Report of the Voluntary Service with VUGA e.V. – August; September 2016
Alexandra Rank (EWAD, Entebbe)
For us four German VUGA volunteers, Jenny, Wieland, Jelena and Lexi, the first 1 ½ weeks in Entebbe after arriving on Wednesday, only consisted of getting to know the surroundings here in our new life in our particular parts of Uganda. These days involved a lot of sleeping as the amount of new impression streaming to the brain were literally physically exhausting, the body had to adopt to the new circumstances such as the weather (rain, heath, sun), the new food (one might find his/her favourite new ingredient or fruit like avocado or passion fruit) or the new time table (supper at 9pm, Ugandan understanding of time and punctuality).
On the first Thursday, Trina took us three around in the car to have a first glance at our new home town Entebbe as well as for purchasing internet (phone and laptop) and a photocopy of our passport. In our first weeks here, we checked out the daily routine of the people around us, found out about the differences of life style in our regions of Uganda, maybe on the one hand started to appreciate old luxury features of life (f.e. bathrooms, constant power) but on the other hand also began to see the advantages of f.e. a shower just consisting of a bucket with a sponge (lesser shower time, smaller wastage of water) or the powerful thunderstorm sessions (leaving home later for work).
After one month, we all are now able to properly use the public transport to different destinations, to tell where exactly we live (regarding the counties and sub-counties) and we got to know how to interact with the Ugandans we meet in daily life such as market sellers, colleagues or the “Muzungu”-shouting people on the roadsides.
From the 29th of August until the 2nd of September, the VUGA-Seminar together with Trina and representatives of the partner organization took place at the St. Mark’s church in Entebbe. The schedule included visiting the different work places, meeting the contact persons and moreover also information and discussion sessions concerning different topics like life and nature in Uganda or the Luganda-language. In retrospect, no one of us had considerable problems in filling the spare time coming up besides the program of VUGA or the official start of work: Almost every one of us has already attended a Ugandan introduction and/or wedding, we’ve all had our first hectic but impressive moments in Kampala such as a visit of the Orino market. I am now a part of the Entebbe Ultimate Frisbee team and of course, no one of us four could miss out on his/her first church experiences. The latter is particularly interesting with regards to the rather prevalent unreligiosity amongst us four Germans and we all had Up’s and Down’s connected to the services and the religious practice within our community and our host families.
On the 5th of September, work officially started for us as volunteers in the partner organization: I had first contact with my colleagues and throughout conversations, the help of the former volunteer Maria and sometimes just questions concerning the “spontaneous absence” of a colleague, slowly by slowly, I approached the whole spectrum of the working fields of EWAD. However, with the prevalent problem of communication in the office in mind (my observation + direct statements of colleagues), I tried to let the others know that next time someone visits f.e. the Goldminers project in Busia, Western Uganda, I’d like to join. The communication concerning the schedule of each colleague and of different activities and events will definitely be a constant appearing issue for me. Next to my office surroundings, I met the children at the EWA School and went with them accompanied by Maria to the beach and the football pitch. These are activities I also did alone with the kids after Marias departure.
As to that, Jelena (Love and Care) and me, we organized a football match on a Friday morning “EWA kids against Early Learning kids”. One obstacle we faced was the lack of girls in the team, although we had the rule “At least two girls on the team”. This led us to the idea having a match of younger students and girls in the coming time, next to football maybe also Netball. One day, a teacher at school also gathered some students and made them present a show including drama and singing. Mostly, they taught themselves the performances on their own, but according to the teacher, he already had two sessions of showing them different video dancing clips and encouraging them in terms of self-expressions. This is where I feel like taking part in since I had the idea of starting an activity like a drama club. But I more imagine sessions with the structure of a youth group with focus on drama, singing, dancing and self-expression, also concerning how to present yourself and find self-confidence. For this purpose, I contacted Andrew, a teacher from the Early Learning School, who established there the “Powerful Club” (youth group doing drama and singing but also activities like recycling projects). At the majority of times in my mornings, I dealt with office tasks such as helping with the Child Sponsorship Programme (CSP) which included scanning the children’s reports and their letters addressed to their international sponsors. Back at school, in collaboration with the kids who didn’t have satisfying letters in terms of f.e. content concerning their future plans, I tried to support them in improving and rewriting the letters. In the office, I organized their folders which in the end led me to the rest of the shelf with unorganized staples of folders with finance- & project reports of EWAD (even going back to the years when ECWA existed and EWA was founded) as well as proposals and just different pieces of information collected from magazines or meetings. The only problem whith the latter task is still not finished is my lack of knowledge concerning the (in my view sometimes UN-)importance of keeping some documents.
Since some weeks now, the building of the Elizabeth Ballans-sponsored library for Nursery and Primary at the EWA School has finished and I help furnishing it with shelves and books as well as maps on the walls. In the next time, I will also go through different other shelves as f.e. in the office at the school and select books that fit in this library. This will also include dealing with the massive, unorganized senior library in the P6 classroom at the school. However, if I succeed with a proper organization of the different book shelves and libraries, it might help the students to follow the instructions that my colleague gave them during the Senior meeting: “Read more!” To avoid chaos, it is necessary to work out a time table for the entry into the library, but I recognized a problem as the library was supposed to be for Nursery and Primary 1 & 2 students, but the books and games in there so far also (sometimes only) suit children from P3 up to even the Seniors.
Even if on the 26th of September Term III started, I haven’t really worked out yet whether I should offer German lessons at the EWA School. So far I think I will start with it but as German is not a subject pertinent to exams, there is more space for a different style of teaching which I as a volunteer (and not an official teacher) definitely would prefer: The German lessons should be more structured like an interactive lesson with group work, games and a playful approach to the language, also including maybe other important topics such as environment, but always connected to German(y). I definitely don’t want to teach German fully or change the way of current teaching, the kids just might get the chances to have some time away from teacher-centred teaching.
This idea of German lessons mostly follows the former lessons of Maria. She and Kathi (former volunteer of Love and Care and Huyslinc) helped us new volunteers in being introduced to the new work surroundings as well as overhanding, finding and discussing about new or already on going activities.
In general, they gave us great advice and important insider tips about how to best manage our situation here in Uganda for the next year. On the one hand for thanking and saying goodbye to Maria and Kathi, on the other hand for welcoming us four new volunteers, Trina organized a gathering of the host families, their old and new “sons & daugthers” and the partner organizations on Friday, the 16th of September. Finally with reference to work, it is important to mention the collaboration with the Victorian High School since Jelena, Wieland and me met with Mariam Nabunya in order to talk about the idea of a “German Club” every Wednesday at Vic HS. According to the current status, we will have a weekly session consisting of different activities such as games, sport, cooking, environment and knowledge about Germany/Europe, always in connection with teaching some basics of the German language. However, the precarious student situation of the Vic HS might interfere here in our plans, but in this very moment, we are still holding on to the idea and we will continue our planning meetings. In next time, we will also advertise the German Club at the Entebbe Central School, a partner school of Vic HS.
As far as Jelena is concerned, she didn’t have a special person like an old volunteer to break her in the work of the Early Learning School. She met with Andrew and Agnes, her supervisors, to find out about the work fields she could be part of and to talk about future project ideas. During her first weeks – the holiday time – she started to organize the school library, a time-consuming project. Furthermore, she played a lot with children. Additionally, Jelena helped Andrew in his holiday program in terms of the “Powerful Club”. The school and the kids gave her the feeling to be welcome here and she loves spending time with the children.
Wieland was very busy during his first days of work. At the Huyslinc Centre, he worked with the vocational classes, the catering class and the computer class. He spent a lot of time “in the fields” (= trips together with a colleague outside the centre), working with the health facilities on topics like HIV prevention. They met up with peer educators, families and students infected by HIV, informed f.e. about the right use of male and female condoms and fought the prejudice that a positive HIV test means the end of life. His future ideas for projects at Huyslinc, which he wrote reports for during his time in the office, included a football tournament against other schools, planting the garden, painting a particular wall at the centre, supporting the music and football group with equipment and a chalk project. He will also engage in supporting the students to make their own income and start a business by f.e. selling their products of the catering class.
In the following, Jenny reports her impressions and thoughts about her life in Kampala and at “Little Light”:
My first weeks at the Little Light children centre were very interesting although I have not experienced yet how the daily routine at school is because the children had holidays. When I began to work my supervisor Jacob gave me some tasks. He wanted me to write proposals concerning programs for the Youth Group, the Women Group, waste management in the slum and a proposal to install a water tank in Namuwongo slum. The deadline for these proposals was the 20th of September. However, I could not fulfill these tasks in the preset time. Especially the water tank project and waste management proposal will need more time of preparation. At first, I tried to start with the watertank proposal. I talked to headteacher Qasasa to find out how the inhabitants of the slum receive water at the moment. One day after I had started to think about this issue there was a problem with the water supply in Kampala. When I entered the centre I heard a lot of noises behind the wall that separates the centre from the slum. Teacher Qasasa took me inside the slum, so that I could see with my own eyes how the people fight because of water. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. Jacob and I prepared a list of information necessary before writing a proposal for the installation of a water tank. Afterwards we went downtown to ask shop assistants about prizes of water tanks, purification et cetera. I also contacted Huyslinc and EWAD to ask how their water system works. At first I felt amazed about this project, but now we terminated our efforts to realize it because I found out that Little Light suffers from a financial crisis at the moment and the water project would need too much money. I wished that I had known it earlier. Then I could have focused more on the other projects. Nevertheless, I learnt a lot.
Furthermore, Jacob took me to visit some other organizations that might become Little Light partners in the future. I met the leader of the Spoon Youth Group and we organized two Youth Group meetings together. The next Youth Group events will be a cleaning outreach in Namuwongo market and a football match in the community. Future plans for the Youth Group contain outreaches into the slum concerning issues such as health and finances. Besides, they would like to organize a day of music and art in the community next year as they already had done in 2015.
Headteacher Qasasa told me that the women who join the Umoja Women Group at Little Light are unmotivated at the moment to produce jewellery out of paper as they used to for a long time because they cannot find anyone to buy them. So I thought that this would be an issue to work on. I wanted to find a possibility to sell the jewellery in Germany. Unfortunately, I discovered that the costs for sending packages to Germany are unexpectedly high. We would have to send and sell a lot of necklaces to earn more money at the end than we would spent for the transport. Nevertheless, I wrote an email to a German shop that sells Fairtrade products, but they haven’t answered yet. I also wanted to sell the jewellery within Uganda, but I realized that there is no market. Maybe we can find something else the women could do to increase their income.
Teacher Qasasa supposed that I can work with a pupil next week who has some difficulties in learning. Unfortunately, the school will be only open half days. I am going to ask the teacher who is responsible for the school garden and whether I could be a part of this project. Actually, the school garden is part of the schedule that the volunteer coordinator of Little Light and I prepared together before I came to Uganda. But my schedule won’t be realised as planned. We will have to reorganise it. Teacher Qasasa told me that a main problem in the slum is teenage pregnancy. Accordingly, I thought that I might invite girls to found a drama group and a choir to empower them. I would also like to dance with the girls but therefor we have to find a place with enough space and a powerbank for playing music.
Besides work I feel never boring. I am happy with my host family and I could already visit my penpal in Entebbe. I found a choir at a church I would like to join. I learn Luganda step by step and I slowly get to know how to move within Namuwongo and Kampala.
Thoughts of living in Uganda as a volunteer. By Lexi
Take your time for reading, don’t just take the photos as they are! Dankeschön.
Last Sunday (6.11.) the „International Culture Day“ took place in the church of my family and us four volunteers were to (re)present Germany. It had already begun during our preparations. “What should we talk about in those small minutes? What is German Culture? No, Germany does not just consist of Bavaria, Dirndl, Schweinebraten, Bier and Bavarian brass-band music. How do we connect it all with Uganda? …” We are four volunteers from four different regions in Germany, Wyland – der Hahn im Korb with the three girlfriends in his Harem, who only sometimes misses Döner – from Rostock (McPom, North-East), Jenny – our social, lovely Vegan – from Halle (Sachsen-Anhalt, East), Jelena – Tschellson, the Russian Czarina in sweatpants – from Emmendingen (Baden-Württemberg, South-West) and me from Eichstätt (Bavaria, South-East).
As with every human, our behaviour, language and thoughts are often influenced by the region we live in which in Germany’s case are mostly the federal states. We don’t have tribes in Germany as here in Uganda or in some of the other East African Countries like Tanzania, DRC or Congo that were also represented by some visitors that day at church.
Us four, we didn’t even need the Ugandan Culture to have a massive Culture Clash, it’s enough to just follow our conversations and interactions and you’ll already get constantly confronted with differences and prejudices within Germany.
Finally, we agreed to first teach the audience some important German expressions. Afterwards, to think outside the box, we tried to include the Ugandan Culture and Country as we personally have experienced it so far. In most cases when talking about two cultures, everyone has a close look at the differences. In Uganda, we do it like …. – Oh, in Germany, it works like this … – Me, I handle it that way – Us, we do … – Differences in nature, understanding of time, population, etc.
Of course, diversity is extremely important and a wonderful part of life, but why not once point out what we have in common? We had to experience when it comes down to finding similarities, it’s harder than expected. However, with concentration, time and some impulses, things start to flow and people begin to close ranks. And then again obstacles occur: Is it fair to compare the poor society in Germany to the one in Uganda? How many people have to commit their love for football and beer that you can speak of Germany and Uganda as Football and Beer-Lovers-Nations? All the questions and issues having appeared so far will never have fully satisfying answers for every individual, this is what makes discussions about cultures, differences and similarities on the one hand so rich, interesting, passionate and fun, on the other hand also so annoying or stubborn.
As if this wasn’t difficult enough, the Kenyan woman mentioned the powerful slogan of Kenyans: “Proudly Kenyan”. @the germans: Have you ever said this to yourself? Can you speak of yourself as a proud German? In our case, it can be very hard to be proud of being German. The dark chapter of German history with the National Socialism, Hitler and the Holocaust is constantly hovering above us. Dealing with the negative features of one’s culture (questions No. xx: Shall one consider this part of history as part of his culture? Even if now not everyone can or should feel responsible for it, does it affect your view on your culture? Should we let it go, forget, constantly have in mind .. ? This is an own endless essay.) and starting considering oneself of being a proud Whoever is a hard obstacle.
For me it’s
The Polonaise we danced to the song “Polonäse Blankenese” upon request concerning the “traditional dance in Germany” kind of mirrors our problems and solutions: Although it definitely doesn’t represent “the traditional dance in Germany” (and we stressed this fact a lot to avoid weird prejudices), it touches German festivities like Fasching (“Carnival” for the non-German-Speaking and North-Germans..) and most important connected a whole audience of different cultures in one wonderful fun queue.
Thanks for reading.
P.S.: No, I didn’t find yet a definition for “culture”, still doing a mental mind map on it.
MY JOURNEY TO, FROM AND STAY IN GERMANY
MY JOURNEY TO, FROM AND STAY IN GERMANY 27.6.2017 TO 31.7. 2017, by TRINA
First of all I thank my organisation Vuga e.V. for giving me this opportunity of travelling and experiencing Germany. Special thanks to Mr. Johannes Wagner who came up with the idea of Vuga together with all the executive and co founders of Vuga e.V. Special thanks to Felicitas the program Coordinator in Germany. Thank you so much for all the effort and love./
Above all, I thank God almighty who does things at the right time. To give you a brief background about my life and education: In my secondary education from senior 2 to senior 6, I was sponsored by a Germany sister or nun who was very old. My mother used to struggle a lot to pay our school fees. My dad died when I was approaching 5 years and I was the first born to my dad, my sister who follows me was 2 and the last born boy was 6 months. My mother was not working but she tried several ways to see that we go to school because she had not gone to school herself. Some people helped us and some schools also helped us to see that we study. Until in secondary I got Sister Irene who was a Germany who made my mother’s life easy by paying my fees and catering for all my school requirements. She used not to write to me but used to send me only one or two post cards in a year for Easter and Christmas. Time came when she was not writing at all but paid my fees anyway. I wrote to her many letters but she never responded and after my senior 6 I was informed that my sponsorship was over. I wanted to see this lady and thank her or at least to reply to my thank you letters but was not possible. In my heart I was wondering about her heart catering for someone she has never met and I purposed inside me that one day if I get a chance to work for Germans, that I would do it whole heartedly little did I know that I will ever get in touch with them but finally here I am with the volunteer program.
When I started hosting the German volunteers (2010) and later working for the volunteer program, I saw like my dream had come true. I remember when I went to immigration one day to get work permits for the volunteers and they asked me how many times I have been in Germany and whether the Germans can ever give me a visa. I told them that I had never gone to Germany but believed that one day I would go as long as am still alive. They told me I should not put them on pressure because I want permits for people who don’t give their visas. I started praying that if I ever get a chance to be invited to Germany that the embassy gives me the visa so that I don’t get ashamed and this is what exactly happened. I did my interview at the embassy and I got it at the first attempt. I once again thank Joe and Fee for providing me with all the necessary documents which made it easy for me to acquire the visa in the shortest time. I left Uganda on 27.6.2017 escorted to the airport by my family. I flew with Brussels airlines though it delayed to arrive at Entebbe but arrived finally. Our first stop was in Kigali Rwanda, then proceeded to Brussels where I arrived in the morning. When I arrived in Brussels, I said to myself that finally am in Europe. After about 2 hours I boarded again up to Berlin. Before we landed, they announced the minutes remaining to land; I smiled and said to myself that FINALLY AM IN GERMANY. I found Roman waiting for me who was later joined by Jakob. Roman took me around Berlin and I even took some pictures at the president’s house.
Joe also travelled from Bonn to Berlin that night. Thank you Joe for sacrificing your working time to come and stay with me. We had a great time with Joe and felt happier to move with him coz am always very free with him and I had very many questions he had to answer since I was new in a foreign country.
Joe took me to many places like the museum, zoo, went for the street festival, to mention but a few. I ate alot. I first stayed at Jakob’s place until I went to Leipzig. I used an ICE which was very fast. I enjoyed it so much. When I arrived in Leipzig, I found the program coordinator Fee and baby Kenza waiting for me. I was overjoyed. It was a great time when at Fee’s place. I had a family life coz there was Fee, Achraf the husband and baby Kenza. I was so happy to be part of this family. Fee took me to different places also like university, malls, museums, city tour of Leipzig. It was a great moment. Joe came again from Bonn to Leipzig and took me to Stefan’s place, met different friends and went for a reggae concert at kaya. After Leipzig, I went with Joe to Bonn. At his place, lived 3 other people 2 italian guys and one German girl. We went to the castle which was so amazing.
I met with Joe’s workmates at Engagement Global for two days and this was a very good opportunity to meet big people too responsible for weltwaerts work. I also felt big somehow. We went to Köln to the Dorm and also met my son Daniel, Agathe who is Joe’s office mate and later travelled back to Bonn.
We travelled back to Leipzig and slept at Stefan’s place. We had a seminar with Franziska who would not attend the first days with the rest of the volunteers. Rico my son also picked me and took me to Bonitz which is some village. I met his family and in this village they had never seen a black person so I was a tourist attraction. I celebrated my 41st birthday in this village. I also attended church on my birthday at Trinitatiskirche in Riesa. In the evening I went to Oschartz to see Rico’s mother too that evening. We toured a very big church in Oschartz which is like a castle of about 500 years. Went to Moritzburg university where Rico and his girl friend are studying to become reverends. Came back to Leipzig for the seminars.
The volunteers arrived on 17.7 Monday afternoon and we had the first session. The seminar was to run from Monday to Sunday. I had a very nice time with the volunteers and got to know them because we shared a lot and they asked all the questions they wanted to know.
Joe and I left for Rostock on Friday and stayed with mama Katrin. We went to Ostsee for a boat trip and got a fishing licence for one day though I didn’t catch any fish however much I tried. We celebrated Stefan’s birthday that evening and we slept on the boat. It was my first time and I loved it. I watched those swimming at warnemunde (Ostsee). Went to garden house.
My days came to an end and went back to Berlin and slept at Jonas’ place. I had my last night at Jacob’s place. Jakob and his girlfriend Rebekah who were all my children escorted me to the airport on 31.7.2017. My family was very happy to receive me back home and I was also very happy to see my family too.
Special thanks to all the people who accommodated me:
- Jakob and Rebekah in Berlin
- Jonas in Berlin
- Felicitas and Ashraf in Leipzig
- Johannes in Bonn
- Stefan in leipzig
- Rico and family in Bonitz
- Mama Katrin in Rostock
Once again, thank you so much everyone who has played any part in my journey while in Germany. I don’t have any better words but thank you. Thank you so much Joe for you have always been there for me and my family too. Thank you for all the financial, social and any kind of support you have rendered to me. Thank you for all travels, accommodation, feeding, drinks, company everything. I pray that you live longer and God to reward you abundantly. I don’t know how to thank everyone but am very grateful. Am also very sorry if I annoyed anyone in anyway unknowingly. Thank you Vuga e.V.