Volunteering at Uganda Hands for Hope – the first week

Hi, my name is Rachèl and I am 20 years old. I am from Holland and I am studying Social Work at Hogeschool Windesheim in Zwolle, Netherlands. I am finishing my studies next year but before that I have the opportunity to do an Internship at Uganda Hands for Hope in Uganda. I will do my internship together with another social work student, Daphne. During this internship, I want to learn about more about children’s rights, intercultural communication and social work in Africa. It is my first time in Africa and I am lucky to start in the Pearl of Africa, as they call Uganda.

We just started our internship last week and so far we are loving it. Everybody is so nice and friendly and we really have felt welcomed to be part of the organisation. The first week the teams showed us the projects and told us a lot about the organisation. I think the work that Hands for Hope is doing is really impressive – they do so many good things in a right way! Most of all, they are providing education and meals for the children living in the Namuwongo Slum so that their future could be a little bit brighter. Namuwongo is a slum in Kampala with a population about 15.000 people. The living conditions in the Namuwongo Slum are just terrible and they really affected me. The people live in mud houses that are falling apart. There is a river next to the slum and during the rainy season (which is long in Uganda!) the river will flood and cause multiple problems for the people in the slum. The people’s income is really low and therefore they often have to live by one meal a day only. Overall, there is a constant lack of clean water, electricity, hygiene and many of the people are living with HIV/AIDS.

First week Rachel

As an organisation, Hands for Hope consists of an education team, a social work team and an admin section. Of course, as social workers, we will be mostly working with the social work team. The first week the team showed us around Namuwongo Slum and introduced us to some of the children that Hands for Hope helps there. We visited, for example, the programme for Children with special needs also known as CWD (Children with Disabilities) programme. The kids were so nice and they were eager to tell us about their achievements in the programme and dreams for the future.

Out of the many projects that Hands for Hope is running, there is one project that especially caught my eye. It is the project for Children with Disabilities. When we first time met the children, they came to us with a big smile on their face. In one classroom Uganda Hands for Hope teaches in total 12 children with mental or/and physical disabilities. There is one Special Needs Teacher, Evaristo and one Assistant Special Needs Teacher Phyllis, who both have a huge passion and heart for the work they are doing. When asked from Phyllis why she chose this career, she replied ‘empathy’. All the children seem to get the attention and care they need. Evaristo and his assistant make plans for each individual child. They look at what the child needs and what the child wants, so every plan will be unique.
Because of my social work background I was really impressed by the programme that Hands for Hope has been able to set up for these children.

Besides those 12 disabled children who attend the CDW programme in Hands for Hope’s own nursery, there are number of children that Evaristo and Phyllis help at their homes by giving weekly training and guidance to them. Some children also attend two physiotherapy sessions per month in order to get some extra help. Meeting one child in the slum moved me especially. His name is Watson and he is five years and two months old. When Hands for Hope found Watson in the Slum he was not able to sit or hold anything in his hands. He was just lying down and could not lift himself up. Also, he could not make eye contact and did not react when someone was calling his name. But now when we met Watson he was sitting properly. He was holding some old remote control and he was looking at us sharply. Few times he even smiled. He can even feed himself and all because of the work that Uganda Hands for Hope and its Special Needs teachers did with him – it is so impressive!

And this is just only one case story – there are so many more!