Volunteers’ own stories
Here you can read the volunteers’ own stories about stays in Uganda and India. The texts are taken from ABC’s newsletters over the years. The texts will find the volunteers’ experiences of being a volunteer for a shorter or longer period and also the different approaches you can choose to volunteer.
Women’s Health in India – 2006
”If you educate the women, you will educate the whole world”
After a successful health projects in two villages in the state of Uttaranchal in northern India, we, Anna Hagström and Marie-Louise Jernbeck, acting as volunteers for HIMAD and ABC, in this moment to round off our projects have focused on general health for women focusing on a gender perspective.
After almost seven weeks in India and a completed volunteer projects in the trunk, we are in Gopeshwar with lots of knowledge and inspiration that will be exciting to pass on when we get home.
Journey to the Himalayas have been rich and nuanced, but also long and winding. Our Odyssey started already in a chaotic and shockingly New Dehli. It was a colorful and comprehensive first week with visits to many organizations with a health focus, but also a test of learning to navigate between cows and rickshaws.
Saturated and overwhelmed by all the strong impression in this tiomiljonersstad chugged our adventure ahead with Executive Dehra dun. Despite a brief visit we had time luckily with an unforgettable and nice visit to a leper colony. Even in our ears rang the words a little strange before our visit. This wonderful retreat was a clear demonstration of the happy circumstances of vulnerable people in a few cases may be lucky to end up under.
To give the word leper colony a fair sense, one can say that it works as a closed society where people of different ages infected with leprosy, living side by side in good fellowship. The village has both access to education for the children who live there but also work for the adults in the form of sewing and weaving paraphernalia that beautiful scarves, bags, cushion covers and table mats. These products are purchased by organizations from different parts of the world, so even the ABC. In this way helps ABC and ABC’s customers to finance leprosy colony’s continued existence, which feels like an amazing commitment!
At a winding road, we continued our journey by jeep, which for eight hours would take us up to this fascinating little town for nearly two months has been our home. Once at our little apartment, it was a relief to be able to breathe in the clear, fresh mountain air, instead of the big city smog and exhaust fumes. The fact that the paper was no longer black when we blew ourselves, gave expression to a day in Delhi is like smoking a pack of cigarettes, a realistic sense.
After a week of acclimatization in water filtration and innovative solutions to health care planning and preparation of our health projects, we were ready to start for our first projektby; Khandara. In this fascinating village, time seems to have stood still for a while and many times we got a sense of how the Swedish agriculture may have seemed a hundred years ago. It got rid of terrace cultivation even more clear and the small stone houses adorned Himalayan mountain walls like colorful palettes. It was an intense learning project week in many ways, not just for lentil stew and rice began to run out through our ears, but also thanks to all charismatic women we met. Innovative thinking with experience jolted us back on the winding road home to Gopeshwar.
After ten days of recovery in the form of balanced diet and soft bed base, it was time for the second and final byprojektet. This time the distance was only twenty minutes on foot, which meant that both food and sleep could soon be at home in the “Goppan”.
With jubilant spines and tarmfloror jolted us for eight days away by jeep along the crooked road that led us to a stunningly beautiful and picturesque little village called Raoli. Our daily lessons was captured in scenic forms at a temple, with magnificent views of the Himalayas.
After another week of enriching meetings with a group of curious and colorful women, it was time to roll up our sleeves and sharpen pencils for the final report of the project. With pencils blunted and worn erasers we start at this moment to feel prepared for the final mission, and our departure, which will close the circle on our trip in New Dehli.
At this stage of the project, there are many thoughts that come to mind and it is at times difficult to sort through all enrichment impression that time in Uttaranchal has given us. We are very pleased with the fact that we did CLEAR so many different parts of the public health as ergonomics, nutrition, first aid and hygiene. With hindsight, we know that this is information that the women will carry with them and to enjoy and hopefully pass on to future generations in the village.
The fact that a gender perspective wandered through the work from the first to the last day of byprojekten, was of great importance and relevance. It is not only women’s own evaluations testified that the projects exceeded expectations but also our own impressions of the nice touch we could create during an intense but brief period in the villages.
Although our volunteer trip will continue at home in Lund, we know already that we proppats full of useful and irreplaceable knowledge, not only about the Indian culture itself, but also about the extreme conditions many people live in here in the Himalayan heights.
Anna Hagström and Marie-Louise Jernbeck,
India Volunteers april – May 2006
Winter Greetings from Elin and Johan – India 2005
We are in the small village Gwar on Indian Himalayan countryside. Here we have just completed our last workshopsdag and preparing to go back to our newfound home in Gopeshwar for final reporting. In the last eight days we spent together with a bunch of guys between 14 and 20 years and pondering questions about HIV / AIDS, gender and sexuality. A few weeks ago we did the same for ten days with the girls in the village Khanadara. In addition to the topics that were included in our planning when we went out to the villages, we have encountered many more: Which is better; arranged marriage or love marriage, why does it rain on a menstruating woman goes to the temple, what is love and what is really consequences of masturbation.
We hope that the participants in our workshops have learned something, but we are doubtful that they learned as much as we do. Volunteer assignment here in India has given us knowledge for life. And if life!
Elin Sahlin and John Dencker,
India Volunteers winter 2005
Greetings from ABCs volunteers in the Himalayas – 2005
Summer has come and our volunteer projects in India is now over. For two months we lived in small villages in the Himalayas, northern India, and worked on a project that touched gender and sexual and reproductive health. Equality between men and women is a prerequisite for a society to develop and reduce poverty in the country. Reproductive and sexual health is one of the biggest problems in the world and therefore a very important topic to communicate. Our project was carried out in the villages Kurur and Bagoli, with various youth groups. Both boys and girls participated in our workshops, something we find important because both sexes must be involved to ensure that gender equality should increase.
Our workshops were divided into two parts, gender and sexual and reproductive health. In the gender section, we discussed issues related to social and biological sex, labor, dowry etc. We noticed that the need and the interest of knowledge and discussion was very high in these matters. The second part of the project was more theoretical. We discussed pregnancy, contraception and sexually transmitted diseases. Although this was the need for information and discussion great.
During the workshops, the participants reflect on the things they never previously thought about, and we hope that, through this, opened a small door to change and improvement. Time in India and the work of our project has been very instructive and stimulating for both of us. We are thankful that we had the opportunity to volunteer by ABC, for all that we have experienced and all the nice people we have come to know.
Frida Lindgren and Lisa Gustafsson,
India Volunteers Spring 2005
Can malaria mosquitoes spread AIDS, and what happens when you breathe? – Uganda 2005
Imagine being able to eat mangoes and pineapple every morning for breakfast! After breakfast we begin our trek to Oxford High School. We pass through a swaying corn fields and well out of the way, we are met by boda-bodas, bike taxi with a pillow on the carrier and waving children shouting “How are you?”, A greeting that initiates all the calls here. Here in Mbale is green and lush and the grass in the garden where we live down here and there every day. When the last bit is made, it is time to start from scratch. As we approach the Oxford High School, which is the goal of our walk, light blue school roof in the sun. Gravel road to the school is almost always filled with strolling students, on their way to or from school.
We are on the Oxford High School as volunteers and have now been here for a month. At the school we teach the subject health, in three different classes (Senior 1-3 roughly equivalent to our high school). Our aim is to highlight both the physical and mental health. So far we have had time to talk about first aid, diseases, disease prevention, and how to stay healthy through diet and activity. For each lesson, we have with us a little red service which pupils fill with questions. Students wonder about most things, such as what happens when you breathe, if malaria mosquitoes can spread AIDS and why you actually get menstrual cramps.
ABC has for several years supported and still supports the school financially, among others have been through the support of Radiohjälpen contributed financially to the new school buildings. ABC has also bought into instruments for the school band practicing pleasurable every afternoon.
Many students at the school have for various reasons not afford to pay school fees. ABCs sponsors supporting students at the school with school fees, school supplies and school uniforms. This is done collectively and ABC sponsors with a fixed amount every semester, where the school management in compliance with ABC determines which children are most in need of support. Unfortunately, not enough faddrarnas support to all the children who need help. Every small donation is helpful and therefore we appeal to you for a gift so that more children can have access to education.
Elin Persson and Lisa Persson,
Uganda Volunteers Summer 2005
Uganda Volunteers in the environment’s character – 2004
Why should young people in the town of Mbale, Uganda bother scavenging? Are not there other issues that are more important than environmental concerns and resource savings? Sure, there are issues that the substance is more important than environmental issues. The immediate survival, food supply, health care, for example, are all the more important – in the short term. It is not possible to ignore the environment. The environment includes everything that is necessary for what we humans can, and should do on earth. Environmental issues is about so much more than just distinguishing colored glass from colorless, which in our part of the world. It’s ultimately about the kind of world we want to live in. An environmental awareness is important in all work mean at improving our world through development, poverty reduction, HIV / AIDS etc.
But to what end do you start? Should young people in Mbale know how to do to be more cautious about the environment and the consequences of human action? No, it’s not about at “transferring” an idea of what it is to care about our environment. It is, instead, to share one way to look at our environment. It involves at creating an environmental awareness that will hopefully create an interest in this area. It’s about problem detection. A lack of waste may lead to contaminated ground water, which in turn gives rise to diseases and smaller yields, to name some. A poor harvest results in less food on the table, which affects both health and strength – a vicious circle is created.
On February 27th we went, both students in Lund in the disciplines of biotechnology and law, to Mbale in Uganda, where many exciting and educational experiences waited. On site at Oxford High School (OHS) was our environment up and running, which includes concepts such as environmental awareness, recycling and resource savings were included. With an environmental project in Uganda is our hope to achieve an environmental conscience. The project is interspersed with theory and practice, with emphasis on the latter. We performed experiments and practical exercises where we used materials in our environment. We förskte example, to construct a furnace using the sun’s rays, arranged “mass clean-ups” in Mbale or showed the effect of planting seed in polluted and unpolluted soil. Aesthetic elements in the form of tin art was something that was also on our agenda.
The goal of the project is that the students themselves, using the knowledge acquired from our time together, to design an environmental certificate, or an environmental policy with realistic targets for OHS. It is our desire that these targets can be achieved and lead to OHS become environmentally certified when the project is completed. We are pleased to announce that we have been warm-hearted response from various contributors. Folke Bernadotte Memorial Fund, the Savings Finn in Lund and Lund Rotary / dalby by U-country fund. They have all chosen to provide financial support to our project. We are very grateful and we hope to be able to communicate it to them and everyone else, our experiences in the context of our volunteers stay is over.
An environmental approach is needed in all parts of the world. There is much that is worth discussing and highlighting within this vast subject. A volunteer stay of two months can not create miracles but it may sow a seed of awareness for the environment.
Linda Önnby and Christopher Carlson,
Uganda Volunteers Spring 2004
Male and female in India – 2003
The boy extends his drawing. It depicts a group of men who built a house. The children have been asked to draw things that are typically male and female, the boy explains that it is only men who can build houses. – Well, why is it then? Why can not women build houses? we ask. Thoughtful silence. Some of the girls and the boys seem to have the answer of the tongue, but the moment they’ll spit it out, it is something that stops them. Eventually it – there’s a boy who dares to answer: – Women are not strong enough to build houses.
We are in the village Newly in India’s Himalayan Region. I, my volunteer buddy John and our Indian interpreter Bhuwan has a so-called Children’s empowernment workshop with a bunch of 12 – 14 year olds. While the kids pencil drawings of girls thoroughly and boyish sitting most of their fathers and drinking tea, talking shit or playing cards. Unless they live in a large city to work and thus each month to help with a bunch of rupees to his family. Meanwhile, the most of the children’s mothers, grandmothers and older sisters most likely to work with the earth. Or so they carry. Women in this region wears and wears and wears. I see them on the beautiful, dangerous serpentines when I zooms in one of the area’s rickety relatively comfortable jeeps. I hold back myself from thinking that women constitute a colorful small element of the exotic landscape. Because I know that they are tired. They carry firewood, they carry fodder, and they carry water on their heads, which in some incredible ways held in place day after day by their skinny necks. I hear lassen on their heads often weighing 30 kilos. I also hear that the normal distance of a village woman lay behind to gather fruits today is about eight kilometers.
The forest in this breathtakingly beautiful mountain area is shrinking, due to both the large corporate devastation that a growing population in the area. This does of course all the ecological balance, but those who experience the most concrete and tangible is the peasant woman who must walk longer distances to get agriculture and households to go around. The men help in almost all cases is not, how unemployed they are. The plows twice a year – the only task that is considered worthy enough a man. To an outsider, it seems totalbisarrt, but for most of the villagers would be equally absurd if a man carried wood or took the kids. We have had almost exactly the same pattern in the division of labor at home in Sweden and we have today a very strange distinction based on sex, which we learned is “natural.” The children at the workshop have just come to the conclusion that their moms actually wear more than their fathers, that where the idea that women are too weak to build houses probably was a little weird. They do not really know where it came from, this implies that obvious truth about women’s weakness. – Does this mean you think women can participate and build the house? we ask the kids. – Yes! Exclaims all in the running and I want so badly to believe that this new “yes” will make a difference, just a tiny little difference.
India Volunteer Spring 2003