Changing seasons

I started writing this blog while watching a wheelchair basketball practice going on outside my office door. I have seen many random things from my office door over the past few months…

Grazing cattle wandering past my office

Common promotional technique in Gulu – load the flatbed of a truck with large speakers and drive around town with music pumping

And children will follow dancing…

I can’t quite believe I have been here nearly eight months now, I should be counting down the weeks until my departure in September but (as happens on adventures like this) my plans have changed. In my last blog I mentioned that I might have the opportunity to stay longer in Uganda and I can now confirm that I will be staying in Gulu until December. From September, I will start a volunteer placement with The Recreation Project (the place with the climbing wall!). This is an exciting opportunity as it combines so many of my skills and loves!

Nungwi, Zanzibar

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blog front because I have been crazy busy (and I am also never sure what to write about!!). In May I celebrated a big birthday twice, firstly in Gulu with the fun people I love hanging out with here and then with my gorgeous friend Erin in Zanzibar!

With the fun and games out of the way the focus for the rest of May was on coach training and prep for the next Inclusive Disability Sports season starting in June.

TKL coach learning to rock climb

One of the training days involved taking the coaches to The Recreation Project for a day of challenges, team building and fun! I also started writing a Life Skills training programme for the children in the sports league – focusing on leadership, inclusion, discrimination, self-esteem, child and disability rights, and raising awareness.

At the last minute I was given the chance to head back to the UK in June to surprise my Grandad for his 90th birthday. Of course I jumped at the chance to catch up with family and friends! Highlights included Grandad’s birthday, visiting Grandma and the northern relies, meeting my friends’ new baby girl, going climbing with friends I have missed and having many brunch, lunch and dinner dates with good friends!

The sports season was well underway when I returned to Gulu at the end of June. I was really pleased to see how organised everything was and the increased number of children taking part.

At the beginning of July I helped out at The Recreation Project again for a couple of days, this time with 240 adults on their work team building days. I helped facilitate one of their activities focusing on difference and diversity as well as belaying people on the climbing wall (of course!). I then had two guys from the UK come volunteer with me for a few days during their school holidays. They got involved in playing sports with the kids and took part in wheelchair basketball training. The kids loved the having the chance to play against these guys and it was great to see them get stuck in – which totally put me to shame when I managed to badly sprain my ankle while playing netball with the girls!

The final day of the sports season required an early start to take a bus an hour from Gulu to pick up the 55 children taking part in the sports programme in Pabbo. I enjoyed watching the sun rise over the grassland, small farms and village huts while we bumped down the dirt road. We brought the children back in time to play some friendly matches against the Gulu teams in wheelchair basketball, volleyball, boccia, showdown and goalball before the awards ceremony began. All the children and coaches received certificates and medals. We also gave leadership awards to children who demonstrated good leadership skills throughout the season.

Even with the season complete, this month is still busy with planning, coach training and sports demonstrations taking place. August is my last month with The Kids League and Gulu Disabled Person’s Union. It will be hard to say goodbye to everyone I work with here. I think my biggest achievement has been to form such strong relationships with the people I have been working with here in Gulu. I plan to stay in touch and keep visiting the sports programme! I also hope to take my learning about inclusive sports to my new role with The Recreation Project.

Things I am thankful for: the chance to visit friends and family in the UK, feeling good about coming back to Gulu, an exciting new opportunity with The Recreation Project, being blessed financially by friends and family making it possible for me to stay longer in Gulu.

Prayer requests: that I can wrap things up well with The Kids League and successfully hand things over, health and healing for family and friends.

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About Grace

In 2011, after six years living the city life in London and with a Masters in NGO Management under my belt I decided it was time to put theory into practice. I spent 2012 living in northern Uganda working with children with disabilities and with youth at an adventure therapy centre. I then came home to NZ to spend time with my family and friends, and to enjoy the outdoors lifestyle. A year later and I am on the move again, this time to a small island nation in the South Pacific. For the next two years I will be living on the island of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, working on an economic development project for World Vision. All thoughts shared in these blogs are my own and do not reflect those of any of the organisations I work with.
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