Recently we helped a young girl to travel to Uganda to explore the country, work on a vital conservation project and also help to make a difference within a school. Here is an account of her adventure below:
“The first half of the trip involved trekking from the South to the North of Uganda, camping every night at a different place or island. We were hosted by different local communities with whom we ate the local food and shared amazing stories. We also made regular stops during the day to fully immerse ourselves in the local way of life and gain different perspectives; we visited a witch doctor, a Pygmy Batwa tribe leader, a coffee plantation, craft ladies, wildlife conservationists, nurseries, schools and zoos. It was amazing to cross three lakes (Lake Mutanda, Lake Bunyonyi and Lake Victoria) and the River Nile, see three dormant volcanoes and small mountains, trek through two national parks (Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Murchison Park), go through rainforests and cross a swamp (in Echuya Forest). We also spent a couple days at a rhino sanctuary, where the endangered white rhinos are thriving due to the dedication of the staff, and I got to see two families of the rhinos together up close for an hour. Another highlight of the trip was on the final day of the trek, when we trekked through Bwindi Impenetrable National Park with guides to find the endangered Silverback mountain gorillas and spent an hour in the company of 6 of these amazing animals. Learning about conservation was so interesting as all the guides were so knowledgeable and happy to answer questions – it was eye-opening to see how much happier the animals are in national parks and sanctuaries than when being conserved in zoos.
The second half of the project was spent living at Nalinaibi Primary school, with over 600 students from 4-14 years old. It was hard work as it was a 6.30am start every day in order to make sure the playground was built on time to a high standard: we started with digging lots of holes, then we welded all the different parts of the metal structures together to make things such as slides and swings, and cemented the play equipment safely into the holes after hand-mixing the cement. Finally, we made it come to life with lots of colour, care and creativity. In the afternoon when it became too hot, we did creative play sessions with the school children which showed them a more fun and engaging way to learn. It was lovely spending time with the children and seeing them so happy while learning and interacting with us. Creative play leaders from the charity also trained the teachers in creative play so it could carry on after we left.
One of the best days of the entire trip was the open day. It was a day filled with speeches, musical performances, certificates, joy and pride at what we had built together. A paper chain made by the children was wrapped round the playground then cut by the head teacher, so that all the kids could run screaming with excitement and happiness onto the playground and finally start using it. The playground has 2 slides, a tyre climbing frame, a safari truck, a pretend shop and doctors clinic, 2 sets of swings, 2 seesaws, elephants and giraffes, cars and bodas (motorbikes), musical instruments such as drums and xylophones, and a tyre pyramid and caterpillar in the end. After this, we visited a different school for a few days, where a group with East African Playgrounds had built a playground 4 years prior. We repainted it all to make it look brand new again to ensure the sustainability of all of East African Playground’s work and to show the children that they were not forgotten.
I have now joined East African Playground Alumni Club to keep informed on the progress of the charity, attend reunion events and see how the playground I built is getting on. I would also definitely like to keep travelling to teach myself about the world and the cultures within it as well as complete other volunteering projects. For instance, next summer, I might go to China, another place I have never been, to teach kids English with an organisation called Gotoco. This project showed me how little I know about the world and that there are many more exciting places to see and people to meet but that there is also lots that still needs to be done in order to ensure everyone has the high quality of life they deserve. I am also lucky to say that I have made friends for life with the people I spent this amazing month with.