EVERYTHING REVEALED ABOUT OUR VOLUNTEERING EXPERIENCE IN UGANDA
A warm welcome from Victory Nursery & Primary School in Bwindi, Uganda
After dusty Arusha in Tanzania we set up for Uganda, without many expectations. Another stop in our world trip which we hadn’t planned before, Uganda has been a much welcomed surprise, especially the tiny rural village of Bwindi with its emerald green forest, its people’s smiles and the last remaining population of Mountain Gorillas in the world.
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Back in November last year I kept watching the amazing pictures of Uganda from an Italian friend. At that time, Fabio and I were finalizing the African portion of our trip and we decided it was too risky to spend two months volunteering in the same country (Tanzania) – what if we found out it was much harder than expected? Little we know that Tanzania would turn into the hardest country we visited so far, so the decision to split our volunteering time between Tanzania and Uganda had definitely been a blessing for us!
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Rural life in Bwindi, Uganda
GO DIRECT - NO AGENCIES OR WORKAWAY
I asked my Italian friend her local contact in Uganda, a school she donated some laptops to – finally, the first time to go DIRECT, no agencies or WorkAway, just us and Peter, the headteacher of the Victory School. Peter replied to me in no time and we kept messaging about volunteering at their school. They have never had any volunteers before us, but finally they agreed to host us for free in exchange for our help.
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Delicious Ugandan food in Bwindi, Uganda
UGANDA SPOILT US
Some months later we finally set foot in Uganda – we landed at Entebbe Airport and we immediately recognized the smiley face of Peter welcoming us (he later admitted he was very worried we wouldn’t show up and that we were a scam as our flight was four hours late!).
After a very long drive of nine hours to the bucolic Bwindi, here we arrived at Victor’s and Sylvia’s home, the directors of the school who hosted us during our time in Uganda. Warm face towels, fresh juice, a clean modern room, not to mention the delicious huge dinner welcomed us in Bwindi. We could not have asked for more after our difficult Tanzanian stay.
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Silvia playing with kids at Victory NP School in Bwindi, Uganda
FIRST VOLUNTEERS AT THE SCHOOL
For the next two weeks we felt at home, surrounded by nature, friendly people and a safe environment – too good to be true! We later discovered they even employed a private chef to cook for us – we couldn’t have been more grateful (and getting chubbier).
As we have been the first volunteers at the school, we concentrated all our efforts in setting up a WorkAway profile for the school in the little time we had at our disposal and we prepared lots of documents and information for future volunteers as we found receiving lots of information about the place where you are going to volunteer is an invaluable help.
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Funny pose at the local football pitch, Bwindi (Uganda)
A COMMUNITY EFFORT
We spent days contacting international agencies and local tour operators active in voluntourism to get some collaboration started. We found out that, despite its small size, Bwindi village had already been blessed by many foreign donors who have built an hospital, schools and started some NGOs for women (such as Woman 4 a Ride) and local Pygmies’ tribes in the past.
Our hope is that the community will start collaborate to attract even more investments and volunteers in the future. In our short time in Bwindi we tried to plant some seeds in this direction and we hope to have left the locals with new ideas about volunteering and collaboration.
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Making beautiful handmade objects and textiles at Woman 4 a Ride in Bwindi, Uganda
We spent many hours at the beautiful Victory School with its lovely students who performed for us on our first day, dancing and singing with a passion we have never seen before in any other school. Most times, we talked to Peter, the teachers, the students, the directors, assisting each single lesson with different classes in order to understand where future volunteers could make the most significant impact. We choose to be there to “donate” our time and skills rather than monetary donations and then be gone in an afternoon.
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Class time at Victory NP School in Bwindi, Uganda
OUR UGANDAN FAMILY
Just in our last days in Bwindi we got the impression that the whole school had grasped our intention and started looking at us as teachers and volunteers rather than visitors or passers-by. Children in the street started calling us with our names or “teachers” instead of the usual “mzungu” (which is the term used to refer to white people in some African countries and in Uganda it was always meant in a positive way, though it had never sounded right or nice to us). Teachers at school started asking lots of questions about our life, countries, education. We also started feeling more and more at home and part of a bigger Ugandan family at our homestay.
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Having fun with our Ugandan family, Bwindi (Uganda)
FOOTBALL UNIFORMS AND MORE
On our last day at school we bought bright orange sport uniforms for the school team (thanks to our friends’ donations) and we saw the eyes of the students (and teachers alike) lighten up. They were waiting for the whole week to play football on Friday afternoon, most times barefoot and sometimes with a plastic-bag-made ball.
We are currently working on a crowd-funding page to raise money for the school for their next project, so if anyone of you out there is interested in helping this awesome Ugandan school, just get in touch with us and we can give you more information about this project. Thank you all!
Proud soccer team from Victory NP School with their flashy new uniforms in Bwindi, Uganda
We always keep our door open for new projects and ideas – we’ve been already volunteering and travelling in Nepal, Philippines, Malaysia, Tanzania, Uganda and we are currently in South America - stay tuned for more!
As our motto says: we travel, we learn, we grow.