All 5 entries tagged Uganda

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January 21, 2008


Writing about web page


As I spoke about during this blog I worked with HELP THE NEEDY whilst I was in Uganda. Since I left they have made amazing progress and have now launched their child sponsorship initiative. If you want to help children in Uganda in the most direct and cost effective way possible please visit the website:

The money goes direct to the school and because all the admin fees are in country there are no extra hidden charges. The children have all been selected because they are in need of financial support for their eduction but because they are also likely to be able to help their community and families in the future by having an education. PLEASE HELP.

August 10, 2007

Difference of Opinion

Writing about web page

Yesterday evening we were out at a bar with a Ugandan friend and his old school friends. His school friends were from a certain demographic and most had ties with Western countries. It was a fairly standard evening, some light RnB and some Waragi, until we happened to stumble on the issue of homosexuality. At this point the table exploded and my friends and I suddenly became gay rights activists. The difference in opinion was astounding and there appeared to be a severe misunderstanding about what it meant to be gay. I don’t profess to be an expert on being gay, as I am not gay, but I imagine that it is just like being straight except that you happen to fancy someone of the same sex. I also don’t think that you can choose who you are sexually attracted to as attraction is one of the most complex human sensations as it taps both your psychological and physical desire. I’d like to give you a taster of some of the opinions that were heard yesterday evening;

‘it is just something that has happened to them during them in their adolescnce which makes them want the male instead of the female’

‘it is like saying that if you are born a thief, then its ok, you can go around and steal everything and it doesn’t matter if you hurt everybody’

‘I mean being gay isn’t about sex, if it was they could just go with a woman and have anal sex with them’

‘it is a crime’

It is important to remember that the conversation was not held under the most sober of conditions and that perhaps opinions were exaggerated more than normal. But there was a general consensus that homosexuality destroys Ugandan culture and that it is wrong. They also truly didn’t seem to understand why we would defend the right to be gay when we weren’t gay ourselves. Although Britain is far from being a haven for the gay community I do think that we have come along way in terms of our understanding and acceptance. I cannot see Uganda changing anytime soon, part of this is to do with the political opposition to homosexuality and part to do with the fact that religion is so heavily integrated in Ugandan culture.

The gentlemen who I was sat next to was extremely well spoken and seemed genuinely interested in what I had to say. Although he was trying to understand what I was saying he just couldn’t believe that a man couldn’t find a woman attractive. How could breasts not be viewed as beautiful objects by a man, it was impossible! At the end of the conversation he leaned in and told me that he had a secret to tell me. It turned out that his brother was gay and that the rest of his family had disowned him. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be to be gay living in Uganda, let alone how much courage it must take to come out knowing that your family may well never speak to you again. Being gay, or having gay relatives shouldn’t be a secret, but I don’t see things changing anytime soon.

June 13, 2007

The Doctors

Everyday I find out that I was wrong, its hard for me to say, but its true. I am sure that I held the opinion, like many do that all volunteers are a good thing and that we should all volunteer more. However, what I didn't ever consider was that organisations might not actually want volunteers! There are a number of reasons for this; new volunteers take away time and resources from the staff and organisation, they take time to become accustomed to how the organisation operates, and they leave, so if there were of any use they now have created a gap in the organisation. This was highlighted to me by the tale of some doctors who wanted to volunteer in Kampala, their plea was circulated only for them to be rejected by the majority of organisations. I always thought that doctors would be snapped up here, but I didn't consider perhaps how difficult it is to integrate them and the problems that language barriers would cause. This has obviously made me question my presence and how 'useful' I am here and how much good my volunteering can actually be. I don't really think that there is a conclusion to this statement, it just serves as an interesting example of how wrong we can be about how helpful the 'western saviours' can be!

June 12, 2007


ell,So its the end of my third day here, and I feel like I am starting to get a feel for things. Not really Kampala to be honest as I havent really ventured very far! But for the way that the organisation runs and some of the problems that there are. This really isnt like a mad gap year experience and its strange being treated like an adult when I still feel very young (and massively inexperienced for what I am trying to do). I do however feel like I have learnt lots in a very short amount of time. I came with a very basic medical knowledge and idea of the most common illnesses, and whilst most of what I thought was correct there are far more variations than Id anticipated. I think that the only problem with working within one organisation is that I have a very biased few of the problems and how things work. By this I mean that the HAU is well organised and benefits from a large volunteer base, at least at present it does. I really want to get to see some other organisations so that I can be a little more comparative!

What has shocked me most is how happy the children seem to be. I spent yesterday in the children's section of the hospital (the one shown on 'the last king of scotland') I was supposed to be observing, which I did, and it was really interesting to see how they treated all the patients and the distances that people would travel to access this service. The HAU attracts people from across Uganda and Africa as they offer free chemotherapy (which would normally cost £240) for children. This is injected as a course of 6 once every two weeks so the families of the children who come here have to stay for 12 weeks if they want their child to complete the course. The main problem with this is that the first treatment is so effective that the parents think that their child is 'cured' and they take them home, only for the symptoms to return. I don't know how many people have seen the huge swellings from lymphomas, but these are the tumor looking things that you see in asia sometimes. They can grow anywhere and cause problems as they stop children eating or squash their organs internally. The treatment can reduce the swelling to nothing in most cases which is why the parents take them home, the problem is that this just reoccurs and the HAU can only pay for one course of treatment. These swellings are pretty shocking to look at, there is a young girl who has one so large in her mouth that she cant close it and there is another girl who looks pregnant due to the size of the swelling in her stomach. And despite all of this most of the children are happy to play and to talk and seem to accept their illness with little complaint. I helped (this means that I played with the children) at the day care centre today at the HAU. This is something that they organise once a week for the children in Kampala to give them a bit of fun and relief. Most of the children here have either cancer or are HIV positive. There were only about 7 children there today, not all of whom spoke English, but the power of football, basketball, climbing and painting won though. I really enjoyed it and felt a little guilty about how much fun I was having with them. Its easy to forget that these kids are sick when they are laughing and running around, it was only the little boy who had an eye missing who showed a sign of his illness. These kids are really in respect that they get a free meal and there are plenty of resources as Caroline (who I am living with) has organised loads of things to have been shipped from home (donated by friends and family) but these wont last long...

June 05, 2007

Before Leaving

I am preparing to leave for Kampala in Uganda in 3 days. I can't actually believe that I am going. I have been talking about doing some kind of project in Africa for over a year and I am actually going to be getting on a plane in 72 hours. When you know that you are going to so something for so long, when the date actually arrives you can't quite believe that its there. Its been in the future for so long that is becoming the present is unbelievable. I have everything prepared and packed, and yet I am sure that there is something vital that I am forgetting and so long as it isnt my passport or my visa i am sure I'll be fine.

The reality of what I am doing has also hit. Although I have been fully aware that I will be working with terminally ill children but the word 'terminal' didn't really mean anything more than the world globalisation. It was just something that was going to happen in the future and I guess as I was studying it I was emotionally detached. However, over the past few days I have started to get upset, not even for the children, more for myself and how I will deal with it alone in Uganda. This is making me sound like I am a cold person, but the children at present are a collective, an entity that has no face, no personality and no name. I am aware however, that this is not going to last longer than a few days. I have been lucky in my life in that I have never been subject to large emtional strain, my family are in good health and I have never worked in a hospital environment.

I think that in the West we always want to cure things and find a solution.  But for these children there is no cure, there is nothing that can be done to make things better, the best that can be hoped for it to make things easier and to give them an end that is comfortable and respects their needs and wants. I think that the hardest thing will be being 'useless'. Having no medical training and not understanding how things work I imagine for the large part that I will be an observer, and as this is the role that I feel least happy with this is going to be a big challenge!

The biggest thing that people have told me about is the lack of time. That there are no schedules and that the pace of life is completely different. Having travelled before I feel more prepared for this than I would have been had this been my first time out of Europe, but I still think that Africa is going to be something different. I have only been told good things about the nature of the Ugandan people. Its rather nice heading out to a country being told that most people are friendly.

I am expecting Kampala to be full of other volunteers, although people to go to travel most do some kind of charity work whilst they are there. I am trying to go without a set idea of what things will be like. As there is no way that I can anticipate what it will be like. I hope that I will be able to give something back, which is the reason why people go out there I guess.

I will keep updating this as regularly as I can, and if anyone has any questions or comments they would be much appreciated!  

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