Last summer one of our international students, Cho, volunteered at Dwelling Places, a children’s home in Uganda. She received some funding support from the Free Church of Scotland’s Women For Mission. Here, Cho writes a bit about her experience:
Before coming to the UK, I had never thought about going to Africa. I had so many preconceived ideas about disease, danger, poverty, etc., and hadn’t even met anyone who’d lived or worked there. However, after studying Development Studies at university, I was passionate about developing countries, so I decided to use my summer break to go to Uganda.
In July 2013, I returned to Korea for just 5 days before flying to Uganda. People in my home church were really worried about me – some even commented on what a “brave girl” I was! I guess that they also had the prejudices I used to have.
As soon as I arrived at the airport in Kampala, the first thing I did was to go to the toilets and secretly put on insect repellent because I didn’t want to offend the local people. Looking back, that was quite a silly way to behave! During the hour long journey from the airport to head office, I was so excited that I talked solid for 30 minutes before dozing heavily for the rest of the way. I think I was nervous.
Every morning at Dwelling Places, we worshiped God and prayed to him before starting work, so we could share our concerns and prayer requests. We sang in English and sometimes in Ugandan. Even though I couldn’t understand it, I could feel that people really enjoyed singing and praying, and that they loved God. It was a good start to the day.
Some of the children who are staying and studying at Dwelling Places are from Karamoja, a region of Uganda. They belong to a different tribe and have their own language, and can’t speak English or Ugandan which leads to many communication problems. However, because they are young, they can pick up new languages quickly. When the children showed their progress, I was so proud of them, and I was pleased to be able to contribute to their education. The children were so friendly and lovely. When I arrived at the school, they would always run to me and hug me. I felt like I was a mother to them, and every day I prayed for them to have a better life and hope.
In the mornings, I worked as a teacher’s assistant in a class for young children learning the English alphabet and basic arithmetic. Sometimes, I also had one-to-one classes with an older child where I realised that, as a person who is still learning English myself, I couldn’t pronounce some vowel sounds correctly. For example, when I said “hot”, the child wrote “hut”. Even when some of the other volunteers tried to help me, I couldn’t manage it. English will be a long-journey for me, but if I go back to Uganda, I would like to try to give that child English dictation again!
After lunch, the children had a special time where they sang and prayed, and another volunteer told them a bible story. One day they staged a Ugandan wedding where they decorated a small yard, and two of the children dressed up as a bride and groom. It was so fun to see all the children singing and dancing. They loved music, so sometimes I would play some for them, and sometimes I would dance too!
During my four weeks in Uganda, I had such a memorable experience working with the children at Dwelling Places. The other workers treated me as part of the family and always made me feel welcome and at ease. I really miss all the people there, as well as the place. I would like to go back to Uganda again if I get the opportunity. I pray to God that the people in Dwelling Places, and Uganda in general, will have a better life and live well in the Lord’s shelter and shield.