“New adventure is about to begin”
I realized when I was reading about Africa and thinking about what I am getting myself into. I knew about this project a long time ago, probably 4-5 months. Still remember the day when to the question:
“Do you wanna participate in an EVS project in Uganda Africa in the summer ‘19”
I answered “Yes!” without any hesitation.
It seemed so far away at first, but the day came quicker than I thought and before I knew it, I was on the plane flying to Uganda and more specifically to Entebbe. Still, remember how most of us just met and we were laughing, having some drinks, each of us wondering individually for his/her reasons to come here.
“How did we end up here.” Someone asked and everyone looked at each other and laughed.
There was no going back, the plane was flying high above Turkey.
After 7 hours we landed at the Entebbe Airport, Uganda, where we were greeted by our mentor Micheal. It was really funny how the moment we went outside of the airport everyone stared spraying around with mosquito repellents, you know because of malaria.
We were at the parking lot, I remember, a big and empty one. There was nothing else around, except 9 muzungus about to face life in Africa. And so we loaded the vehicle, stacked ourselves with all the suitcases and backpacks in that white Toyota all-wheel-drive van, with just enough space to breathe. The time was around 3 AM, we were traveling roads unknown and it seemed like people from Uganda were not sleeping, they were active I noticed observing through the window. They use the night to move because it’s not that hot and there is less traffic.
Orientation week – First week
This was the week where we got familiar with the environment, the people and plan the work for the project. There was also a lot of information about safety, advice on does and don’ts and some home rules.
Cultural shock? You guessed!
In the following week we divided into three teams gardening, education and construction according to the skills each of us could offer the community and what we enjoy doing. After all the orientation and planning it was time for work, each of us quickly enrolled in the responsibilities and tasks we planned. We started by building the carpentry, where we use all the materials we already had available. With a lot of team effort, sweat and nails we made it!
Once we got the carpentry, we started the playground, first the garden team begun by investing in making the ground leveled, two playgrounds on two different grounds with stairs and connection between them.
Afterward, the construction team started building different compositions of playthings such as balancers, swings, tunnels, etc. Also, we used tires for a fence to separate the football field with the playground.
It is important to mention that we did the labor by putting a lot of work by ourselves and hiring local people to help, so we can support them.
After the first three weeks,
The place was starting to look different, the whole area was transformed and everyone was involved in the process. It was a lot of hard work, which is not that bad accompanied by a lot of joy and laughter.
Meanwhile, the girls were hustling in the school teaching the little ones the basics of health, communication, maths, geography, etc. The challenge there was communication if they don’t understand, it is hard to keep their attention.
Every Monday we gather for a meeting, where we reflect on what happened the previous week and also plan the upcoming one. Members of both parties gave ideas on how we can improve our work, suggested the implementation of workflows so we are more effective. Also, each team reports the progress and the challenges they had been through. Looking back to the meetings, they were a crucial part of our success so far.
First lessons & realizations
Learn to be patient, that one is crucial. Ugandans and more specifically in the area that I live in – Kampala, the locals take their time to do things here. If someone says he is going to meet you at 10 you can expect him around 11,11:30. It took me some time to understand that here there are a lot of challenges, which are preventing people to get on time such as the traffic, it is a big thing here, or as simple as a flat tire, or not having the money to afford the ride if the person lives far away. That also made me appreciate the western transport an logistics.
I like this way they perceive the circumstances, this is somthing out of my control, so I don’t need to stress about it. I need to focus on the solution.
“It is what it is,” they say or “what can we do?”
Learning to appreciate the small things.
This is a big one for me. Here people think day to day because they are too busy concerning about their survival. Get through the day and that’s good enough. That helped me realize how different life is here from what I am used to. Of curse going to Uganda I was more or less aware of that but on an intellectual level kind of thing. Now that I’ve experienced it, I learned to appreciate more of the basis, yet essential resources such as clean water, food, access to consistent electricity and internet… even the freedom to move around without always being on alert.
Approaching the middle of my stay.
It was obvious how the place began to change, the collective effort gave result, everyone is doing their best to contribute to the process. New buildings started to appear, roofs were opened and soon repaired. The playground was painted, covered with sand and the goalposts were on point. The inside of the dormitories was also taken care of. Together with the children we fixed, painted the beds and bought mattresses to ensure comfort and good night sleep.
Back to this day switching in the present, we are already operating on the installation of the clean water. Everyone is thrilled that we officially kicked it off.
What is the result so far:
- Education of the children providing them with the basic knowledge of the essentials. (hygiene, self-expression, communication, team-work, basic of maths, geography literature and etc.)
- Fixed dormitories interior (fixed, painted beds, mattresses, and bedsheets)
- Carpentry workshop, where everyone can try to build something on its own.
- A playground where the kids can have fun and relax before and after the lessons.
- Sitting area for outside activities.
- Football/Badminton/Volleyball field
- Trash bins
- Water Filtration System (Ongoing)
- The building of the kitchen where we help with supervision. (ongoing)
- Organizing events and workshops where we have fun and learn
- An enormous feeling of gratitude and happiness. Tons of happy faces.
With all the help and guidance from our mentors from KYDA our collective effort and passion, all the meetings the discussions and problem-solving thinking we were able to truly transform the place.
I remember Micheal saying in the beginning:
“When they are happy, you will be happy! You will see.”
And that’s so true, being able to see them enjoying and contributing from the things we’ve done and their gratitude and genuine happiness fill up my soul. Like for real.
In a search for happiness, looking at the bigger picture.
“The more you seek your happiness the more you will help others to be happy. Because that is the only way to be happy in the world. If everybody else around you is unhappy, you cannot be happy, because man is not an island. He is part of the vast continent. If you want to be happy, you will have to help others who surround you to be happy. Then – and only then – can you be happy.”Osho
Looking forward to spending the last few weeks, I asked myself the question of what will happen after we leave. Africa already did impact me in the way I view and understand the world now, but will the impact that we leave here will last?
“I know if you spent enough money on each person in a village you will change their lives. If you put in enough resources- enough muzungu, foreigners,techincal assistance and money – lives change. I know that… the problem is when you walk away, what happens?”Simon Blend
The focus will be on helping them develop that thinking of self-empowerment, which we already tried to apply while working with them, asking them what their priorities are, what are their challenges and what is their self-engineered solution.
The outcome of this will help them make the first step towards solving their own problems as the locals understand their best because they have been living here. To stop waiting for another muzungu to come and fix another problem, but to take the “wheel” and work their way for the self-sustainable country.