A team of 40 Aston University students are embarking on a four week voluntary trip to work with local communities in Uganda. Working alongside the UK charity Softpower Education, Project Uganda 2009 will see students living and working in Jinja, a large town near to the capital.
Following the success of the trip last summer, this year has sparked an even greater interest with previous volunteers and new students keen to get involved.
Volunteers will help build and refurbish schools, offer technology facilities, and improve teaching conditions. Working closely with the community the students will offer their business knowledge to citizens to aide the performance of local entrepreneurs and help their businesses to grow.
The trip had been organised by Aston student Mike Bandarm, who took part last year. He wanted to return after witnessing the positive impact and opportunities the programme gave to communities. He said: ‘Last year we built a school, which we also slept in! We also helped to improve learning facilities. Nothing compares to the satisfaction you get from knowing you have made a difference to a whole community.’
Student volunteers have shown great commitment and dedication to the project, with each student having to raise £500 in order to purchase the materials needed to refurbish schools and to buy malaria nets to sell at low costs to the community to help prevent the fatal disease.
The trip will not be all work and no play however. Evenings and weekends are free for volunteers to spend as they please whether it be socialising with the locals, absorbing the culture, going on safari or white water rafting for the thrill seekers.
Mike said: ‘This year we want to make an even bigger difference. We have more volunteers and are encouraging everyone to donate any possessions that would be valuable to the schools, including old laptops, so that we can set up IT labs. We want to tackle the growing problem of sexual transmitted disease in Uganda by educating the local children and encouraging contraception.’
Aston student volunteer Sunita Uppal said: ‘I’m mostly looking forward to meeting the children. I want to see how our fundraising and physical labour will help. I am hoping that from the experience I will learn not to take life for granted.’
Aspects wishes the students the best of luck for their worthy trip and looks forward to hearing of their adventures upon their return.
Words by Eleanor Drew