My Long Journey to Uganda, Part 1

For me, service is a way of life. I’ve seen a wide range in the effectiveness of service. I spent my 20s lending support to a myriad of social causes: tutoring 7th graders, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for food drives, counseling women to transition from homelessness to employment, and on and on.

I was left wondering what happened to the people I served. Did my tutoring actually make a difference? Did the women that I had a one-off resume review sessions and mock interview sessions with go on to find a ways to support themselves? Were my interventions too late? Too few? I yearned to know more about the aftermath. I yearned to see the faces of people that ate the lunches I packed. I yearned to talk to them. I yearned to know them and their stories.

Welcome to the world, S.O.U.L. Antenatal Education Center!

It’s 9:00am on Monday morning. I start down the red dirt path to the S.O.U.L. office, eyes to the ground in effort to keep my shoes reasonably dust-free. The twinkling of women’s laughter drifts through the banana trees to my ears. “What day is it?” I think to myself. As the answer hits me, I abandon my careful trek and tear off wildly towards the sound. I turn right at the sweet potato garden, scurry down the trail between the maize fields, and with a flourishing swipe of the matooke fronds in my path, I land among the most beautiful sight: 60 Ugandan women, bedecked in their brightest kitenge, patiently awaiting for the opening of the S.O.U.L. Antenatal Education Center.

Bridging the technology gap

In today's market, technology is a driving force. Everywhere you go, people are connected. Not just in the Western markets, even in a developing country, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get a job without even the basic computer skills. The technology field is one of the fastest growing industries worldwide and as we are educating our students through to university level there is still a educational gap between them and their urban counterparts in the way of computer skills. Through strategic partnerships with local schools, S.O.U.L. Foundation is aiming to change and bridge that gap.

It’s not that simple…

There are few tools more powerful in development work than the art of listening. However, moving one step further and channeling this tool through rigorous research offers us the unique opportunity to see inside high complex sets of issues. Through our research, we are able to capture reality in a way that no amount of informal observation allows us to do.

It all started with one village...

When we arrived in Bujagali as S.O.U.L.’s new Global Health Corps (GHC) Fellows, we were welcomed with open arms and open hearts for the important work we were about to embark upon. S.O.U.L.’s vision for a new partnership with GHC was to engage the village in in-depth discussions about the maternal health needs of the community in an effort to inform future programming through S.O.U.L.’s Maternal Health Network. We arrived with the humility to recognize that we lacked the knowledge required to properly inform such a program.

Home Away from Home

After a gruelling flight to Uganda through the night, I drowsily stepped out of the car at the end of the inbound journey with very little going on in my exhausted mind. Immediately, I was greeted by swarms of grinning children outside the S.O.U.L. Shack, who sang to welcome me – undoubtedly the most surprising wake-up I’ve ever received. Yet the incredible hospitality remained as enthusiastic and genuine until the moment I left Kyabirwa, not just from the children but from the entire community, which included the S.O.U.L. volunteers. 

One Month in Bujagali

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.