Our names are Lyndsey and Abi and we are both about to start our final year of studying Speech Pathology and Therapy at Manchester Metropolitan University. We have now been in Uganda volunteering with Lively Minds for two weeks and are just starting our third and final week – ‘a short but sweet stay’ in the words of Madam Sarah. The journey to Jinja from Manchester was very long but we were so overwhelmed by the lovely warm welcome we received on our arrival by some of the Lively Minds staff that the journey was soon forgotten! Unfortunately there was a football match on in Kampala the day we arrived so the journey back from the airport took longer than expected. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by a group of Lively Minds staff who showed us our rooms and took us to a local restaurant to buy some dinner. The house we’re staying in has a spacious dining/living room area where the Lively Minds staff eat lunch together during the weeks, and the office is in a building attached.
We both thought volunteering with Lively Minds would be an excellent opportunity to see how child development and play is understood within a different culture. As Speech and Language Therapists, play and communication make up a large part of the work we’ll do and we were keen to share our knowledge with the Lively Minds team as well as learn new things ourselves! In the mornings, the Lively Minds staff complete administrative work in the office and this has given us the opportunity to deliver some training to further improve the team’s knowledge about the importance of play and communication within a child’s development.
During our time here we have found out lots about Ugandan culture and the work that Lively Minds do within rural communities around Jinja. We have helped to give activity sessions on key topics that are vital for training mothers within these villages, as well as getting to see what happens within the play schemes that the mother run first hand. Session topics we have delivered include child sacrifice, communication, disability awareness and oral hygiene.We’ve also been able to visit play schemes to help monitor how they are getting on and if they need any further advice or training.
On arrival at the villages in the afternoons we are usually greeted by lots of smiling children who are excited to see a muzungu (white person)! The women often greet us by shaking our hands and bowing, as this is their traditional welcome. They also give us praise and thanks in their traditional manner through clapping, as having a visitor is seen as a blessing in their culture. We were even given our own African names when visiting the village of Kanama; Sanyu (Lyndsey) meaning happiness and Birunji (Abi) meaning beautiful.
We have tried to fit in with the locals by gaining our very own dresses which were handmade in Jinja. We’ve also attended a Ugandan wedding, which was a unique experience, as well as the cultural centre in Kampala, clubbing in Jinja and other activities around Jinja at the weekends.
It’s been so great to see the difference the Lively Minds play schemes make to their lives of children and women in the villages. They are so grateful to receive activity sessions and always seem engaged and eager to learn. We’ve made lifelong friends with the Lively Minds team and want to thank the team for the memories that we’ll never forget.