by Kristyn Durie (Volunteer)Wow what an amazing 2.5 weeks! My time at Shanti Uganda was the best short-term volunteer experience that I have ever had. While I have had fun volunteering in places from Costa Rica to Cambodia, my time at Shanti wasn’t just fun…it was life changing. It was so well-organized that I got to do real, lasting work with a wonderful group of women. On a personal level, I discovered the direction that I will take going forward in my own career.
Shanti Uganda’s volunteer application process is impressive -- they ensure that the applicant and the project are the right fit. When I arrived, Kristen, the Project Coordinator, presented me with a specific list of objectives based on my experience.
In less than three weeks, I was able to develop a pre-natal yoga workshop for the midwives, including a blueprint for leading classes, handouts for moms, and an instructional poster. I also developed a basic home practice for the Women’s Group. And the really fun part: I got to teach classes to the moms, midwives, Women’s Group and the Teen Girl’s Group. They had so much fun with yoga: making “Cat-Cow” noises, laughing as the swayed their “Trees” into each other. Teaching simple poses, taught under the shade of the circular hut, in the Birthing Center’s beautiful gardens. What could be better?
This: Kristen, despite her own busy schedule, arranged for me to doula for a couple of days at the public hospital. I was able to put my training into practice, witnessing a birth less than an hour after I arrived. I will never forget watching that child emerge from his soundless mother and then carrying him, less than 5 minutes old, to the recovery area.
Another highlight: I had the chance to work and live with exceptional women. They met me upon arrival, schooled me in the ways of living in our small town, and made me feel safe. I was quickly made a part of Shanti’s mission. Kristen went the extra mile, helping me to arrange incredible weekend adventures (Lions! Giraffes!), which helped me to see more of Uganda.
I have had many experiences living, working and volunteering abroad. My time in Uganda, though very short, ranks up there with the best of these experiences. I have already begun urging friends who are doulas and yoga instructors to consider volunteering. It is truly an experience not to be missed.