Elizabeth Stacey spent 10 weeks as a volunteer with Restless Development on the ICS programme, engaging communities in rural Uganda. This is a day in the life of an ICS volunteer.
Wake up and head for a run with another volunteer who lives in my village. It’s a great way to see the scenery and I love saying hello to the faces we run past every day. Children think we are hilarious and run along with us. Back home, I have a cold bucket shower (surprisingly refreshing) and breakfast.
We teach in our school 11-1 every day. This week we are looking at consent; discussing ‘bad touches’, and the students end the session shouting ‘no means no!’ At the end of the class one of the teachers tells us that they appreciate the work we are doing. He talks of a young girl who was sexually abused by her uncle, and that she didn’t know who she could talk to about what was happening. Stories like this make me sad, but drive me to keep these conversations going with the young people we are working with.
Lunch is matoke (like savoury banana), chapati, rice and pumpkin leaves. The food is fairly plain and very carb-based, but it’s amazing to think that it’s all come from our garden. My Ugandan counterpart asks why we don’t grow all our own food in the UK, and I show her a picture of my tiny concrete yard at the back of my terraced house. We wash up outside using rainwater collected overnight—we wanted to do something to contribute to the chores around the house.
This afternoon we are planning for a community health day we have coming up. Events run throughout the programme alongside the in-school and youth group sessions we lead. They are a great way of bringing the community together and encouraging people to attend the sessions we are putting on. We are organising HIV testing and advice on family planning. The nearest hospital is about a 20 minute drive away, costing 2000 shillings for a round-trip. It makes it inaccessible for many people, so we are hoping to bring the health services to our local community instead.
Before our youth group session I head down to my favourite chapati stand and get a snack. I sit on the bench and chat to the man who runs the stall—we have struck up a friendship as I am such a regular visitor! Our youth groups are run twice a week for young people not in school (typically aged 18-30), and we have discussions around gender roles, sexual rights, and enterprise. Today we are teaching around 40 people how to make liquid soap. We were taught this in our foundation training, and with each ICS volunteer teaching a youth group these skills, it’s amazing to think that so many people are going to be able to start up their own small businesses. Jobs are hard to find in rural Uganda, and people are really keen to learn skills to generate their own income. It’s messy, but the session goes well, and everyone gets to take home their own bottle of soap to test out!
Dance time. We’re planning a school talent show for an end of term celebration, and I’ve convinced the other girls in my host home that we should join in, so this evening we are practising our routine. We’re not very good, but our efforts seem to entertain the kids in our host family, so hopefully the crowd at school like it too. Afterwards we walk through the village to visit one of the teachers at our school for dinner. She’s invited us over for a meal of matoke and g-nut sauce (a kind of thick peanut sauce). The five of us sit on the mattress in her small room she shares with her 3 year old son, and she tells us about how many girls in school come to her to ask for sanitary products. It’s hard to hear, and I realise how much I take for granted in the UK. Next week we are teaching the students how to make reusable sanitary pads, so hopefully this will reduce the number of girls missing school due to their periods.
Back in our room, the four of us each share one tough thing and one good thing that has happened from the day. Every day here is so varied, and I love ending it by focusing on how much we are learning and the positive things we are part of in the community.