Hello. I am Regina. I came to Uganda in April 2019 to work as a volunteer in Vision for Africa for one year. Since 4 weeks I am now here in Kikondo, one of VfA's ministry places, directly at Lake Victoria, together with another volunteer, Jelena. I love to be here and I would like to share a little bit of my experiences with you. This is a fictional interview. It gives an impression of my time so far, here in Kikondo Primary School. Enjoy reading!
Hello dear, oliotya?
What does that mean?
It means „How are you“ in Luganda.
Oh nice, what does one reply to that?
You usually reply with „bulungi“, that means „fine“. It is a typical form of greeting in Luganda, the local African language spoken here in this area.
So do you know a lot of Luganda?
No, I don't. But the pupils here teach me some few words and sentences and they have great joy when I ask about it. Also our Askaris partly try to teach me a little Luganda.
What are 'Askaris'?
These are our security guards. They take care that no one enters the school's compound or leaves it without permission. Makes sense with 200 boarding kids and about 30 teachers, especially that no strangers can just enter the property, considering that we have a relatively luxurious life here compared to the people in Kikondo.
Let me get it right; what exactly is Kikondo?
Kikondo (pronounced: „Jikondo“ with "j" as in "jungle") is a small fishermen's village located at Lake Victoria. There are two institutions of Vision for Africa, a Primary School and a Nursery School, it is called the 'Emmanuel Center'. We are here at the Primary School.
What does a Primary School look like in Uganda?
It is similar to an Elementary school in Europe, just that here they have 7 classes, P1-P7. The children learn the basic things like maths, reading and writing but also English, Biology and Religious education.
How many pupils are there in school? Are they all coming from the village?
We have in total around 400 pupils here, half of them are in boarding school – that means that they sleep here and only go home in holidays, the other part lives in the Orphanage (we call it 'Children homes') in Emmanuel Center and the remaining part comes from the village and surrounding.
What are your tasks and what does a normal day look like for you?
Our day starts at 7:00 with a devotion together with the teachers. Afterwards we have breakfast. Then we give a morning German lesson to the P3 class and the great thing is that we are totally free and chose ourselves what we want to teach them and how. I personally love to teach and I also enjoy marking the exercise books. I have always wanted to become a teacher and here it is exactly like I have always imagined it to be. I can just try out and that is real fun! We are always two in front of one class, that makes it easier. It is a little strange to stand in front of a class of 40 children who expect that you teach them something. But you get used to it pretty fast. Meanwhile I would also teach alone by myself if I had to, but together it is more fun, of course.
Then at 1:00pm we have lunch, it is mostly Posho and Beans. Posho is a starch of corn flour boiled in hot water. It becomes a tough starch and lookes a bit like sticky rice and tastes fine. Mixed to the beans are
sometimes Mukene (silver fish), those are tiny little fish that I don't really like so much so I sort them out. The Askaris laugh their heads off about that.
We usually eat outside on a bench with them in the shade because the teacher's room is so loud as the TV is always running, and we prefer to chat a little with the Askaris. I really like one of them, he is called Geoffrey and I couldn't imagine Kikondo without him.
From 3pm to 4pm we have one hour of „free activity“ in P1 class where we usually go to the sports field and give them balls to play, others just run or we dance with them or play clapping games. At times we also just sit with them in the grass and they braid my hair. They love it! 5-10 kids stand around me and touch my skin or explore my hands and feet... In the beginning that was a bit strange to me but by now I really enjoy being close to the children. They are just happy and enjoy when we are with them, and when they can play with a ball. I love to blow soap bubbles for them, there they can literally freak out of joy! That is so beautiful.
At exactly 6pm we eat supper, where we again sit together with the Askaris. The remaining time is actually free time. But I am never bored because there is always something to do, as we either got work to do from the teachers like recently where we had to create a German exam for the pupils. Or we also get some time for ourselves to just sit and read, pray or talk... I love the life here in Kikondo!
What is special in Kikondo and why would a volunteer want to go there?
Very special are the children in the first place. They are so happy just about our presence. Mostly they shout „Teacher Jelena! Teacher Regina!“ when they see us walking in the compound. In class they greet us with „You are most welcome, teacher Jelena and teacher Regina!“, which makes me anticipate the lesson even more. Many times they kids come running and hug us, that is so beautiful! One can really invest oneself so well into these children and you realize how much they love you. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening we walk into the dormitories of the boarding kids and read bible stories to them or just spend time with them. I always go to the boys because my heart beats much for them. Often they are already waiting for me, seated on the floor. I then sit with them and I'm happy about the glowing eyes when I read stories for them and show them pictures. At the end they all get a hug, they love this part and also for me it is always something so special to pass on to each of the boys a piece of God's love! I love these boys and you can easily see how much they are longing for love.
With the girls it is of course the same, just that they also just come to hug us. Jelena also gets letters frequently where the kids write how much they love us, this is also something very special.
Another thing is the contact to the Africans! In Mukono I was mainly in the volunteers compound and spent most of my time with the other volunteers. Here in Kikondo we live next to the teachers and so it is much easier to get in contact with others. The children of the teachers also visit us daily and love to play in front of or in our room. We then give them toys to play with which makes them so happy!
The location here is of course also amazing. Directly at Lake Victoria the view is awesome. We do our personal devotion on the water tower, a 30m high platform with five big water tanks on top.
From there we got the best view over Kikondo and the lake, you can also see Jinja the next big town where we go to once a week with a boat that only takes 10 minutes. There we always go to Deli's for lunch or dinner, it is a Restaurant with european food, that's what we just need once in a while. We also buy fruits, Mangos and apples on the street. Once a week we have the opportunity to drive to the Prayer Mountain and join an african worship evening, I really love it! To praise God with five drums and loud singing is unique! This opportunity is not there in Mukono so I really enjoy it.
Is there anything that you miss?
A music instrument! I love to play piano and here is one but it stands there in a teacher's office and I can't always ask him for the key to play there especially not for long because children always interrupt or the teacher needs something and I don't feel comfortable to play there. It would be wonderful to have a guitar to just be able to worship alone or together... Otherwise I don't miss much. Sometimes some good european food but with the great fruits we have here I am comforted again.
Would you say that you have changed already during your time in Kikondo?
I can't really say that. I think I did... I have become more thankful. In Mukono we are more spoiled compared to life here. For example I am so glad that we have our own small bathroom in our room, that is pure luxury which the teachers don't have who need to use the public toilet outside. Our shower is extremely cool :) You never need to wait for warm water because anyway it will not come. We only have cold water and our toilet flush only works every 15 minutes because water takes time to refill. But I don't have a problem with that at all!
Also I would say that I have become more relaxed, because we have time for ourselves and for God, also because the children enjoy us when we spend time with them. There I don't have the impression that I need to work hard or do anything to be loved.
Beautiful. Is there anything else on your heart that you would like to share with us?
Yes there is one thing that is really funny. There are animals everywhere where you would not expect them. Once the children played football and suddenly in the middle of the pitch there was a chicken. It didn't care about anything and the children totally ignored it. Once in the evening we had a cow just next to our room. This is all normal here but I always have to laugh when I see the animals just within the people's places.
What would you tell a volunteer who is coming to Kikondo and has never been there before?
You can be excited, it's gonna be great! God calls those to Kikondo whom he needs there. It will be wonderful if you accept everything the way it is and try to fit in. Expect great things from God...!
Thank you and have a blessed remaining time!
I will, thank you!