By Julie Collura, S.O.U.L. Foundation Volunteer
I arrived in Bujagali with Tom, another volunteer from the UK, and Nicolas, our driver. We were greeted by dozens of S.O.U.L. pre-primary students, who sang and danced for us. After meeting the S.O.U.L. staff and getting a brief tour of the S.O.U.L. Shack, we walked down the village road to meet our host families. I immediately fell in love with Sal and Mama Musa and their children. They welcomed me into their home and made me feel like part of the family.
The next morning (and every morning in Bujagali), I awoke to a crowing rooster and the sounds of Mama Musa preparing breakfast. After a delicious and filling meal of fresh eggs, mandazi, avocado, tomato, fried potatoes, and the world’s best pineapple, Tom and I walked to the S.O.U.L. Shack to assist the pre-primary teachers. The children are so bright and eager to learn! Although, I am afraid they get quite distracted by visitors! I was happy to teach them “You Are My Sunshine” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands.” On this first full day, I also observed the women’s tailoring group and visited some of the chicken groups. The day ended with dinner at the Shack with the S.OU.L. staff and friends.
The highlight of the next day was playing netball with the women of the village. Netball is something like basketball, but the rules are quite complicated! I know I was terrible at the game, but playing was a lot of fun! The women really get into the game and are quite competitive. They spend their days digging in their gardens, preparing meals, and caring for children. They rarely have an opportunity to play or do anything strictly for themselves. Netball gives them that opportunity.
The following day, I visited Calimantina’s midwife clinic. Calimantina has been delivering babies since 1974. She is now nearing 70, and delivers between 3 and 7 babies every day, by herself. S.O.U.L. has drastically improved her working conditions, providing gloves, bandages, clean mattresses, solar panels, and a water collection system. Calimantina is tireless, caring, generous, and grateful.
Other highlights of this amazing and enlightening month include teaching Charlotte’s Web to a P6 class at St. Mary’s School; visiting Sal, my Ugandan father, at his job as points man for Ugandan Railways; checking on all five of S.O.U.L.’s chicken groups with Outreach Coordinator, Phoebe; visiting my little sisters at school in Jinja: teaching computer classes to the villagers; helping to dig at the fish ponds; and visiting a women’s group in a nearby village with area councilwoman, Annet.
The month went by much too quickly and soon it was my last day in Bujagali. My host family prepared a special farewell lunch for Tom and me. There were speeches of appreciation, and gifts and letters from the family. Lastly, they plated a flower in front of the house in my honor. Sal told me on several occasions, “When you return to Uganda, you stay here and nowhere else. This is your home.” And, I will return. As they say in Uganda, “a promise is a debt.” I plan to pay my debt.
To learn more about volunteering with S.O.U.L. Foundation, click here.