Volunteer Projects

Within a few days of arriving to Uganda, Kristen (the project coordinator for Shanti, who will be working on the ground here until next September) made a point of sitting down with me to explain the types of projects she had imagined I could work on during my five month placement.  One of the things I was most pleased to hear was that I’ll have the opportunity to help design and run projects and workshops for each of the different groups that the maternity and learning centre works with.  This week Vanessa and I were busy revamping the manual for the teen girls program, a six day workshop we’re leading that teaches young women between 12 and 18 about health, nutrition, exercise, HIV, and menstruation.

The bones of the workshop were good, but the manual was in dire need of some editing.  Given that English is a second (at least) language for these girls, 50+ pages full of nothing but text was not really the most effective way to get the information across, so we went through and edited out all the wordiness, and I spent some time “prettying up” the look of the manual.  With the frequent power outages we’ve had, it was a little tricky to finish reformatting the document before the first day of the workshop on Saturday, but we managed to get in just under the wire, and luckily the printing place in town had a functioning photocopier.

We’ve done two of the six days so far, and things are going well.  The girls have become more comfortable with having two Mzungus leading the workshop, and we all had quite a bit of fun playing icebreaker games and learning different yoga positions, among other things.  Although I generally prefer to do the behind the scenes work when it comes to health education, I’ll certainly have ample opportunities to get more comfortable leading groups while I’m here.  Kristen has asked me to create and run workshops for expectant mothers who come to the centre for prenatal care, and for the women’s group, HIV positive women who make jewelry and bags that Shanti purchases from them and sells in Canada.  There’s also funding to run quite a few more weeks of the teen girls’ program, which I’m likely to be involved with since they’ll be happening after the other current volunteers leave in November.

The agriculturalist, Ritah, showing the groundsperson, Kato, what she wants done with the gardens while Ssanyu, one of the midwives, looks on.

Over the longer term, Kristen is hoping to have me work on some income-generating projects (mushroom growing, etc) with the women’s group, to help them create sustainable ways of making money that aren’t dependent on the sale of items to Canada.  One person that will be helping us set up the mushroom project is Ritah, an agriculturalist who comes to the Nsaasi site once a month to help Shanti design the gardens at the maternity and learning centre.

Eventually, there will be gardens that grow herbs and other plants, with labels in Luganda and English that explain what they are and whatever beneficial properties/uses they may have (for pregnancy, childbirth, etc). There will also be an example garden where people can see how to grow a large amount of food on very small amounts of land.  Given everything we’ve laid out so far, there will certainly be plenty to keep me busy until well into February, which is my estimated departure date at the moment.

Now I just need to spend some time figuring out what places around Uganda I’d like to see during my days off…