Ugbad, a mother of two, recently took part in an International Citizen Service (ICS) placement in Uganda, living with three other volunteers. She tells the story of how they became close friends during their time in Kanjuki.
Uganda, Uganda! How blessed and beautiful you are.
I remember being told in training that Uganda is one of the happiest countries in the world. I must say, there is truth to that!
I am a 24-year-old, single mum of two. I came across Restless Development on Facebook and applied to be part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme in June 2016. I was told I was going to Uganda in September 2016.
Unfortunately, the security checks took longer than expected, and as a result I was held back and could not go. As heartbroken as I was, the fact I could go on the next cycle was a relief. Come January and all was done. We arrived in Entebbe, Uganda.
I was placed in Kayunga district, in Kanjuki, with three amazing girls. Alice, another UK volunteer and two Ugandan volunteers, Niima and Veronica. When we first got put together during our training, we barely spoke to each other. Alice and I had met in our pre-placement training but with Niima and Veronica, the only words that came out of our mouths were greetings, hence why our first group training was a bit difficult.
It was really hard to plan a session due to our cultural differences, and within the group there were disagreements about our teaching methods.
Later that evening, Alice and I met up and spoke about how we needed to solve our issues before we left as a group to go to our village placement. If we didn’t, it would be a long and unpleasant three months for all of us. We arranged a get-together, just before bedtime. The conversation went smoothly, we expressed our feelings and they expressed theirs. Niima informed us that she likes our method of teaching but that we needed to consider the cultural differences. We also spoke to Veronica to encourage her to have her say and make sure she knew her opinion mattered too.
I told them, that we were all there for the same reason and we would be living together for three months. We had the chance to be sisters, friends, colleagues and amazing roommates rather than only being one or the other. I explained how important it was for us to listen to each other, respect one another, while remembering the importance of speaking your mind and feeling comfortable to share your thoughts and feelings.
Believe it or not, we were four girls in one room for three months and we did not argue once. We respected each other and if we found something offensive, we spoke about it and later laughed about it. Laughing? Pretty much all we did!
Even when my health became a challenge and I was in and out of doctor’s’ appointments, physically and emotionally drained, I did not give up. In fact, going home wasn’t even an option. I knew I gave up a lot to be there but I somehow felt responsible for the girls’ happiness because the experience wouldn’t be the same without all of us. The room was made for four girls and four girls it would have!
I am not saying it wasn’t hard – because it was hard. However, the reason why I went there and my passion for volunteering clouded over my fears and gave me the patience and confidence to stay until the end.
Today I am a different woman from the woman that went to Uganda three months ago. But so is Veronica, who found her voice and speaks her mind kindly and freely. Niima, who has developed skills that have turned her into an open minded and selfless young woman. Alice, who had difficulties doing presentations, now speaks confidently and beautifully in public.
Restless Development Uganda has changed us all, both national and international volunteers. If I had to advise anyone on their time in Uganda, it would be to enjoy it, appreciate your time but mostly love and respect each other. Your national volunteers are your best friends. I wouldn’t have coped without them and my internationals were my comfort because they reminded me of home. Therefore, make the most of it because when it comes to the end, there will be uncontrollable crying.