A 22-year-old freelance web writer has shared her experiences of volunteering in Uganda.
Megan Brownrigg, from Brackley, spent three months in the country volunteering with the International Citizen Service to work with Restless Development.
She writes: “Back in November I was running around Brackley in my penguin pyjamas to raise money for Restless Development.
“Amidst other fundraising efforts including recording my own Christmas number one, complete with fairy lights on my head and a multi-accent rendition of Lennon’s Happy Xmas (War Is Over), I smashed my £1,500 target and flew to Uganda in January.
“Three months completing my International Citizen Service in the Pearl of Africa proved the humiliating Pingu and Top Of The Pops episodes more than worth it.
“The International Citizen Service is a DFID (Department for International Development) funded scheme which sends young people overseas to volunteer for three months. Having done it myself, I can confirm it’s no ‘gap yah holidaah’, but a cracking experience that I would recommend to any local youth.
“Cultural experience, confidence building and perspective gaining are indeed all reasons to go, but there’s one stand out draw.
“There are few situations in life where you are likely to forge strong friendships with people who have fundamentally different beliefs to yourself. It’s not every day you’ll speak to women who can carry 50 litres of water at once but feel compelled to kneel to men along the way, for example.
“Being a fish out of water is what ICS is all about, I never imagined myself conducting condom demonstrations to motorbike drivers, organising mothers’ meetings on roadsides to talk about domestic violence, or asking 150 kids to aggressively shout ‘NO’ at me in a lesson to show them they’re capable of resisting force, but I did it. What’s more, it was far more memorable than any time I’ve bought an ice cream and gone for a paddle in a pool.
“After this experience, there is some inevitable tap and light switch loving on your return home.
“I’m also slightly embarrassed to admit that McDonalds was the first place I headed for breakfast. However, the long lasting effect the people of Uganda had was to make me question why I don’t pop round to say hello to my neighbours more often, ask around rather than ‘Google it’ and generally live life through people rather than penned appointments.
“There probably isn’t a course in becoming a ‘people person’ but this is a fantastic way of garnering the qualification. The programme is only funded until 2015, so young people of Brackley, get in there and get stuck in with international development!”
For more information, visit www.volunteerics.org.