Sunday, March 24, 2013

“30 Sites and 30 Nights”—March 24, 2013 (Day 5)

Name: Joanna Groepper

Age: 32

Home State: Colorado

What she did before Peace Corps: Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics and she worked in retail management

Program Sector: Community Economic Development

Number of months spent in Uganda: 30

Host Organization: SOCADIDO (Soroti Catholic Diocese Integrated Development Organization)

Site location: Soroti Town, Soroti District

Language spoken at her site: Ateso

Joanna is a third year extended volunteer and she is working with the Soroti Catholic Diocese Integrated Development Organization. SOCADIDO is the development arm of the Catholic Diocese in Teso. They work in the entire region building livelihoods, monitoring and evaluation of VSLAs (Village Savings and Loan Associations), and promoting farming as a business. Joanna assists on VSLAs and FaaB (Farming as a Business). They target dairy farmers and beekeepers and are currently working on increasing production, establishing farmer organizations, savings and credit, access to markets, and lobbying and advocacy.

Joanna has also worked on many secondary projects. She worked and is working on events for World Malaria Day in 2012 and 2013 where they promoted basic education and awareness and painted murals. She also worked on an event for World AIDS Day in 2011 where she did a condom demonstration and a sack gardening demonstration. In addition to these events she has also worked on promoting kitchen gardens and has worked with other volunteers on RUMPS (Re-Usable Menstrual Pads) projects.

Joanna does all of her food shopping in Soroti Town. There is a large market there and several supermarkets. “Soroti has everything you need, if they don't have it, you don't need it.” She also has running water in her house, which is connected to the town water lines.

Local Brew
Joanna’s favorite things about her site are the organization she is working with and Soroti Town, in general. “They are the reason for my extension and why I did not change sites. My co-workers are honest and hard working.” Joanna has a hard time naming one favorite moment at site. “My first day in the field for work I was treated to songs and lunch. They are still my favorite group. I love being called by my local name when I am in the field working.” Her biggest challenge at site is being productive with her organization. “My organization is so well established that I have to find ways to help what they are doing and have little ability to design projects with them. I save these for small scale secondary projects elsewhere in my community.”

The most interesting thing that Joanna has found in her community is the local brew and how the locals consume it. It is usually drunk warm through a three foot long straw.


Today was truly a day in the life of a Peace Corps volunteer. We did very little and very little was accomplished. Being a Sunday, I shouldn't expect to see much. It is truly a day of leisure and relaxation.

Joanna and Stoney in Joanna's house
However, even though it is Sunday and we didn't go anywhere, I can't say that Joanna didn't work. This morning she made us an amazing breakfast. She made scones and eggs for Ibrahim and me. We sat on her back porch and had some good conversations about everything from volunteer projects to taking the GRE in Uganda.

I've also been spending a lot of the day playing with Joanna's dog, Stoney. He is about a year old and he has a lot of energy. I'm obviously missing my doggy time. I can see how much fun it would have been to have a dog here and how much he adds to Joanna's life and her service.  Spending time with Stoney is amusing.  He is afraid of Joanna's neighbor's kids and he will run around and bark at them when they are around.  The kids find it so funny and just laugh at him.  They are not scared.

Our laundry hanging and the brush burning behind it
This afternoon the neighbors started to burn the brush around the compound.  We were hanging out inside Joanna's house and we heard this noise that we couldn't identify.  So we went outside and we noticed that they were burning the surrounding brush.

Our plan for the rest of the day is to have dinner at Joanna's house (she's making chili...MMMMMM) with a few other volunteers and ex-pats and possibly watching a movie that I've been meaning to see, Searching for Sugar man.

So far, I've definitely enjoyed staying with Joanna and interacting with the other volunteers in Soroti. Joanna is an amazing cook. And as much as most volunteers are obsessed with food, Joanna takes it to a whole other level. She is really an amazing host and I'm definitely going to miss it here after I leave in a few days.
There are some of the best sunsets here

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