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Sian’s Volunteering Story

  • Sian Wynne, 30

    London, UK.     Organisational Development Officer November 2013 – May 2014

    My ARUWE journey started when I decided that my career in the UK – as a project manager for a national mental health charity – needed a bit of a change. I had previously visited Rwanda and had a yearning to see more of East Africa, and to explore my interest in women’s rights and community development in the developing world. I wanted a way to apply my skills and 10 years work experience in a new context. What I had heard about Uganda sounded fascinating. I was thrilled when I was offered the chance, through 2Way Development, to work with ARUWE, as I loved the sound of their programmes – focussing on enabling women and vulnerable families to support themselves long-term, not just giving hand outs, and making sure that the women themselves were designing and shaping the projects from the start.

    Before I knew it it was October 2013 and I was leaving for East Africa. I arrived in Kampala and was overwhelmed yet excited by the city. I received a really warm welcome from the ARUWE team, and help to settle in, and within a couple of weeks I had agreed my first work plan with Susanne and was settled in to my work too. Kampala life was completely different from life back home in London. For one thing, I now commuted on the back of a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) instead of on a packed train!

    At the end of my first month I accompanied some of the team on my first field visit to Mulagi, where I met some of the beneficiaries and was able to get a true picture of the challenges they face. This visit really helped to shape my overall view of the work ARUWE does and the difference it makes. I also realised that for a marginalised grandmother who is single-handedly raising young children in a remote rural village, the challenges are many and complex – almost too many, and too complex, to contemplate for someone who has had such a comparitively privileged upbringing in the UK. Access to clean safe water is a luxury in these villages, school fees are hard to afford and providing three nutritious meals a day to anything up to 20 young children in a household is near impossible for most. These central challenges are underpinned by many others – lack of electricity, difficulty of getting around, and the way that health problems for grandmothers impact on their ability to complete basic household tasks, let alone work the fields to provide food and income for the household.

    Having a good understanding of the realities of everyday life for the women I met in Mulagi really gave my work at ARUWE a new angle, and has great enriched my knowledge of grassroots development projects. It informed my work on concept notes and proposals, writing and editing reports and in redesigning and rewriting the website.

    Now, as I reach the end of my placement at ARUWE, I feel so much better equipped to pursue a career in development, and I feel that I have been able to grow ARUWE’s capacity in report writing and communications, especially the website. I am now heading back to London to do a masters in Gender Studies with a focus on East Africa, so I can continue to work in the field of international women’s rights and gender based programming in the future.

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