have challenges speaking English since they left Primary schools four or five years ago. Together with Francesca, we are with the students for sports twice a week and for a drama club. Also, I like to spend time with my students in my free time. My work helps me learn a lot about young girls from Lango and understand their way of living, their culture and the role of women. Especially, the role of women, which is distinct from my experience at home. During one of my interactions, I asked my students what they would like to do in the future. Their answers ranged from: mother, wife, farmer, tailoress and teacher for tailoring department. Through my close relationship with the students, I have learned to appreciate the choices I make for my future. Although some of the students have difficulties with raising school fees or humble family backgrounds, they are struggling to perform well in school and I hope that the school’s posy “Earning for the future” will provide for their better financial situation.In our free time, we spend time with the youth of Alenga. Together, we practice for mass on Sunday or go to the field. The mass is always the highlight of the week. We enjoy the local songs and dances coupled with the joy of the Christians. Faith in this community has a deeper meaning in the lives of the Christians than most Christians in Germany. Besides, we visit friends in the village over the weekends. They show us how to cook local dishes and how to brew spirit out of Cassava. This is helpful for us to understand the Ugandan way of living. In Alenga, many people live on subsistence agriculture; they work in their own garden daily to take care of the family’s nutrition. On Christmas Eve, we visited some family friends from where, we learnt how they slaughter animals and prepare the meals. From observation, wastage is denounced since offals are prepared as a delicacy. It was awesome to see all family members from far away come to celebrate Christ’s birth with joy and love. We have had the opportunity to learn sewing from Greta’s workmates and are now able to design our own dresses. We spend time with the students when we are free and they share with us about their homes or cultural conventions. We would like to stress how thankful we are to get the chance of living in Uganda for a year. We appreciate the rich experiences we got when we came in contact with the people of Alenga and everyone else. We are eagerly waiting for the next six months here. We await this years’ experience, which we believe will have undeniable influence on us.