Rachael’s volunteering (Part 3 of 7): A month in Patongo

Dear All

I’ve been in Patongo for 1 month now and things are going really well. Apart from friends and family, I’m not really missing England at all. The heat has taken a bit of getting used to (mid 30s every day combined with heavy winds feels like walking through the flow of a hairdryer on full power), but every day we’ve had beautiful blue skies and sunshine so I’m not complaining.

Although all the roads in and around Patongo (and basically most of Northern Uganda) are dirt roads, so me, my clothes and my belongings are constantly layered in dust even though I sweep my room twice a day (not having glass in the window of my room or any way to shut it doesn’t help!).

Michele (the Italian lawyer who is staying at the same guest house as me) and I, have travelled to the town of Pader today, 30km North West of Patongo, which has better phone / internet reception and marginally more things to buy / eat. We’ve already booked fish with chips at a local restaurant for dinner as a treat, and power-permitting, we might even get to drink wine later (but only if the power stays on and it is chilled!).

Work at the youth centre has been very busy. We finished the Annual Report for Jubilee Action and have sorted out some payroll issues that occurred since the youth centre was registered as an NGO (Non-governmental Organisation) –I am now an expert in Ugandan tax and social security!

We are also reworking the 2012 budget and have been conducting training for the community mapping questionnaire that we are doing with the 1,000+ youth group members that the centre works with.

The centre employs 10 “peer educators” on a part-time basis, who are the main point people for the youth groups and will conduct the interviews, which will hopefully gather some important base-line data to measure progress of the centre’s programmes and help direct and develop future services and support.

These young people work under the supervision of the centre’s main counsellor and have received training in counselling and social issues such as alcoholism, HIV/AIDS, gender based violence amongst others.

I have been going out each week with the centre’s main counsellor to visit a youth group and watch her conduct a sensitisation discussion on one of these topics. The group I visited this week discussed suicide and how to spot signs of depression and what could be done to provide support to that person. Patongo has very high suicide rates, which is very sad.

To end on a more positive note, I’ve also been working on some proposals for new partnerships including one with an NGO that might be able to provide help with our education / literacy programme and another one to help with empowering women through entrepreneurship. Also, since Alex the engineer is back in England, I have been visiting the construction site every couple of days, speaking with the foreman and sending updates and photos back to him (when there is internet!).

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