Volunteering in Uganda February 28, 2012Posted by Jeff Riley in : international development , trackback
This post is updated (April 2013) since it was published last year . Our friends at Kanaama have sent us this update…
“A full-time partnership development worker at Kanaama means that activities of visiting students now tie in more closely with local projects, guided by KICS-Ug staff and members. Added to our main programmes of microcredit, agricultural training and stove-building is more work in education. The new Saturday orphan centre for 60 children, with psycho-social counselling and play, school and medical costs and food security, has been planned step-by-step with a local committee and involves centre guides and volunteers. Two school links have received funding from Connecting Classrooms and two other links are being negotiated. Solar power at the house improves communication for the office and for visitors, as does a new motorbike for microcredit work – astonishing to see women riding it! There are many opportunities for students to have a good and rewarding time by engaging in this work – eg by fundraising, base-line studies, monitoring and IT capacity training, – as well as dissertation research. Have a look at www.kiuganda.org and get in touch! For blogs of recent volunteers try http://www.kiuganda.org/latest/ .
‘This was the perfect way to learn about life in the rural areas of Uganda. I was amazed by the wonderful ideas that many of the local people had, and the level of knowledge about the problems and the possible solutions.’ (Peter, international consultant engineer doing an MA at SOAS) “
Here is the original post
A key factor in getting into international development is international experience. Organising this can be daunting. It’s also expensive. So while there are several agencies that can help typically they aren’t NGOs but more likely other kinds of charities or private companies. Interventions facilitated in this way can also be controversial – you can read about a debate in an earlier blog here http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/blog/development/index.php/2010/12/14/416/#comments
Recently I met with Dr Prue Chamberlayne who helps run Kanaama Interactive (www.kiafrica.org), a non-profit development project in south-western Uganda. We talked about the kinds of internships Kanaama offer and their take on the issue.
Dr Chamberlayne, what is Kanaama Interactive? Kanaama is a small village in southwest Uganda. KI offers volunteering and research placements developed with local partners. This ranges from things like working with orphans, microcredit training and monitoring, and project development such as organic farming, journalism and health outreach.
How did it start? Well quite organically. We had a family connection. My son’s late father was a doctor in Uganda and my son, who is a social worker in London, has cousins there. He saw a great need to facilitate volunteering experiences in this rather remote part of the country that wasn’t well served by NGOs. I had more time on my hands as I was doing less teaching (formerly also at the LSE). We had an initial meeting with local organisations and were amazed when around 50 turned up. Since 2007 it has been quite a journey. We have had to get ourselves established as a charitable association. This allowed us to apply for things like gift aid and helped with fundraising initiatives – people aren’t inclined to raise money for a private company. This whole process took a lot of effort – and legal advice which isn’t cheap. This side of the work isn’t necessarily over either as we may yet become a charitable company to provide more protection for our trustees.
What kind of people go on your placements? We get a lot of students who go to do field work as part of undergraduate and Masters courses. Their experience is then academically accredited. We work quite closely with the University of East Anglia as well as others. Offering placements that meet academic criteria means that they have to be well planned. Other volunteers come who want their placements to give them the international experience. They might tend to come during summer vacations
What is the advantage of KI placements? Kanaama is outside the ‘ngo belt’ of Kampala. So we offer a direct rural experience. Having said though there are agencies that operate in the region so we are able to share best practice with them – and work with them as well. We have a house in the village of Kanaama which offers our volunteers a degree of comfort and community. There aren’t many volunteers at any one time – around six or so – and they will be experiencing the local community fully – including the challenge of accessing IT, working with local organisations and eating local food.
Some students volunteer in London. They enjoy seeing what’s involved in the administration of a small charity and in the development of partnership working in a rural community. They help with publicity and organise London-based events jointly with students who have been to Kanaama.
What kind of placements are there? We do have a wide range. Many of them have been developed from ideas and initiatives from previous volunteers. Students have come to do nutrition projects – one student conducted lots of interviews with local people in the market. Others have studied teacher morale, women’s savings groups, and livelihoods. We have a microcredit project using the Grameen method. We have over 150 loans that have been set up through this channel. The project is really focused on working with the ‘unbanked’ – this is over 40% of the population. Volunteers help with monitoring the groups and loans. What we are concerned with here is helping local people diversify their livelihoods. So local women have been helped with loans to set up tailoring, goat keeping and brick-making projects. Other volunteers might be working with a local vocational centre that offers training in such things as automobiles, secretarial work and agricultural training – with the challenge of climate change it makes it even more important we make better use of our resources. We have recently started a stove building project. This is a good example of an idea that came from a volunteer. We are developing health placements, mainly for community nursing placements. Volunteers working with local people to help prevent the spread of disease and promote healthy lifestyles. We don’t offer technical nursing placements because the health infrastructure wouldn’t lend itself to that.
We also offer education placements. We will sometimes get experienced teachers on placement. At primary level they have tended to do creative projects, kites, plays, photography. One student teacher worked up a project proposal for orphans – that was wonderfully helpful. Others will be helping students studying subjects like English, Economics and Business at O and A level.
How do you respond to critics who object to organisations sending unqualified people to work in schools in the developing world? I can imagine the protest if an unqualified Ugandan was sent to the UK to teach in a school? Well, it is true that it is a delicate area and it is not unknown for local teachers to feel insulted by the presence of volunteers. As mentioned earlier we very much welcome experienced teachers but there are still positive contributions to be made by those without formal qualifications. Teachers are badly paid and often absent, and schools particularly seek help with specialist subjects. Volunteer placements often lead to other benefits, notably a school link programme, and fundraising for a water tank and for class room floors and windows. Most importantly school students greatly enjoy dialogue on the wider world: ‘You call yourselves good Christians, so why did you enslave Africa?’ One headteacher regards this exchange and widening of horizons as the most valuable asset.
How much do placements cost? We charge between £300 for a 7 day experience visit and up to £1000 for an 8 week placement. These include accommodation and most food. Flights are extra but living costs in country are fairly low.