Saturday, October 23, 2010

volunteering abroad, (routinely confused with study abroad/mission trip)

When I was given my assignment for Ttenga, they gave me a sample of the weekday schedule.

It looks like I'll have pretty early mornings as I will help serve breakfast at 7am at the center. The sample they gave me suggests that I would work until about 4:30pm, but have a good amount of break time throughout the day.

While I feel as though I won't have a crystal clear vision of what will be expected of me until I arrive, I'm excited to be volunteering while I'm there. People often ask me why I haven't opted for a study-abroad option. While there is a Uganda study abroad trip here at OSU, I think going through IFRE will be more fitting for me.

Firstly, I like the idea that IFRE is a non-profit organization. From a cost-perspective, my 5 week trip costs pretty much the same as the OSU 2-week trip. I decided that if I'm going to pay for airfare to Africa, I'm going to go for longer than 2 weeks, damnit. Also the study abroad trip would obligate me to pay for a quarter of school credit that I, quite frankly, don't really need.

I took this quarter off of school, because I did some calculations and realized that I can easily graduate "on time" in the spring quarter without getting any credit until Winter and Spring quarters.

The best reason for going through IFRE, for me, is the fact that I'll be a lot more integrated with the Ugandans. I'll be living and working with them every day. Whether or not there will be other Americans in the project for the same time period as me is really kind of up to chance, whether someone else chose to go to the same place at the same time as I did. While I think it might be nice to have someone I can really relate to while I'm there, I'm going in expecting to be the only American.
-note: there are IFRE people in the area who are there to help me whenever I need it and from what I hear they are very supportive and accessible.

I didn't really think about how ballsy it was to plan a trip to Africa by myself instead of in a group, until I started getting people's reactions. I think so far they've been pretty evenly split between people being impressed by my initiative, and bewilderment as to why I would to this to myself. Most of the time I think each person has experienced some of both sides, and I can't blame them for the latter.

But I want to get the absolute most learning opportunity from this trip as possible. Instead of having 2 weeks of tours, field trips and museum visits, I want to have 5 weeks of Uganda. Using the same transportation services, eating their food, living in their home, learning their customs and attitudes and daily issues. I didn't enroll in a research project, mostly because I am travelling abroad for the first time and didn't want to stress myself out too much with an added project, But I hope to make this my very own research project, and contrasting Western culture and society against Kampala's. While I'm sure this is something every international traveler does, consciously or subconsciously, I hope my sponge-like curiosity will pay off because I hope to have a lot more international volunteering experience in my near future.
As a Peace Corps applicant I want to get this taste of service living as I would as a PC volunteer, alongside locals. Today I was filling out the different application forms involving skill sets and I realize my experience in education is quite lacking, especially for how strongly I believe in equal, quality education. I get worked up enough talking about Appalachian schools in Ohio and how unacceptable some kids' resources are. I can only plan for the worst for this center serving children who are described as "some of the most disadvantaged children in Kampala and its surrounding area."

I'm so anxious to know exactly what this place is going to be like, but for now it's a wait-and-see.

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