A volunteer Day in Africa – Uganda, Fort Portal
Volunteering is not an easy task as it looks from outside. First of all you need to like what you are doing. It’s like as your paid job. Only if, volunteering means giving money not receiving. One of the books which talks about the business behind the volunteering is The Voluntourist; I am reading it right now so will tell you later if it’s true or not. I have been in contact with the NGO through the Google Grants Optimization in the past 2 years and I know how much money is rolling in this industry.
I am already volunteering for one month now. The first week was very hard and the time was moving very, very slowly. Things were not going as planned. Always expect that; this is volunteering, this is Africa; things will never be as expected.
The program I sign in was for orphanage work. But the kids were back to school and here school is almost all day long from 7 in the morning till 5 or even 9 in the evening. So no much things to do for the at the orphanage expect washing the dishes.
So I moved to the teaching program; a school in the middle of banana trees. Baby class which means 2 to 3 years old kids. So, how a normal day for an volunteer is like?
Wake up is at 7.45 in the morning. For a person like me, who had a pretty privileged working life – always started work at 10, walking up at 8,30 or later and the last 2 years of freelancing when the alarm clock was a word forgotten, is a small nightmare. Breakfast (thank God milk is very good is Uganda) is milk, toast and coffee in less than one hour. I leave my messy volunteer room behind and head to the school.
8.45 Ivan, my daily boda-boda driver is in front of our Inbound Guest House. Usually he comes earlier and takes from my time of enjoying my coffee; maybe I should get up earlier; it would be great, Sorin!
9.00 10 minutes of driving throw banana plantations and the rural life of Uganda, gravel road and How are you questions from the kids aside the road.
9.00-11.00 The teaching class begins. Actually teaching could be used wrongly in this sentence. My class is baby class; that means ages from 2 to 4 years old. Their native language is not English, so keeping quiet is sometimes a mission impossible thing.
The big problems of the Ugandans schools are several.
Even if you can literally see a school at every 5 km, rural or city place, and some are big and can hold many students, the classes are overcrowded. When first starting teaching at Kiguma School, only one classroom was ready. The school is being constructed while writing these lines. So imagine 40 kids in one small room; 3 per 3 square meters; and only 7-8 benches because money doesn’t fall out of the sky in these places. This can be a happy case actually; there are classes where the number of kids can be over 50. I was reading in the local newspaper that half of the schools are not qualified teachers at all. And this can be seen; the methods of teaching are poor and teachers not well trained.
The second problem is the materials available for the schools; there is none. Had to buy panicles, art books, color pencils in order to start doing some lessons with the kids. Music is a great way of teaching children. Unfortunately, my voice is very bad, but I am doing as much as I can. I do remember that in high school, had only one audio-CD thing, but I was a great way to learn English listening to it; and that I had for a short period of time an American teacher.
Uganda has the third birth rate in the world. More than 3% per year; Romania for example, had last year a negative rate. The president thinks that more will mean more consumption and more increase of the economy. That’s a side of the problem; the second is the low level of education. Many families have around 5-6 children and a woman start to produce (this is how they are saying here) babies from 14-15 years. And usually man does not marry the girl and she has to raise it by herself. For example, one of the teacher, which is 21 years old had a 5 year daughter. That means she had an inter sexual course at 14 years old!
And I do not believe the situation is improving regarding this early birth situation.
11.00 Lunch time. My schools have a 45 minute break for lunch. It’s a happy and a sad moment at the same time. All the children are having their food on the floor and usually using only their hands. Lucky they wash their hands, but only with water. Happy moment because is very cute to see them eating; especially the little ones. Sad is that not all have food; the teachers share food with those; and the other sad thing is to see them eating the same thing everyday. Some only have a small biscuits pack with some juice, some only have a few slices of bread, some matoke and banana food.
11.30 Sleep time. At the same place where they are eating and styling they are taking a short nap period. Some are sleeping on the floor and the rest directly on the benches.
12.00 A last class session; one with songs and playing outside.
12.30 Back to the guesthouse and the lunch is underway. Some chat with the other volunteers and lunch. Food is very well cooked but its almost the same menu all the time. Potatoes, beans, cabbage, rice and pineapple. I was a huge fan of rice, but now when I see it… Meat is not a constant as the other foods; but nothing to complain here.
13-15.00 Volunteer break; in other words time for myself. Usually I try to work, upload some photos and write the next stuff to be published on the blog.
Tuesdays used to be a malaria pill day; now after the weekly one’s done, it’s time for the daily one.
15-17.30 Washing time; or dishes time. First, I sign in for the orphanage program, but since they are at school all, the day had to switch to teaching. Friends know the best; I love to wash the dishes; can be considered a hobby. 2 hours of doing it 2-3 times a week its not such a big deal. Cups and plates are always on the menu. There are around 200 children at the school and orphanage so there is a lot of work. Unfortunately, after boda boda accident, I will have to take a 2-3 week break in order not to get the wounds inflicted.
17.30 – 19.00 Free time; some as in the lunch break. Some intern, chat and other things. And from time to time a trip to Fort Portal for some shoppings.
19.00-20.00 Dinner time and chat time. Rolex night is the most expected night of the week. Rolex is a local food; a pancake filled with omelet.
20.00 – 21.00 Prays time and play with the children at the orphanage. Prays is an interesting and captivating moment at the orphanage place. A separate post will come because deserve more.
21.00 – 23.00 Free time, reading, writing, working and socializing. Some days of the week or for a night out but usually only 2 days per week.
23.00-7.45 Sleep time and here you go again from Monday to Friday. Weekends are for doing the laundry, shopping in town and doing trips in Uganda.
On the donation page you can give a small help to the local school where I am teaching. The bishop runs many places in the area, but he has so many things started and none is completely done. Small children need, for example, plastic chair; a classroom need a board and benches; when the boarding will be opened the rooms will definitely need a lot of things. Not to mention the materials for school; for example 30 coloring books cost $50. And many other things in order to make them learn and have a decent life.