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Volunteer Story from Uganda

Within a few days of arriving to Uganda, Kristen (the project coordinator for Shanti sat 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.  Although I generally prefer to do the behind the scenes work, 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.

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.

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