Journal of the 2012 University Volunteers at Little BIG Africa
The first university volunteer programme has now kicked off for the summer, with volunteers from the universities of Bristol, Lancaster, Glasgow and Nottingham (Group 1) on placement in Manafwa and volunteers from the universities of Oxford & Strathclyde (Group 2) in Mbale conducting their training. Volunteers will have the opportunity to recount their stories of joy, blood, sweat and tears on a daily basis for everyone at home to read (see below our Twitter tweets!), so don't forget to pass the link to your family and friends so they can also follow all the adventures.
Week Two at Buwabwala with ODA.
We started this week off by heading into Mbale for a shopping spree and a shower (by which I mean a cold trickle but we couldn't have been more grateful for running water). After only a week out on placement, we'd realised what necessities we really neded to stock up on - honey, soy sauce and pasta seemed to feature in almost all our meals - as well as a few luxuries that would make life easier like a washbasin. Feeling refreshed, clean and ready to face another 5 weeks in the village we headed back (only realising on the way that we didn't actually know where we lived).
The rest of the week has been taken up by teaching at our local primary school - Buwabwala Primary School. We've been teaching P1 (the youngest class) right through to P7 and actually found P3 and P4 the most responsive to our onon-formal eduaction methods. All the kids loved our songs and still sing them to us when we walk by! We were really pleased to find the last and most complicated lesson about purifying water using Moringa seeds went down really well. A combination of the song/rap, using volunteers in the demonstrations and a fill in the gaps exercise meant that we left satisfied that the pupils had really grasped the method and hopeful about them using it in the future. There was also a lot of opportunity for Adult Education and it was great to see how interested the teachers were and how important they thought the issue of safe water was.
We're gradually getting the hang of the way of life here, collecting water no longer feels like climbing a mountain and our cooking has seriously improved! We're still the entertainment of the year for the local children but we're starting to get used to that and enjoy the conversations we're having with our neighbours. All in all, everything's going pretty well.
Week One at Kaato Elim with BVDA.
We arrived at our new home early afternoon on the Wednesday. We had been anticipating this and preparing for it for the previous few months yet we had no idea what to expect.
The Director of our school, James, eagerly greeted us, immediately showing us gratitude and kindness. The first thing to hit us was the incredible view. We were surrounded by mountainous peaks and relatively untouched landscapes. The village was somewhat sparser than we expected but we were lucky to be placed near the water source, school and not too far from the trading centre.
Within 5 minutes of arriving and outting our bags down, we were taken to the village chairman's house. Then within even shorter time, we were taken to the school to meet & grret the children and teachers.
We were struck by both the material poverty of the school (run down mud huts for classrooms and lack of books & equipment) but also of the beauty of its location: by the side of a river and hill.
We were taken to each classroom who proceeded to stand up and sing their school song to us. Slightly overwhelmed, they called as assembly and we took it in turns to introduce ourselves. After school, the teachers took us around the local area, showing us where everything was. Exhausted, we eventually got back to our new home after dark to a spread of Ugandan food, prepared by James' family. We ate it up and fell asleep before 10pm.
For the next few days, we spent a lot of time at the school. We taught our introductory lessons with lots of games, spoke to the children and socialised with the teachers.
Thursday 12th July: Volunteers Leave for Placement (Group 2)
Buwagogo - SID (Strathclyde) - Cat, Gina, Faddy, Callum, Sarah & Jackie
Bwabwala - ODA (Oxford) - Andy, Katherine, Sarah, George, Shea, Tanvi & Patrick
Wednesday 11th July: Group 2 Day 6 of Training
A late night had the knock-on effect of letting us have a longer sleep. However as we congregated for breakfast it was obvious that most of us were still feeling the effects of Thatch Bar.
We slowly enjoyed breakfast before crowding round for Lugisu with Isa. We all realised that this would be the last training session before leaving for our respective villages and as such we took full advantage. Poor Isa was swamped with questions!
After Lugisu it was time for us to get a crack at cooking, after all we would be doing it along for the next 6 weeks. The first task was to kill 4 unfortunate chickens. Surprisingly some volunteers were very keen, even after witnessing a couple of the volunteers do it 2 days prior. We then, with the aid of Anthony, started to prepare our meal. It tasted fantastic if I might add!
Last in the day was LBA's Top Tips. Most of the volunteers showed their interest in the latrine and how it functions. It would be fair to say that we have been prepared for it!
As this was our last night together with our ODA counterparts it was only appropriate that we saw the night end with a 'friendly' game of Mafia.
From all of SID, the past week has been amazing and we look forward to the next 6!
Wednesday 11th July: SVA's Tank Construction Update
Bricks and the base of the tank done in one day...SVA are feeling pretty tired but smug right now! xx
Wednesday 11th July: More Group 1 Volunteers begin Tanks & Sources
Today Tank construction began at Buwesswa (SVA) and water source protection began at Murumba (Notts)
Monday 9th July: Group 2 Day 4 of Training
Today is Jackie's Birthday!! Day 4 of training complete and we are becoming more and more prepared for placement on Thursday. After breakfast we had the choice to kill chickens. Some of us decided to watch and quickly ran away! The volunteers who did kill the chickens did very well and our evening meal was now decided.
We then presented our first lesson plans to the reat of the group in order to prepare for the big initial day at school. Debs gave us lots of clear, comprehensive advice in order to perfect our performance.
Lunchtime soon arrived and we made Jackie disappear so we could put up Birthday banners and balloons. She was allowed back in and we sang Happy Birthday and gave her some cards. She later receieved a beautiful Birthday cake from LBA which was quickly demolished by the hungry volunteers!
In the afternoon we learned all about cultural integration within the community and setting up committees. After a refresher game of Duck, Duck, Goose we woke up a little and played Guess the Price of the Ugandan Food game ODA vs SID, winning various food and household items for placement. We were delighted to win some luxurious chocolate!! After training, some of us went into town and got fitted for Ugandan dresses which we will pick up next week.
We are all having an early night relaxing on campus in preparation for another busy day of training tomorrow.
Ugandan Hugs, Team SID
Sunday 8th July: Group 2 Day 3 of Training
Stove Building Day! Definitely the funnest and messiest day so far. Our instructor Otekei Mohammed took us through the design of the fuel efficient stoves we would eventually be showing the villages how to build. We then got into our less smart clothes and went outside to see the stoves built by the previous training group a week earlier. Then we started on our own. First off we had to mix anthill mud with water, which we did by stomping with our feet and trying to use the hoe. Apart from the occassional rock, this was great! We then slapped mud around banana stems to form a single pan stove, complete with air holes and firewood inlets. We went a bit crazy with the water so sadly the mud was too wet, but it was just a practice one and was otherwise flawless.
We then built the more complicated double pan stove, which required more mud throwing (at the stove as well as each other) and chopping banana stems with a panga. Again our enthusiasm was our downfall as we knocked the combustion chamber out of position with lots of mud balls. To get more practice so we were ready to reach other people both SID and ODA built thir own stoves, which took about two hours. But by the end we were very happy and very muddy. Best shower ever, even though it was cold.
To celebrate our success, and the start of Jackie's Birthday, we all went out to Mbale to a couple of bars and had a few drinks together. One of the bars was on top of a hotel with an amazing view over Mbale at night. After a 'Happy Birthday' song half of us headed back whilst the rest went to Mbale's greatest club, Club Oasis.
Saturday 7th July: Group 1 Volunteers begin Tanks & Sources
Today Tank construction began at Kaato Elim (BVDA) and water source protection began at Bulumera (Notts)
Friday 6th July: Group 2 Day 1 of Training
Second day of training. After a fresher start than yesterday and a late breakfast of mandazi and bread and fruit, we began learning the 'Who is Who' of Ugandan schools. We were then taken through the Safe Water Chain which is what we will be teaching in the schools on placement. We learnt several songs about washing hands, washing jerrycans and putting a lid on it. We were also taught several Ugandan alternatives to Western hygiene tools, like ash or gravel instead of soap and banana leaves for jerrycan lids. We were then taught the process of using Moringa seeds to safely purify water (a bit more complicated than chlorine tablets but could save lives). After lunch we began to plan our first two lessons in the primary schools in the villages, as well as designing our own silly songs for teaching the 11 steps of washing your hands. This was our first opportunity to work together in our placement groups, which was very revealing if nothing else. Because we were quite tired we stayed in and played card games and several rounds of 20 Questions. And after a brief powercut and another cold shower we went to bed around midnight.
Friday 6th July: Group 2 Day 1 of Training
First day of training! Everyone was tired due to the lack of sleep last night but breakfast was lovely (samosas and fruit - George didn't touch the fruit!) and at 09:00 we started our training. We started by introducing oursleves to each other and saying our biggest fears which Debs quickly removed. Then we started learning Lugisu (Mulembe! Oriena?) and did a risk assessment exercise. We then looked at the basics of (good) developmenta and finished with some roleplays of (bad) development scenarios. To pass the time before dinner we played Mafia where two people are secretly made members of the Mafia and kill people off each round, while the rest of the group has to work out/guess who the Mafia are. That was really fun, very tense and very funny! We had dinner at the Ugandan 19:00 (about 20:30) which was fish potatoes and beans which was very nice. After tw more tense games of Mafia some of us went out in Mbale whilst the rest got an early night ready for training the next day.
Thursday 5th July: Group 2 Volunteers Arrive in Mbale
We all arrived safely at Entebbe airport; most of us with our luggage. The taxi was mental!! 14 very tired people in a minibus for 5 hours and luggage on the roof. We were struggling to keep our eyes open so we could take in all the new impressions, but in the end most of us fell asleep. Every time we opened our eyes and the minibus stopped, we were surrounded by people looking in at the mzungus, selling us huge clusters of bananas, soda and chappatis.
Once we had arrived and moved into our quarters, we were let loose on the town: Mbale. Mbale is an exciting, vibrant and busy town and we bought our very first colourful African skirts. People were very friendly and we recieved a lot of attention whilst strolling down the street in awe of everything including the beautiful Mt. Elgon in the background.
After our first Ugandan dinner, most of us headed for an early night so we could be well rested for our first day of training in the morning.
We are all doing great,
Callum, Cat, Faddy, Gina, Jackie and Sarah (SID)
Group 2 has arrived Volunteers from the universities of Strathclyde and Oxford have arrived in Uganda and safely reached Mbale. We have spent today (Friday) training and introducing the volunteers to Development & Uganda.
Wednesday 4th July: Volunteers Leave for Placement (Group 1)
Buwesswa - SVA (Glasgow) - Ben, Corrie, Mellisa, Marcus, Coral
Bulumera - Intervol (Nottingham) - Dougie, Eric, Tom, Matt, Liz, Jess, Ruth
Murumba - Intervol (Nottingham) - Matt L., Jay, Mike, Shauna, Arti, Chris
Elim - BVDA (Bristol) - Emma, Mark, Helen, Chloe, Kwame, Luke
Bungoolo - BVDA (Bristol) - Harriet, Danielle, Matt Mc, Hannah, Sam, Kaichang
Thursday 28th June: Day 2 of Training (Group 1)
Today half of the group learnt to build stoves with Isa and Mohammed whilst the others learnt to cook a Ugandan meal and got to explore Mbale town.
Corrie, Coral and Eleanor learnt how to make smokeless stoves, which have huge advantages mainly in reducing cost, time and pollution. In the morning we were given a demonstration and after lunch we put our new skills into action in the community.
Twenty of us squeezed into one taxi to a local school where we received a very enthusiastic welcome! We built a stove (with a lot of help from Mohammed) in the school. It took all afternoon to finish the stove and by the end we were completely covered in mud since the way to mix the materials was to jump around in piles of mud. It was really good fun and our first chance to realy begin project.
The children at school were amazing. They taught us to count to ten and we taught them nursery rhymes. The Headmistress was extremely kind and welcoming and we all felt completely at ease.
Now we can't wait to get out to the villages and work with our community and share the knowledge Mohammed and Isa gave us about our smokeless stoves.
Love SVA X
P.S. Mohammed is the greatest
Wednesday 27th June: Day 1 of Training (Group 1)
To kick off the training week we had our first lesson of Lugisu where we were lerning how to greet each other as these phrases would be essential for when we live in the villages. It was quite difficult to get all the sounds of the words right, but having repeated it multiple times, we all got the hang of it.
Next we had a lesson on how to construct the stoves. It gave us an insight into what materials we would be using and all the many advantages of them. We are all looking forward to our practical sessions in the next few days to actually build one so we will be prepared for when we are in the village.
After lunch we had an afternoon session on different scenarios we may come across in the village and we split into four groups and each performed a short drama for their situation. This was great fun and an amazing opportunity to get to know more people better, especially from different universities.
In the evening we all went out to a lovely bar in Mbale and many of the group had their first taste of Ugandan beer and it was mostly enjoyed. Some of us rode on a bodaboda (motorbike taxi) for the first time which was exciting. These are a great way of getting around town.
Throughout the day we sampled some more of the Ugandan cuisine and judging by the number of empty plates, it seems to be going down a treat. My favourite would have to be the sweet bananas and the fish heads :-)
Tuesday 26th June: Travelling to Mbale (Group 1) We arrived at Entebbe airport at 6am this morning after 18 hours of travelling to the sun rising over the Ugandan hills and monkeys swinging across the roof of the airport. The morning was cool and slightly overcast as we met the rest of the volunteers and LBA.
We all clambered into large highly decorated taxis for what was to be an interesting journey. After stopping to collect some fellow volunteers at Entebbe Backpackers and getting our first bathe in that glorious strong Ugandan sun, we set off for Kampala. Personally I lost track of time in the taxi but I remember it was bumpy, cramped and fast. We were starting to see some contrast between here and home.
Roaring down long scenic highways and squeezing through cramped Ugandan towns, we sat watching the country fly past our window in amazed silence. The difference was huge, the whole lifestyle, everything was so foreign.
At a lunch and toilet break in a town called Ginger [Jinja] we were asked to pose for photographs, shook dozens of hands and generally became celebrities for some reason. The people staring is hard to get used to.
We arrived safely at the hospital compound in Mbale [where we are training from] at sometime in the evening. Exhausted would have been an understatement. Dinner of chicken, chappati, and beans followed a brief walk around Mbale and a few games of cards ended a long strange day.
First impressions of Uganda: different. A fast exhilarating place where the people treat us like royalty and the drivers drive like maniacs. The next 7 weeks promise to be nothing short of incredible. But for now, sleep.
The articles below are produced by LBA to help prepare volunteers for their experience in Uganda.
You can also check out the diary to see what LBA is up to before then.