Volunteer story: George Jackson
I came as a volunteer to the Connect Centre in Gulu in February 2020 – alone, slightly apprehensive and not having a clue what to expect! With no background in teaching or working with children, I didn’t know how I could possibly contribute and thought I might end up being a distraction rather than a help. But from the first, the team – Elspeth and Jerry, Jody, Dan and their turbo-charged son Myron, plus Sam, Beatrice, Winnie, Simon, Bonnie, Arnold, Gloria, Tadeo and the others – were so welcoming and seemed sincerely excited to have me there.
And I was amazed at how the team was able to put my skills and experience to good use. I was kept busy with building a database of new children’s reading books, stocking them into mobile libraries to be sent out to local schools and writing an MOU for their use, providing computer, excel and budgetary training to staff, giving teaching support in lessons and going out to local schools to read stories to children.
I was pleased that I was able to contribute – but really I took so much more out of the experience than I put in. I had the opportunity first of all to see how vitally important the work of ServeDirect and Read for Life is. I had not fully appreciated before just how important education is in shaping both the life of a child and a whole community. On top of that, I feel very blessed to have been able to spend time with and get to know the team, learning about their lives and seeing the great faith, hope and optimism that they have in spite of the challenges they face. They’re also a lot of fun – the Connect Centre is a place of joy and laughter!
Beyond Connect, I really enjoyed my stay in Gulu. Dan and Jody were so welcoming – dinners, drinks, touch rugby… I even managed to swing an invite to Jody’s 40th birthday party (sorry Jody!). And Gulu being a centre of operations for a number of charities and development agencies, I was able to meet other like-minded people to spend the evenings with, to enjoy a few Nile Specials and Gulu’s rich culinary scene (*cough*).
I was very sad that my time in Uganda was cut short by the pandemic, meaning I was only able to spend 1 day instead of 3 weeks in Wobulenzi. But I’m pleased to have a good excuse to return, which I certainly will. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and will never forget it.