My Volunteering Experience in Uganda

My name is Natalie Harris and I have been a Primary School Teacher for the past 5 years. I believe that children are the future of every nation and I have vowed to support the development of such young minds through the engenderment of intellectual empowerment. I believe that if man is free to think, then the possibilities of what he can achieve are endless. Thus, thought is the oxygen to life’s successes for behind every thought, an act must follow if ideas are to be realised. We have all heard the phrase, ‘knowledge is the source of power,’ but how can power be shared if knowledge is limited and unshared? As Friedrich Nietzsche so aptly pointed out, ‘He who cannot share anything, cannot feel anything.’ It is against this notion that I decided to become a part of Future Builders Uganda (FBU) as this is an organisation which seeks to share promise, power and understanding with those who have not been afforded the same opportunities as others in the world.

Moses Jjunju, the founder of FBU, gave me an opportunity to put my thoughts into action by introducing me to an organisation that strives to support the educational and economic welfare of children and young adults that attend a deprived school in the remote village of Nakaseke, Uganda. As an African, who was raised in the West, it has always been instilled in me to help those who have not experienced the same level of freedom and study that I have been lucky enough to have known. I therefore, jumped at the opportunity to visit a different part of Africa to see how others live and learn.

My first day at Saint Balikuddembe came with mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was blown away by how disciplined the children were and how welcoming each face appeared. However, admittedly, I was distressed to see such beautiful and motivated children experience hunger and thirst on a daily basis. Due to the lack of food provided, children were unable to concentrate for extended periods of time – some children even resorted to eating grass. Due to a lack of resources, children were scrambling for a pencil or pen, which sometimes resulted in arguments. Moreover, in some cases, every inch of exercises had been utilised and as lessons progresses, pupils were frantically and worriedly trying to find spaces in their books to write. Against this backdrop, it is clear to see that more support is needed; that’s were Future Builder Uganda comes in.

To combat the issue of hunger, Moses Jjunju has set up a cassava plantation on one of the school’s fields. He hopes to instil the idea of being self-sufficient by farming and producing food from an early age. Therefore, during afternoon lessons, teachers have been encouraged to take their pupils outside to tend to the cassava as well as the other crops that have recently been planted.

To address the issue of limited resources, Lauren Smith and I developed strategies and games that teachers could use to administer classes, without feeling the pressure of always getting children to write in books. Verbal exercises were demonstrated and some teachers were able to see the benefit of kinaesthetic learning.

On the last day of my volunteering experience, a group of us contributed money towards buying food for the children to eat. As a result of our efforts, we were able to supply food for the entire school. We cooked a range of meats and rice, offering large portions to ensure that the children would have enough food in their stomachs to last them the night. In short, this was received well and it is something that I would like to be a part of again.

To sum up my main experience of Uganda, I would say that it is a place overflowing with potential. I was impressed by the resourcefulness of the inhabitants and their willingness to learn and impart knowledge. However, as education is limited in certain areas of the country, learning is unfortunately often stunted (this is particularly evident in remote villages). Therefore, I believe that Future Builders Uganda is a stepping stone that will act as a facilitator towards supporting the next generation, who are the future leaders and educators of the nation.