This week, I’m turning the blog over to Kristen McFadden. She’s a 26 year old Canadian, who volunteered with The Real Uganda for a month back in 2015, and spent another month with us in 2017.
We couldn’t be more pleased with the time we spent together!
Kristen has a Master’s Degree and currently works with autistic kids in Canada (rad). While in Uganda, she displayed a level of openness with both primary students and women’s groups, that made her a very popular volunteer.
What did Kristen do while volunteering in Uganda?
Kristen assisted staff at a rural medical clinic, and taught primary school classes that focused on social studies, nutrition, and math. Alongside members of 2 women’s groups, she helped dig in gardens, weave mats, and taught basic English and nutrition. The ladies even requested Kristen to teach them how to bake cakes.
They continue to bake and sell their wares in local schools and neighbourhoods.
In the evenings, Kristen ran around and had fun with all the kids living in her compound.
Kristen’s top 5 things to do while volunteering in Uganda:
As a particularly successful volunteer, I wanted to give her a voice. I hope her time in Uganda inspires you to start planning your own volunteer abroad trip.
Among other topics, we discussed ways volunteers could make their time in Uganda respectful, responsible, and fun.
1. Ask questions
I think the most important piece of advice I would give future volunteers is to ask questions about anything you can think of. It doesn’t matter how stupid you think your question is, you don’t want to return home still wondering what the answer is.
Asking questions shows everyone you care. It shows Ugandans that you have an interest in their culture and their lives, which is a really great feeling. To Ugandans, everything they are doing is normal, everyday life, so if you want to know something, you have to ask.
Get to know the culture, the language, and Ugandans as people. Also be ready to volunteer information about your own culture, country, and personal life.
2. Talk about your experience
Talk about your experience while you are volunteering and when you get home. My time in Uganda was the most amazing month of my life, but there were some experiences that were difficult to process. Keeping a journal, talking about Uganda with friends and family, and taking the time to reflect will help you gain understanding about the full meaning of your experience.
It will also raise awareness about the realities of life in Uganda, and help reduce the starving brown baby/lion king stereotypes.
When you see how happy it makes the people around you, and how much they smile, you will dance. Even if you are a tight-hipped Canadian dancer like me.
Absolutely no one is judging you.
The people you’re working with have relatively few materials possessions but they love to laugh. Ugandans find the tiniest thing to be joyful over, and then they share that joy. It’s a beautiful thing, and it becomes even more beautiful when you join in on it too.
5. Be free
Be yourself and don’t worry whether people are judging you. They’re not. You are just not that important. Don’t limit yourself, and you will create the best possible experience for both you and the people you work with.
Thanks Kristen! Lesson learned.
People are people, the world over. Deep connections are made when you let your guard down and give up those silly stereotypes and unfounded fears!
I hope everyone enjoyed reading words other than my own. I think everyone here knows The Real Uganda’s philosophy regarding volunteer abroad programs.
Want to hear the voices of the Ugandans we work with? You may enjoy our post What You Need to Know About Voluntourism.
If you are researching volunteer abroad options, please spend some time on this website. If you like what you read, fill in our online application form. We’re looking for volunteers interested in deep cultural exchange.
In our world, volunteering is not about saving anyone or simply lending your hands. We want what makes you unique. If you’re up to it, we’d love to share the successes and challenges of life in Uganda with you.