Today is International Volunteer Day. I have written a piece for VSO Uganda, but thought it might be worth repeating here. It also gives me another excuse to show yet another bit of film.
“A Volunteer Experience:
As a vocational specialist volunteer in Northern Uganda who visits many training colleges, I have been offered small gifts before. Live chickens (once even a pregnant goat) are a standard African present of course. Proposals by trainees to service my motorbike, shave my hair or do my nails are frequent and recently I was given a large pink iced cake. I had to balance it on the handlebars as I drove home in a rain storm.
But the sleeveless jumper I was given today meant the most to me. It was made by sweater weavers at Gulu Persons Disabled Union (GPDU), an institution we have just started working with.
Their disabilities can be profound, both physical and mental and their exclusion from society, education and the economy equally debilitating. This jumper was one of the first to be completed by the trainees, turning down gifts can be misinterpreted and there was absolutely no question of doing that today.
The young women (and two young men) who had made this garment – lots of room to grow into it too – were justifiably proud of their first steps to economic independence.
Receiving such an important statement is an experience I will never forget. We might just be coming into the dry season with temperatures up to forty degrees, but I will be wearing my jumper often.”
This is another brief video that rounds up our student graduation season