Monday, 5 October 2009

Are you crazy?

This time in two weeks I will have landed where the X is on the map above. Cool.

People have asked me "Aren't you scared?", "Why Uganda, are you crazy?" and the most frequent comment being "Watch out for Aids!".

In response, yes I'm scared. But it's just a fear of the unknown and going by myself I think. I'm definitely more excited than scared though. I am a quite fearful of malaria or accidentally consuming something, water or food, that might see me bedridden for a week. I am also feeling anxious about how the experience will affect me in the long run. After all, I am not going as a tourist. I am going to be living in a third world community for six long, hot weeks. And I'm sure in that time, I am likely to see things that will go against my western upbringing. I have heard stories of child beatings in schools (although I am assured this does not go on at the school I am visiting) and of course I will see seriously malnurished families and people suffering from illnesses that in the UK would be treated with a common prescription but can be fatal in the third world. My heart is going to either become very strong, or break into tiny pieces. I was reading someone else's Blog yesterday and they were talking about how unbelievable it is that they could easily pick up a mobile phone signal on the longest, most isolated dirt track in Africa, yet children are still dying from hunger and dehydration. We have tamed technology (as far as we can for now) and jump for joy at the release of the latest iPhone, yet serious humanitarian issues are left unattended, unfunded. Sickening.

So why Uganda? After days spent searching endlessly on the internet (and some serious headaches), I finally came across the fantastic family-run website Ecoteer which I have mentioned previously. They list tons of independent volunteering opportunities and, for a small membership fee of £20, you can view all the contact information for each project. Then it is up to you - the volunteer - to contact the project and make the necessary arrangments. For me, my experience surpassed my expectations of this website because, as you know, there were problems with my original Ugandan placement and Ecoteer contacted me to warn me. They also put me in touch with one of their more experienced volunteers - the lovely Ann - who pointed me in the direction of the school I will now be involved with. That's a great personal service for just £20!!

Anyway, I digress. Why Uganda? Honestly, my first choice would have been Sudan. I am horrified that even in this day and age, carefree tribal children, uneducated about the nature of the western world, are being kidnapped from their villages (after their families are horrifically murdered in front of their innocent eyes) and then sold on to rich Sudanese families. One young girl - Mende Nazer - tells her story in a book, simply titled "Slave", and she was even 'lent' by her 'owners' in Sudan to a Sudanese Diplomat and his family ... right here in the UK. When was this you ask? She was sent here to the UK 'on loan' in 2000. If you would like to know more about Mende, you can find a short version of events here >>

So yes, Sudan had my heart a long time ago and I really wanted to get out there. But, I don't have a death wish and Sudan is not the safest of places at the moment. It's certainly not somewhere I would ever consider travelling on my own. I have a son at home to think about and I would never put myself in danger. So taking this into account, I redirected my focus on where was safe in Africa. And Uganda - despite the horrific history and scary reputation - is quite high on the safe list. You should have seen my mom's face when I told her I was flying into Entebbe though, ha! Try it on your parents. The borders, okay they are not safe at all. But I am not going anywhere near the border with Sudan or other 'hot spots'.

Some of my friends seem to think I'm going to get Aids. I'm not sure how. I am not planning to share blood or other bodily fluids with anyone. Having spent the majority of my childhood in the 80's, I am well educated on the subject. I have no less than 8 clean syringes in my first aid pack and there is also an international hospital in Kampala should the worst happen. In the western world, are we really still that afraid and uneducated about Aids that, if you hear someone is going to Africa, that's your first concern? I honestly don't know how to respond to this. It stumps me everytime that someone says it to me. I'm more scared about catching ringworm from one of the kids in all honesty. Or malaria. Or rabies!! From what I last read, you can't catch Aids from playing football or reading to kids.


  1. Hi Stephanie

    How are you? let us know how things are going for you. would love to hear more of your stories and if you have any photos please send them to us. We will be hosting a photography competition this month - april

    Volunteer with Ecoteer!

  2. Hi Daniel - I had an amazing experience and then went onto Nepal. On the Home page of this Blog, you can find the link to my new Blog regarding that trip, and also the full set of photographs (via links to my Facebook profile). Settled back in UK for the time being ... but definitely will volunteer again soon, and I'm 100% going back to see the Owinos again!! :-)