Tuesday, March 19, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”--March 19, 2013 (Day 0)


I wanted to post one more blog before I start my “30 Sites and 30 Nights” project in order to explain a little bit more about how this is going to work.

In the title of every blog post you will see the the title of the project and then the date and which day in the project this is. This is partly just in case I can't post for a day and I end up posting two or maybe three posts all at once. Hopefully this won't happen and I'll be able to post every day, but I'm just being prepared.

The first half of every (or almost every) blog post will be a volunteer profile. I will be asking every volunteer an identical set of questions about who they are, what it is like at there site, and what they have been doing or plan to do throughout their service. From these questions I will be compiling a profile on each volunteer I visit.

The second half of every post will be more like “stories from the road”. This part will most likely include my daily activities with and without these volunteers. So this can be anything that happens to me while I'm traveling to the experience I had visiting a volunteer's organization.

Here is an example post that should be very similar to the next 30 posts (in theory the blog posts may be more detailed especially the second part):

EXAMPLE

Name: Jen Harkins

Age: 25

Home Town: Philadelphia

What she did before Peace Corps: Finished her MBA and was working IT helpdesk

Program Sector: Education

Number of months spent in Uganda: 25

Host Organization: Kinoni Girls' Secondary School

Site location: Kinoni Trading Center, Mbarara District, Southwest Region

Language spoken at his site: Runyankore

Jen is working with Kinoni Girls' Secondary School, which is an all-girls school outside of Mbarara Town. She teaches computers and math class and has worked on several other projects as well. The thing Jen finds most interesting about her school is that it is not like a typical Peace Corps volunteer school. It is much more well established than most other schools. Throughout her service she worked on acquiring a grant that allowed her school to obtain 20 brand new computers and a printer. She also helped revamp the entire computer lab. In addition to her work at her site, Jen has also directed West GLOW (Girls Leading Our World), a regional girls empowerment camp. She also works closely with Peace Corps as a member of the Peace Corps Uganda Grant Committee and Volunteer Action Committee (VAC).

Jen's favorite things about her site are the location, the students, the teachers and the sustainability. “My site is right on the main Mbarara-Kabale highway, which makes it really easy to get to town. I’m also one of the closest volunteers to Mbarara, which I think is one of the best towns to be in close proximity to. My students are hardworking and respectful. The teachers here have also been one of the greatest things my site has to offer. They have always tried their hardest to help me integrate and they are always so interested in discussing the differences between our cultures. Lastly, I’m very appreciative for the sustainability of my school. My school was already well established with an amazing staff, so I can clearly see that any project I start here will most definitely be continued in the future and I’m pretty sure that’s what every volunteer wants.” She also says her favorite moments at site were when her mom came to visit and when she finally saw her grant completed. “The first one happened early in my service, when my mom came to visit and she spent about 5 days at my site. My school was so welcoming and they really wanted her to feel at home and they wanted to show her around. They felt that it was very important for her to see that I was being taken care of and I really appreciated that. And even to this day people at school ask me how my mom is. My other favorite moment was when we finally got the new computers that we got from the grant I wrote. It was very fulfilling to see that project completed. It took most of my service to complete and I was really glad that I got to see it to the end.”

Jen says that her biggest challenge at site has been how well established her school already was before she arrived. “It led me to realize early on that there wasn’t much for me to do other than teach my classes. I managed to find things to do at school and outside of school (with other volunteers and within Peace Corps itself), but this made it hard to feel that sense of accomplishment that many volunteers achieve at their site.”

Jen can get most any kind of food she wants in Mbarara Town. There are a few good supermarkets there including a Nakumatt, which is a large American-size supermarket. She can even get local produce at the weekly market that is held in her trading center every Monday. As for water, she has running water in her bathroom with a toilet, shower and tap. She fills up her jerry cans there and then carries them into her house to use in her kitchen.

Something that makes Jen's community so unique is that she doesn't live in a village. “My school is right on the main road and I am about a 30 minute ride from one of the biggest and most well established towns in this country.” She finds that she maybe doesn't get the true volunteer experience of living in a village, but she loves her community nonetheless.

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I made it out to Jen's site at about 4:30 this afternoon. Transport was particularly rough today. I had to travel down a bumpy dirt road for about 2 hours just so I didn't have to go so far out of my way to get there on a paved road.

Despite how urban it is here, I really like her site. She lives in a rather large house with three bedrooms, one of which she uses for a kitchen, and a sitting room. She took me up to her school and we had evening tea with the other teachers. I also got a tour of her school. It is a rather large school with almost 600 students and in the evening all of the students are roaming around the campus getting things done. Some are bathing or washing and others are studying and eating. The students were so excited to see another white person there.

Later that night we made dinner and chatted a bit before watching a movie and going to sleep. Overall, this was a great site to visit and tomorrow I'm moving on to Masaka to visit my next volunteer.

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