HANNAH IN UGANDA
My name is Hannah and I volunteered for 12 months as a teacher at ‘Angels Centre’- a centre for children with special needs in Uganda.
My project was a centre for children with special needs. At the centre we provided the children with an environment of fun and laughter, whilst all the while stimulating them through various learning techniques. We would teach them basic education such as ABC’s, numbers and colours and also teach them everyday activities such as cleaning dishes and bathing. This centre was founded in 2012 and is still finding its feet. Although small, in the year that I was there, it had expanded from eight children to 16 children and will continue to grow. Due to the stigma attached to disabilities and special needs in Uganda, such centres are very rare, which is what makes this project so special. It is a step in the right direction for promoting awareness of a variety of different disabilities.
MY ROLE IN ANGELS CENTRE FOR CHILDREN WITH SPECIAL NEEDS
I worked as a teacher assistant at the centre and would help with all aspects of work. I would teach the children basic education and stimulate them through various games, dancing and singing. I also involved them in cleaning, washing and learning to walk outside independently; all things that would be essential for them to understand as they grow up. I would also assist the Director of the centre with administrative work. I created newsletters to send out to sponsors and I completed the children’s school reports at the end of each term. My priority was to make all of the children feel loved and happy and to create an environment for them where they could play and feel like members of one big family where they would not be stigmatised.
A TYPICAL DAY FOR ME WAS…
The children would arrive at school at 8:30am and we would play outside and do small exercises to warm them up and prepare them for the day. At 9:00am we began teaching, starting with ABC’s, numbers and colours and engaging them using educational songs and encouraging them to teach one another. At 10:00am it was time for breakfast, where we would teach them to feed themselves and clean up after themselves. From 10:30am till 11:00am, it was play time, where they would be free to play with one another or by themselves with a variety of toys and games at the centre. From 11:00am-01:00pm, we would split the children into two classes according to their abilities, and teach them through activities such as puzzles, cleaning and games. During this time we would also sing children rhymes and encourage them to dance (this was my favourite time of the day; Ugandan children know how to dance!). From 01:00pm-02:00pm it was time for lunch. From 02:00pm-03:00pm, it was resting time for the children, where they would sleep and relax. 03:00pm-04:00pm, it was time to bathe the children so they could go home to their families clean and tidy. We would teach them how to wash themselves and dress themselves; again important skills for their future. From 04:00pm-05:00pm, we would allow the children to play whilst they waited to be collected by their families.
The day is very busy and as there was only myself and one other teacher caring for 10-16 children with a variety of different needs, there was never a moment where you were not kept on your toes! The children required a lot of love and attention an there was never a dull moment at Angels Centre.
WHAT I GOT UP TO WHEN I WAS NOT VOLUNTEERING
Uganda is a fascinating and beautiful country and there was always a new place to visit. I explored many areas within Uganda, all made possible by the simple and cheap transport! I also spent the Christmas holiday travelling around Kenya and Tanzania, Uganda’s neighbouring countries. I was lucky enough to go on a safari in Uganda and see their wide diversity of wildlife. There is so much to see and do in Uganda that I was not able to do it all. I found myself seeking small villages and meeting locals all over the country and learning about their history.
THE MOST INTERESTING THING ABOUT LIVING & VOLUNTEERING IN UGANDA IS…
THE PEOPLE! Ugandan’s are so hospitable and genuinely want to be your friend. They are always so fascinated to hear about your culture and the differences in your home country. They want to welcome you into their homes and share stories with you. Uganda is a very conservative country, and it is always alluring to learn about their culture and history, one that is quite different from our own. I was working with some very vulnerable families, and yet they would always smile and thank God for what they did have. Ugandan’s have a very strong faith and this is clear wherever you go. Yet they do not try to push this onto you; they accept that their culture and beliefs are different from your own, and are eager to hear your own perceptions on different things.
FROM MY VOLUNTEER PLACEMENT I LEARNT/GAINED
My placement taught me how to view the world from another perspective. It taught me that every culture is different, and none are right or wrong, just contrasting to one another. It helped me to learn to be grateful for everything that we have. Material items do not buy happiness, but love, family and friends do. It taught me that life is a precious gift, something to be cherished and looked after. I gained the confidence to do something I had never done before and to adapt to a new culture from my own. I cannot promote this centre enough. It has changed my perspective on the world and I have gained skills that I will take with me forever. Thank you ICYE for giving me this opportunity!