Volunteer story: Pat & Nat's Most Excellent Gulu Adventure
Coming to Gulu independently, rather than as part of an organised tour, meant that I came without set expectations of what we’d be doing, and perhaps with a slight concern that we wouldn’t be put to good use. However, everyone at the Connect Centre made us feel so welcome and really allowed us to hit the ground running. I think being flexible and willing to help in whatever way we could was crucial to getting the most out of the experience, and to having the greatest impact possible.
Given this (and the length of our stay in Gulu - 5 weeks), it’s difficult to run through a ‘typical day’, but our activities included:
Helping in lessons, particularly by allowing for division of classes into smaller groups for guided reading
- Creating packs of questions and activities to be used during guided reading
- Going to schools to conduct EGRA reading tests for READ for Life, ServeDirect’s partners in Gulu
- Inputting and analysing data from these reading tests
- Teaching arts & crafts and games to the Connect staff
- Proofreading teaching materials
- Helping to prepare for a day of exam preparation for local students hosted at the Connect Centre
- Joining in with the ‘Saturday programme’ at the Connect Centre, where local children come in to read, play with Lego, and build jigsaw puzzles
- Writing a risk assessment for the Connect Centre
What this list doesn’t capture, though, is the way in which we were truly made to feel ‘part of the team’ at Connect. It was because of this that I felt we could make our voices heard, and make a genuine difference.
Outside of Connect, I quickly felt very comfortable in Gulu. The famous Iron Donkey proved a great base in the centre of town, and Dan and Jody from READ for Life welcomed us into the community with open arms - with football/rugby on Sundays, ‘happy hours’ hosted by different families on Fridays, and watching Rugby World Cup matches on a projector screen at the weekends, there was plenty going on.
Overall, I would recommend spending time with ServeDirect in Gulu to anyone, provided they are willing to get stuck in to whatever might be most pressing at any given time. I feel we’ve come away having learned a lot and made many new friends, and I’m excited by the idea of returning.