Loughborough University’s Action volunteering programme gets their students involved in community activities in the UK and abroad. Last year, Loughborough Action gave students the opportunity to go to work in Uganda with CALM Africa for the first time. Last week, the second group of students returned from a 16 day placement with CALM Africa and we caught up with their project leader, Josh Turner, to see how it all went…
Why did you decide to join the Action trip to Uganda?
I was already involved with Action as a hall-rep and I wanted to further my experience within the section. I spoke to a couple of people who had been on trips like this before and they highly recommended them. I then looked at the different overseas trips available and decided to run for a project leader position. I was kindly offered the Uganda position, so I looked into the charity (CALM Africa), saw the great work they do out there and spoke to the previous project leader Steph, who was very helpful and that confirmed my decision to go.
How much did you fundraise for the trip and how did you raise the money?
For this trip I roughly raised £500. This was raised via a collection of methods. Firstly via social media: creating my online giving page, then using Facebook and other social media websites to get as wide a reach as possible. I sent the link to family and friends to act as further means of spreading the online page. I then started collecting offline donations by bucket collecting around my student hall which consists of 310 people and I also hosted a pub quiz for the hall.
What were your first impressions when you got there?
When we got there it was the early hours of the morning. We were kindly picked up and taken to the volunteer house. When we first arrived I was very impressed with the house and provided facilities. We were then greeted throughout the day by the CALM staff members who made us feel at home.
What did you do with the money you fundraised?
The money fundraised helped with the facilities at CALM Africa and went towards resources for the construction project we worked on and community outreach, which allowed us to complete the volunteer work in these areas when we were out there.
What were the top highlights of the trip?
The top highlights of the trip would be the outreach trips, where we got to visit some incredible families and help local villages. Also, seeing the construction work develop from the start to when we left and being allowed to teach at the Jolly Mercy Learning Centre where the kids and staff are amazing. Getting to visit the capital city – Kampala – experiencing a great place and also getting to visit the Baha’i temple in Kampala, which was a great experience and a real privilege.
What did you find most challenging while there?
I think the heat was the most challenging part of the trip. The construction work in the mornings required a lot of endurance in the heat, therefore a massive amount of respect is deserved to the other construction workers who powered through all day. The heat just in general was something I was not used to, it was much hotter and humid than summer days in England bearing in mind it was the rainy season as well.
Did anyone in particular have a big impact on your trip?
There are simply too many people to thank for making this trip so amazing, there isn’t enough words to describe how grateful I am to each and every one of the CALM Africa staff.
How do you think your trip has had an impact on you?
This trip has made me a lot more organised and independent as an individual on the project leader half of it. On the other half, this trip has made me realise how lucky I am as a young person and how grateful I should be for what I have. It has also shown me what a great country Uganda is and how welcoming, polite and respectful the people are; wherever we went we were welcomed whole-heartedly and this makes visitors feel at home and enjoy their time whilst out there which is priceless.
Would you like to go back/recommend it to someone else?
I would love to go back, not only to see the children of Jolly Mercy and the wonderful CALM team but to further help with their cause and aid with their great work. I would fully recommend this trip to anyone else and I plan on promoting this trip and the work of CALM hugely around Loughborough University, as this is a fairly new trip with the University, but hopefully as time grows the number of volunteers and the amount of work the volunteers at the University can do will increase year after year.
Any other thoughts/comments about your experience?
Just again a massive thank you to the CALM Africa team including Natalie and Tony who have been a massive help to me organising the trip. This has been an unforgettable experience which I will cherish for the rest of my life and it wouldn’t have been the same without any of the CALM team.