Taking a career break to see the world

Posted on 9th Dec 2015 in Kanaama Interactive, Uganda, Volunteering abroad, my gap-year

Andy and his wife decided to quit their jobs to see the world and make a difference along the way...

Half the fun of an adventure is not knowing what you’ll find: the daily challenges, unexpected pleasures, twists and turns along the way, great memories created and variety of people you meet. My wife (university research) and I (public relations/ event management) quit our jobs to see something of the world and make a difference along the way. Our two months at Kanaama in Uganda were a chance to help communities build a brighter future that have left a lasting impression on us.

South West Uganda is green, hilly and rural—a land of milk, honey and dusty tracks with big ruts. My way by bike to Nombe secondary school, half along a superb main road and half along red-dirt tracks, with views of banana and coffee plantations, avocado trees and rolling hills, was a joy. Every journey I waved to over 50 people, shared laughter over pronunciation of both my English and my Runyankole, or visited student homes to meet their families and their goats! I refereed a football match on my first day at school and got home late into the night, watched a school debate that filled the nearby church and spoke to scores of students about their studies, families and futures. Some students came round on Sunday afternoons for extra English lessons—we read and explained newspapers, poetry, books and a map of the world! Younger children from nearby houses dropped by all the time, to play outside with a rubber wheel that is steered ingeniously by a stick, to do drawings for us, or to read children’s books (or just point at the pictures) from the house’s growing library. Hazel was finding out about issues for people with disabilities, helping schools to prepare for school links, and number-crunching poverty indices with office staff.

At Rwoboguigo Primary School, 2km away, I found dedicated, friendly staff, despite challenges of poor pay and lack of books and learning tools. The children love to laugh and have endless enthusiasm, though I needed imagination to keep their attention, including singing my favourite songs! Differences in pronunciation were also difficult. We covered English language, poetry, drama and conversation skills, and most days PE running, balance and coordination games. The district education officer came to motivate and suggest improvements, and next day the Management Group (largely teachers) wanted more progress in science. I admired the head teacher’s enthusiastic response.

Kashare sub-county has orphans with no one to care for them, single parents with barely a roof over their head and hungry mouths to feed, young adults with no education or hope of work. The difference KICS is making is impressive. Gathering case studies strongly conveyed the excellent work.

Two Crested Cranes, Uganda’s national bird, landed nearby as we left — a crowning glory to an incredible adventure. We’d met wonderful people, new customs and cultures, and challenged ourselves. The chance to get stuck in and interact with so many I will always remember. Do go and join in!

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