Volunteer story: Alan's Report- Member of Team Ignite from Romsey
Go out to Uganda? What could I contribute, especially at my age (69)? I’m not a teacher, what would I do? I suppose those are the sort of questions that everybody asks when challenged with this opportunity. But I went and it proved to be a ‘life changing’ experience. We’ve all seen it on the TV, we have even heard the first hand experiences of others, but nothing really prepares you for just being there.
I went as part of an amazing team from New Life Church in Romsey. The team covered every age and ability. Working together, we were able to help and support one another through a very intensive program throughout the two weeks. The first impression of WTA, apart from the heat, was of the warm welcome and enthusiasm of the staff and students. I went principally to do some IT training with the students, but with the vagaries of the power supply we soon learned that flexibility is the name of the game. So now I know how to wash my hands properly, make bracelets from safety pins, make solar powered cars and balloon animals and even take part in a puppet show. We did do some IT but it had to be fitted in around the power outages.
It was so rewarding just spending time with the students and talking to them. They were so engaging and interested in everything we were doing and in our way of life back in the UK. It was a privilege to be there and share in their hopes and dreams and to be able to encourage them and worship with them. WTA is an amazing environment to encourage and nurture students through the exam system. Many of the students came from very challenging backgrounds, but were invariably upbeat and grateful for the opportunity they have been given.
Outside of the WTA environment, we were privileged to be able to meet with some of the families in the local village of Lukomera and to see rural village life as it really is. It is humbling to see people making a living from the land, raising large families in very basic accommodation without any of the amenities that we would consider essential – no running water, no electricity, no proper sanitation. But for all that they were welcoming, invariably cheerful and very grateful that we should visit them. We were able to give away toothbrushes, toothpaste and children’s underwear and to introduce them to the healthcare available at ‘The Rock’ as well as to pray for them individually and as families. Despite their limited resources they are people who profess faith and welcome input.
Was there a downside to all this? – yes. Once you have been there and connected with amazing people like this it is very hard just to walk away. It’s even harder to readjust to our consumer driven, self-centred, godless way of life here in the UK, especially at the Christmas season. Yes it does change your perspective on life and challenge your values. But that’s not a bad thing.
Should you go to WTA if given the chance? Absolutely. It is an amazing, sobering and rewarding experience. I probably received more than I gave. Oh! and then there’s the three day safari at the end – but that’s another story......
Editor's Note - Alan was too modest to add that he was awarded 'Best Team Suntan' by the WTA students and he celebrated his birthday during the trip. Also he was one of the unofficial team photographers and has a great set of photos as a result!