If you can dream it, you can do it: volunteering in Uganda
Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to Africa to work with children, to volunteer. When I started attending the Primary Teachers College in the Netherlands four years ago, that dream changed into teaching children in Africa. But there was always this little voice in my head that said, “with my Tourette’s, I will never be able to go to Africa for a long time.” A few weeks, maybe, but not for months. I was always so envious of people who said they were going away for a few months, or even a year, to experience a new country, a new culture and to volunteer for a good cause. I never thought that could be me. It would be too exhausting, there were too many ‘new things’. I would be out of my comfort zone, without my house, parents, sister and friends. I wouldn’t have the basic things I thought I needed.
Last year I got the opportunity to go to Lira, Northern Uganda, for two weeks, with a Dutch organization called Edukans. It was a trip in which student teachers from the Netherlands and Uganda would work together. That I could do, I thought to myself, it was only two weeks. But being there, it hit me: there is no reason why I can’t do this for months! There is no reason why I couldn’t be happy volunteering and working with children, here, in Northern Uganda. I even realised that there was no reason why I couldn’t live here forever.
So I made a decision. I took a leap of faith and went back to Uganda. This time without a group. It was just me. For three months. I was going to work for an organisation that I saw one day last year, and fell in love with: Child Restoration Outreach, an organisation that works and advocates for street children.
Yes, I was nervous. I was going to be on my own, in a country I barely knew. But I did it, and I’m here now. I came knowing that I would never be able to explain my Tourette’s, and all the problems that come with it, to the people here. But that’s OK. Being in Lira, I work every day, and I’ve never been able to do that at home. But what was even more scary? I came here not knowing exactly what I was going to do at work. I basically didn’t know anything. I was told that my job here was to improve the education at CRO Lira, but that was it. I had to find out what, how, when and with whom, all by myself. With no help from anyone, except maybe from the people at home, who were a long internet connection away. I had to rely on myself.
But, you know what, I managed. I’m still here after ten weeks and I’ve even decided to extend my trip, because three months isn’t nearly long enough! I found my way around Lira, made friends for life, and became very useful at CRO. I’m basically loving my Lira-life!
Yes, Tourette’s sometimes haunts me, because I still can’t work fulltime (even in a quiet and peaceful surrounding as I am in now, even though I tried), my tics still hurt me and my obsessive thoughts travelled with me to Uganda. But I am 100% sure that without my Tourette’s, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t have achieved what I’ve achieved so far and I wouldn’t achieve what I still plan on doing.
Call it stubborn, call it an obsession, call it perseverance, it’s all true. When something is in my head, I have to do it, even if I have to stay a month longer, because I can’t keep my mind off it, I have to do it. All my life, I’ve learned never, ever, to give up and I won’t give up now. I have to finish what I started. I have to do everything on my list – and it’s a long list! – before I can leave.
My life, my Tourette’s, my depression because of my Tourette’s, it has taught me never to give up, so I won’t give up now.
If you can dream it, you can do it.
I dreamed about volunteering in Africa and I did it: I’m in Uganda and I am having the time of my life! So, please, if you dream of something big, don’t let Tourette’s stand in your way. Use it for good: use your creativity, use your perseverance, use everything you have and make it happen.
P.s. If you want to learn more about what exactly I’m doing here, check this website: http://www.gofundme.com/crolira