A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog about how I was convinced I would never be able to live in Africa and volunteer, because of my Tourette. Actually going to Africa, to Uganda, changed my mind and I decided to move to Northern Uganda for three months, on my own, volunteering for an organisation that takes care of street children (CRO Uganda). While being there, I even extended my trip, because I had too much to do. After four months, I went home, knowing that there wasn’t anything in this world I couldn’t do, Tourette or not.
That’s where I left you. Now, over a year later, I’m here to tell you that everything got a whole lot crazier than you – and I – could’ve even imagined.
Being home in January was nice. It was really good to see my friends and family again, to take my well-deserved rest and to take care of some things. But, there was this gnawing feeling that I couldn’t shake off: I left Uganda with unfinished business and I wanted to go back. I allowed myself two weeks to try to get adjusted again to the Netherlands and after that, I booked my flight and went back to Uganda at the start of February, for another four months.
Since I never really told you what I was doing there, let me fill you in: I volunteered at an organisation for street children and my initial job was to coach their teachers. But, when I was there for about a month, there were some problems and because of that, there was no food for the kids and one of them almost died because of a medical emergency and the lack of money we had, to pay for his doctor bills. Also, there was going to be a problem with the school fees for the upcoming year, since one of our donors had to drop out. We all knew something had to be done and we had to start making our own money. There was a plan to start a bakery, but for lack of money and confidence, they never took the plunge. We talked about it long and hard and we decided this was something we needed to do, so I started crowdfunding and we started planning to open the bakery. We experienced a lot of problems building the oven and – of course – everything took way longer than planned, and when I went home in December, we weren’t even close to opening.
Being back in Uganda in February, my colleagues and I worked really hard and we were able to open the bakery at March 21th! I couldn’t be more happy about it! Right now, the bakery is doing really well; we’re making profit, we’re getting orders from all over Uganda for wedding cakes and as of next week, fifteen of our children will be able to go to school on the bakery’s profit! Within a year after opening!! It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t (I’m still involved, but from afar), but I’m so, so proud of us for pulling this off! The idea that because of our work, children will be able to go to school and there never will be emergencies like before again, fills my heart with so much warmth, I can’t even explain.
When it comes to my Tourette, those last four months were really hard. I had to do more than just my work at CRO, since I made commitments that I couldn’t neglect. I resumed my work for the Dutch TS association, I prepared my speech for the TS World Congress and… I applied for college! Living in Uganda made me realise how big my passion for development is and I’m proud to say that I’m now a first year masters’ student at the University College London!
Living in Uganda while having Tourette sure had its challenges – I once had to travel for over 14 hours to get my back straightened out because I couldn’t breathe through my tics – but I loved it and if I could, I would do it all over again. I’ve learned so much; being more flexible, letting stuff go when it doesn’t go my way, not judging too quickly, the list goes on and on. I’m 100% sure that my TS helped me achieve the things that I achieved; I could have never done it without my determination and creativity to solve problems. Yes, I was tired, so, so tired, and it took me a while to get back on my feet after I went home for real, but wow, it was so worth it.
Whatever your dream is, please, please go for it. You will not regret it, I promise.