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Today three volunteers of our Challenges Worldwide Community Action Day (CAD) Committee accompanied me to a meeting at the Busega Muslim Girls Primary School. The meeting took place with a number of chiefs of the Wakiso districts and with the Kampala Capital City Association (KCCA). This Saturday the KCCA will be organising a ‘Go Green’ Community Clean up day, on which the community is to clean the garbage of the street. Furthermore they will be offering free medical check ups on that day. An estimation of around 500 comunity members were encouraged to join the clean up of 9 different districts in Wakiso.kampala - 2 (1)

Apart from participating with the KCCA to clean the streets and offer medical check ups by Buganda Bulungi Bwansi, CWW is planning to add two more activities: tree planting and basic business training seminars for CBOs (community-based organisations)

Through participating in this Community Action Day, Challenges Worldwide aims to encourage sustainable business and to support CBOs in Wakiso and to promote long-term environmental consciousness in the community by helping in both tree planting and street cleaning.

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This weeks meeting was at Centenary Park in a lounge with a thatched roof surrounded by a gardened area. Today, not only did the volunteers of the CAD committee share their kampala - 1 (1) copyplans for our Community Action Day for next Saturday, but there was also a vote for our Mid Programme Review. The options were to go to Queen Elisabeth Park or to visit the Murchison Falls, which are both stunning national parks with a wide variety of wildlife. Exciting!

After sitting down with all of the committees we had the pleasure to welcome Camille Marie-Regnault. Camille took part in an ICS – VSO programme in Kenya a couple of years ago, worked for the UN in Cambodia and then ended up back on the African continent to work with Invisible Children (IC).

Invisible Children is active in breaking up a rebel group named Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) – responsible for Africa’s longest running armed conflict. After sharing the history of this long lasting conflict, I would like to show you how Invisible Children is contributing to ending it, and discuss what more could be done. To end this blog, as Camille has lived and worked in cross-cultural environments – including with the ICS programme – I would like to share a couple of her tips with (future) volunteers and travelers. Read More →

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This weeks team meeting was organised to take place at the one of the businesses Challenges Worldwide works with, Coffee Quality Assurance (CQA). Their inviting Coffee House – named MyCheckMate is located within the Kyambago University campus in Kampala and was an inspiringkampala - 1 (1) copy location for our weekly meeting. A chance for everyone to try a cup of their delicious premium My CheckMate Coffee in the shape of an espresso, latte, cappuccino or Americano. I asked for a drop of hot milk in my espresso, which created an exemplary Spanish ‘Cortado’. Apart from Coffee, they sell sodas, juice and local food to up to 25 people at any time. The CEO and owner, Tonny, made arrangements to host and feed our team of 35 volunteers. They had come up with 4 different menu options beforehand in order to make the right preparations. Options included chips, omelette, beef, salad, peas/beans, rice, matooke, pocho, and some – to my taste – delicious chicken.

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IMG_2071“Tax the rich, end the wars, and restore honest and effective government for all”, Jeffrey Sachs [Munk, 2013].

Every Monday Challenges Worldwide (CWW) arranges a team meeting for all the CWW volunteers in Uganda. This allows CWW to discuss common issues and difficulties, to highlight important aspects of the programme yet to come, to check whether the volunteers are on track with their deliverables, and to go through budgets and stipends. Furthermore, the meeting includes a session of Chartered Management Institute (CMI) training, and it gives opportunity to invite guest speakers.

This week Jane Nalunga from SEATINI-Uganda (the Southern and Eastern Africa Trade Information and Negotiations Institute) joined the meeting to discuss with us the linkages between trade, investment agreements, policies, and local businesses.

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After celebrating Easter at a local Church, I was keen to learn more about the meaning of religion in Uganda. Eddie – my Ugandan counterpart – asked me to accompany him to his community’s Church on the 3rd of April. Luckily Eddie had warned me that I was to introduce myself in front of the group, so I had the time to practice on the way there to introduce myself in Luganda! This was very much appreciated. I was received with great joy. The locals seem to be really happy when they do not have to communicate in English. This Church – “Kira Ekanisa” – was colourful, joyful, there was lots of singing and even some dancing.

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Preaching was mostly done in Luganda and other tribal languages, and translated into English. This Church was a lot smaller than the one I visited during Easter, it seemed like everybody knew each other. It was so nice to see how  Read More →

Before heading to Uganda I expected to be eating a lot of rice, vegetables and fruit. One thing I was right about, rice. A lot of it. Delicious moist Basmati rice, prepared often with finely cut tomato and onion. Fruit, yes. Bananas and Matooke (Green Bananas). Often we eat bananas for breakfast, with bread or with Chapati (wheat flower pancake, made with spring onion and carrot). For Lunch and dinner the dishes are quite similar to each other. Usually a combination of: rice, pumpkin, different versions of Matooke, spagetti, beans, Irish Potato, cabbage salad, avocado ground nut sauce (the pink sauce on the Matooke, which has a similar taste to Indonesian peanut sauce). Meat that accompanies the carb rich meals is usually fried or cooked beef or chicken. Funny enough, avocados just grow everywhere. Large avocados. And to my great surprise chicken is more expensive than beef in Uganda.

I buy a fresh mango off one of the street vendors now and then on the way somewhere, just to fill up on a different kind of fruit then the common banana. Read More →

Today was a very special day. It was the day on which the UK volunteers arrived in Uganda, and met their Ugandan counterpart. The Ugandan volunteers had been preparing and practicing a welcome feast, which included a poster, a speech, a Luganda language lesson, solo singing and of course, a traditional and free style dance show, in which we all joined in.

Preparations for the welcome show were very amusing. What laughs we had while trying to plan a dance! After lots of bum shaking, and helping to get all the Ugandan girls colour coordinated for their performance, they helped me to just look just as colourful, and about 10 years younger.

The next day, when I asked one of the In-Country volunteers whether he had spoken to all of the UK one’s yet, he replied:

“It would have been a crime if I hadn’t”.

It is wonderful to see how two such different cultures are interacting and how everyone is getting along. Clearly there are some things we have in common, the boys are all playing football (yes, in this hot climate!), while the girls are all getting their nails done. More of this please! So happy!

Tulimu Ekanisa [we are going to Church]

Good Morning! Happy Easter! As of Easter Weekend, the In-Country volunteers (ICV’s) were very keen to go to Church. Challenges Worldwide compromised by changing the training timetable and therefore anyone who was interested could attend service today from 9h to 11h. We decided to accompany the ICV’s to experience Easter celebrations in Uganda. Although from a non-religious background, I believe in doing good and in being optimistic and happy, as church promotes this in Uganda, I shall swing and sing along.

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About a week after I had moved into the host home  (together with the other Team Leaders: Donia, Aubrey and Eddie) we moved to a place called Peace Cottages. This venue offers rooms for our big team and has a lovely thatched conference space which we used to subsequently be introduced to the In-Country Volunteers, train them for a few days, welcome the UK Volunteers, introduce all of them to their room-mates, colleagues and businesses, and do lots of team building activities. It is here where we will all get to know each other and where we can acclimatise to the new environment together. Our host, which was called mama or aunty by some and sister by others, was a wonderful cheerful local lady, who was very helpful throughout the week. I shall miss her cheerfulness…

Donia and I shared a room. The cold shower at our host home suddenly became a luxury when we found out that Peace Cottages only had a drip shower. We would fill up a bucket and splash that on our heads. Apart from that, there was no air movement, so we used to call the room a ‘sweat box’ and developed several methods for cooling down, including wet old T-shirts on our heads, lying on the bed with our legs up onto the wall, and looking at pictures of frost in England.

During our training we managed to write up a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis for them, so that they can improve their business. This was a great analytical tool practice for the volunteers, to apply to the businesses they will be working at. Read More →

These couple of days we have used to acclimatise a bit, to learn about the programme and to visit some of the Host Homes and Businesses that we will be working with. This took us to some incredible parts of Kampala. I love how varied, lively and green this city is.  And busy!

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Topica we discussed with our fellow In-Country Team Leaders included slums IMG_1467and the elections. I wil soon write a blog post on both. It is really nice to have a Ugandan Counterpart, it is great that we can just ask them anything. Even after a few days I feel like I have known them for months!

Our biggest challenge was to match the volunteers with their Host-Homes and Businesses. We pinned the locations on a map and wrote all the names of the Businesses and Volunteers on pieces of paper so that we could move them around and pin them all to a Yoga mat, where else? On the photo on the right you can see us in action. 

While working on this, there was an Easter celebration next door. I really enjoyed the singing, so when I got the chance I sneaked out and filmed some of it.

Hours after our arrival at Entebbe Airport, Challenges Worldwide had arranged to drop Donia and I off at our new home. For convenience, the four Team Leaders were to share a home, and so we were well aware and so happy that we were about to meet the two In-Country Team leaders. We were welcomed by the home owner Sham (who also happens to run a bar/restaurant called ‘Terracotta” at the property), IMG_1370Project Coordinator Marcel, and Eddie & Aubry, our Ugandan counterpart. Musula Mutya! [how are you all?]. Bulungi [good], Webaale [thank you].

Photo left to right: Donia, Aubry and Eddie.

Both Marcel and Eddie had worked with Challenges Worldwide before, as volunteers, whereas Aubry immediately went for the Team Leader position, so brave. I have to admit I felt a bit strange arriving without luggage. I felt like I needed a shower and get into some clean clothes,  but as there was no running water, that was not an option anyway. Luckily I had with me a clean pair of underwear and an extra ICS – Challenges Worldwide T-shirt. What else do you need?! Well…. I have to admit that I was VERY happy when my luggage arrived the next day evening.

I am also happy to share that I have learned to wash my hair with water from a jerry-can, but I am also rather pleased  that the water system is working now.

Below you can find some photos of our new home for the coming 3 months. It is a convenient and rather smart looking unit. Cannot believe I may call this home.  En Suula Bulungi! [Good night!].

I can still not believe that I am in Uganda. I am finally in Africa!

Over the last 5 days I have traveled from Guernsey, through France, Belgium and the Netherlands to Germany to visit my mother who was a weekend away, back to the Netherlands to drop off my dog, to see dad, to repack, and then traveled to Amsterdam, where I had to say goodbye to Patrick – the one who has been so incredibly supportive during my preparations, and who I will miss most. I hate goodbye’s. From the Amsterdam Airport I flew to London, where I met up with Donia (my fellow UK Team Leader) Hello Donia!!! and together we flew from London to Dubai, and from Dubai to Entebbe, only to discover that I had lost my luggage somewhere on the way.

I filled out the luggage claim forms at the airport, accompanied by a guy from Uganda who I met in the airportbus named Myco Chris – who happened to be a celebrity – and who had also lost his luggage, along with 20 others. Nadina, our regional manager, was outside waiting for us, together with mr Kai, the driver. As I had already been in contact with Nadina before arrival, it was lovely to finally meet her. She seems dedicated, efficient, knows her way around very well and looks like she is possessed by happiness. I love spending time with happy people, who doesn’t?

After the pickup we drove to the nearest mall to register our new sim cards. This only took two hours, and provided us with a special gift – a little necklace with a picture of the pope on it. Weebale Nyo! [Thank you very much]

On our way to our new home we got stuck in the same traffic that Nadina had already been stuck in on the way to the airport. Traffic is mad in Uganda. I am sure everyone is supposed to drive on the left, but I am seeing Mutatu’s (mini van taxi’s), motor bikes and other traffic everywhere. While the driver was trying to keep moving forward, I was very busy observing Ugandan life in and around the traffic.

My first impressions are somewhat as I had imagined: hot, chaotic, friendly people, motorcycles transporting everything from hundreds of eggs pilled up to entire pigs, I see lively people and colours, pickup trucks filled with riffled soldiers, smells of barbecue, and women with beautiful hair, wearing colourful fabric, who are wagging along the road, showing off their stunning figures.

Somehow these roads reminds me of the busy straight roads in Cambodia, surrounded by green, shops on both sides, people walking around, many people, busy people, and honking traffic.

In my next post I will tell you all about meeting the two In-Country Team Leaders (ICTL’s) and my new home for the coming 3 months!

I do not know where to start. Preparations for departure basically already began back in November. Dedicating myself to this volunteer project meant for example that I was to find a short term job in Guernsey, and that I had to fly to Barcelona to move out of my apartment. From that moment on, I went through different stages of concern, and (mostly) excitement. I have to admit that it is really quite a challenge to make arrangements while working a nine to five. Everything is open while I am at work, and once I am off, its all closed! I have often wondered how others get things done this way. Well, my theory is that if you run fast enough, you can get it all done in your breaks, spread over weeks 🙂

A couple of things were particularly important to start arranging early on, like the visa and the vaccinations. In my case I had to fly to London to apply for a new passport. When I received my new passport I sent it off to the visa application office via the post. Vaccinations, wow, needed quite a few of them! So the rest of my running in my breaks had to be done with two pinched arms. Vaccinations include: Mengingitis, Yellow Fever, Typhoid and Rabies. Luckily I am already immune to Hep A&B, diphtheria, Tetanus, and Polio. Apart from these vaccinations I was recommended by the nurse to take two Cholera drinks and to bring Malaria pills for 99 days. Quite something! I was very lucky that the Guernsey state covers the costs of the vaccinations, as it is for a Charitable cause. Lucky lucky! Thank you Guernsey!

While arranging the important stuff, it has been inspiring to read bits and pieces of books and watch documentary’s about the people and culture of Uganda. You must have heared of “The last King of Schotland”, and for example a documentary called “Virunga” are very good to watch. Books I have looked at include “ABYSSINIAN CHRONICLES”, BY MOSES ISEGAWA, “Uganda Now: Between Decay & Development”, edited by Holger Bernt Hansen & Michael Twaddle, and “Culture and Customs of Uganda”, by KEFA M. OTISO. There are also quite a few interesting articles out there based on World Bank research. I like to believe that the more I read the better my understanding will be. Do you have any more recommendations? Please share in the comments!

Apart from doing my own research, I have been offered a sea of information through ICS and Challenges Worldwide, about the project, security, team leading etc. After our pre-departure training I printed most of the important slides and fitted them in my filofax, and saved the other files on iBooks in order to be able to access them from anywhere. My Filofax also contains weekly planners, so that I can keep track of all the other volunteers, some lists to write down goals, concerns, to do’s, idea’s for activities, etc., and bits and pieces of Luganda and Swahili language, accompanied by my notes on culture. After wrestling my way through, and organising a pile of exciting information, it has just come down to packing my things, so I better get started!

Today I received a surprise package, containing ….  T-shirts! YAAY! I am now visibly part of the ICS/Challenges Worldwide team, and ready to “Challenge myself to change the world”, how about you?

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I consider myself quite a happy person, but I am not often thís excited. Pre-departure training not only meant that I would get to learn the ins and outs of being a Team Leader in Uganda, but also that I would finally get to meet my trainers, fellow Team Leader, and our ‘Children! And all of that while visiting Edinburgh, which is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

First of all I would like to agree that Edinburgh is indeed pretty stunning. Edinburgh has a great atmosphere and beautiful architecture. We do not always appreciate how lucky we are to have a visible history and culture in all parts of Europe, but thinking of countries like China – where the Cultural Revolution destroyed much of the visible culture and history – I feel very fortunate to have seen just a little more of Europe.

On Monday afternoon, when trying to leave Guernsey, it was completely covered in fog. As delays were announced I realised again how tricky it can be to live on a small island. After a 9 hour trip, which took me passed Jersey and Birmingham, I arrived at the pre-booked hostel around midnight. The hostel was located near Haymarket Station, on walking distance from the old town. It was here where I had the pleasure to meet my fellow Team Leader, Donia, who had also just arrived from a long train ride – from London. Remember Donia, you will hear a lot more about her! Not long after sharing our travel stories we joined the other 10 smelly sleepers in the dorm.

Before leaving on my trip, many people had said: “I could think of better places to be in February”, well, the next morning I woke up to a bright blue sky, but I kind of get the point now, it was absolutely freezing! Not cold enough to spoil the fun though.  I dragged Donia out of her bed down to the cafe and grabbed my chance to get to know edinburgh - 3her a bit while having breakfast. It did not take me long to realise that we would become a miraculous team :). After breakfast we picked up our (very thick) coats to face the Scottish weather, as we had to walk for at least 50 yards. The head office of Challenges Worldwide was literally two doors away. Their building has high ceilings, big windows with a full view of St. Mary’s Cathdral, and it has a very relaxed and welcoming feel to it, as if you walk into granny’s living room. I can still not comprehend how beautiful their old wooden stairs are.

We were welcomed by Nicola and Georgia, our dedicated trainers, who taught us about our role as a Team Leader, our responsibilities, about how to support volunteers, and how to manage conflict. At this point Im am feeling happy that the main focus of the edinburgh - 5program is on cultural exchange, something I am particularly interested in.

Highlight of the day, meeting Eoghan Mackie – the CEO of Challenges Worldwide – who mildly expressed his views on International Development, and who took us on a first class journey through Challenges Worldwide and their effect on developing marketplaces. Eoghan has recently been invited to speak at the 3rd Annual Commonwealth Africa SUMMIT, alongside over 18 heads of State and Government. It was an honor to spend some (valuable) time with him.

Nicola and Georgia followed up with more video’s, case studies, and so on. In short, they gave structure to the big blur of information I was drowning in. I can now say that I am ready for this job, and that I am confident enough to help the other volunteers to make the best out of theirs.

After hours of absorbing as much information as we could, Donia and I strolled through the old parts of Edinburgh, in search for a good meal and a glass of wine. On our way there we realised that one of the volunteers, Justin, had arrived and he joined in.

The next morning was mainly focussed on disease and security protocols. This was not something I usually think about when waking up, but we covered quite a few topics that I was curious to learn more about. Later on we discussed facilitator skills and then, yes yes yes, we got to meet all the volunteers! So exciting! Meet our Children!

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This is the first photo of many others to come. A bunch of the volunteers I had already met during our assessment day, so it was really nice to see them again, and I have been able to have chats with almost all the others. It was a pleasure to spend some time with them and I am looking forward to more! I really had the feeling that this will become a fabulous team, and I hope they feel the same way. And now, I am ready to COUNTDOWN!!!! 22 more sleeps!!!

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 19.06.40While moving out of my flat in Barcelona I experienced many thoughts and feelings. Of course first of all it feels good to move on to the next adventure. However, Barcelona felt like home, it still does. I guess it becomes a mental thing when you move into your first home, YOUR home, only you. You do with it what you want, and you prohibit anything that you don’t want. It is hard to leave that behind.

My pain was relieved by the idea that I could be selling most of my personal belongings for a good cause – Challenges Worldwide.  Read More →

Published in 1998

I decided on this book knowing that I would be traveling to Uganda in March this year. Moses Isegawa (born 10 August 1963), is a Ugandan author.

His novels set against the political turmoil of Uganda, which he left in 1990 for the Netherlands. He became a naturalized Dutch citizen, only to return to live in Uganda in 2006. His novel, Abyssinian Chronicles, which was first published in Amsterdam in 1998, sold more than 100,000 copies. It was very well reviewed when published in English in the United Kingdom and the US.

Swahili is a Bantu language, and the first language of the Swahili people. It is a lingua franca of the African Great Lakes region and other parts of Southeast Africa, including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. As I will be voluteering in Uganda, I thought it would be interesting to learn bits and pieces of Swahili, even though English is their first language. So far I have learned only a couple of things like:

Samahani (excuse me)
Kiingereza (English)
Bwana (Sir)
Hapana (No)
Ndiyo (yes)
Wewe ni Marekani? (Are you American?)
Nafahamu Kiswahili kidogo (I know a bit of Swahili)
Sifahamu (I don’t know)

I also found a song that I really liked, called Jambo Bwana. It is a song of welcome from Eastern Africa, sung in Swahili. Jambo Bwana means ‘Hello friend!’  (You can learn it here).

Jambo, jambo bwana (Hello friend)
Habri gani?   (How are you?)
Nzuri sana  (Very fine)
Wageni (Visitors)
Mwakari-bishwa (You are welcome)
Afrika yetu (Our Africa)
Hakuna matata (There is no problem!)

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Last night I did some street fundraising on the late night shopping night in St. Peter Port in Guernsey.

Apart from receiving 73 pounds in cash donations (thank you Guernsey!) I had the chance raise awareness and help encourage others to volunteer through ICS.

– FOR SALE –
Two brand new and unused dog crates.
The entire amount will go straight to charity.

This activity is part of my plan to raise 1500 pounds to support the development projects of Challenges Worldwide. I am selling a Small and Medium sized one, for a reasonable price. Please send your bid to (+44) 07781437400.

 

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In case you do not want a dog crate, but just want to help me to make a difference, you can donate to Challenges Worldwide via my online fundraising page. Thank you for your support. Your contribution will make a real difference to the lives of the less privileged.

https://www.justgiving.com/schouwenburg

Only just after sharing Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 22.17.36my fundraising page on social media, generous friends and family have started to support ChallengesWorldwide though donations on my Justgiving page. If we keep going this speed, we will reach the sustainable development goals by the end of this year!

Thank you everyone for you support to an amazing charity. I hope that by following this blog you will feel closely involved with the Charity you are investing in.

Today I ordered my ‘fundraising cards’. This will make it easier for people to remember and visit my online fundraising website: www.justgiving.com/schouwenburg

Apart from online fundraising I will be involved in various other fundraising activities, like a tennis ball guessing contest, and a winter dip into the sea. It would be real nice if you could make a small donation just so that I wont be counting hundreds of tennis balls, and diving into the sea in the middle of December for no reason!

I am pleased to announce that the International Citizen Service (ICS) has offered me the chance to put my Masters into action by sending me off to Africa. ICS – a British organisation known for bringing young people together to fight poverty – has set me up with this amazing charity called Challenges Worldwide.

In March next year I will be traveling with this charity to Uganda as a Team Leader for one of their development programmes. I will be taking 10 business orientated volunteers along with me who will be supporting local businesses in Uganda. Together we will help them strengthen their skills and abilities, grow, generate income, and develop in a fair an sustainable way.

Challenges Worldwide has over 15 years of experience and has successfully assisted hundreds of organisations in more than 40 countries. Will you help me sustain their programme, so they can continue to make an impact? Your contribution will make a real difference to the lives of people in developing countries. Thank you for your support!

Make your donation at: www.justgiving.com/schouwenburg