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16.12.2015

2015 - Report from Raffaela and Elena

2015 - Report from Raffaela and Elena

New images, situations and smells from the minute we arrived - and not much time to rest after we arrived at the farm. School started a week later and we neede to meet the teachers and organisers. We loved it.

Elena is a trained elementary school teacher and she made it her mission to redesign the kindergarten, while I looked after the boarding school kids in the afternoon. The huge gap between the Austrian and Ugandan systems was soon apparent. Elena wanted teachers to give children enough free time and to teach in a playful way. In the afternoon activities such as painting, playing and building were provided. Raffaela taught reading and was pleased that children increasingly visited the library and enjoyed reading. It was great that the teachers were open to suggestions for creative lessons.

Together we organised a workshop for kindergarten teachers, which was an extraordinary experience. Our aim was to show that playful learning is important for children. We painted a huge picture, showing African flair. In the afternoon we taught the letters of the alphabet to give the children a head start. Weeks later we were delighted to see progress.

We have different educational backgrounds but we worked hand in hand and learned a lot from each other. It was great to share our best moments.

One of the most beautiful experiences was developing the relationship between us and the boarding school's children in Bongole. We had a lot of fun at the weekend with the children, playing games and guitar and organising a treasure hunt. Once, we grilled stick bread in front of the campfire. On other days we spent hours on our veranda. We will never forget the children's glowing eyes and we knew it would be hard to say goodbye.

It was wonderful to see the children welcome their new schoolmates, visiting from Christoph Bettermann School; amazing how fast they integrated and how the pupils helped their new friends. They were not afraid of disability. We believe we can learn a lot from their behaviour.

Of course it wasn't perfect all the time and we had some difficulties to resolve. Even when teachers were open-minded, cultural differences were clear, such as punctuality and discipline without physical punishment. We had to talk about it several times but we recognised that change takes time and that further work is needed by other volunteers. Overall, though, we were amazed by their open minds and learned a lot from them, too.

We were also surprised by Ugandan food. Soon Rolex, Chapatti, Matoke and pancakes were part of our diet. We loved our evenings under the stars by the campfire, but we won't miss posho and beans!

The contrast between the capital, Kampala, and rural Bongole was striking. We were fascinated by the people and their lifestyle. Ugandans are proud and contented, and even if they have a lot to bear, they don't moan. Their love of music is amazing. Whenever they hear music, they have to dance and you can see their passion. We danced a lot and in the evenings the kids fell into bed exhausted.

During our three months we also met other A Chance for Children volunteers. We supported one another and made friendships which will last back in Austria. We had an amazing and formative time in Uganda and will remember it forever.