One (two) year(s) on…

This post is actually a year old now (I never quite got around to publishing it sorry!) but as it will bring you up to date and on to my next adventure (and new blog – Island Life in Vanuatu) here goes…

It’s been a while since my last post, over a year in fact, and as you would expect a lot has happened. I last left you having arrived home in NZ… I spent the summer enjoying being with my family and friends, getting to know my 2 year old nephew and lapping up the natural beauty that is my home.

I explored my damaged city, grieving for what was lost but also delighting in the fresh, new creativity and strong community spirit that had grown out of the disaster.

I also tried (unsuccessfully!) to not get too stressed about the ‘what next’. I thought moving back to NZ, particularly Christchurch, would be a bit of career killing move for me. Oh how I was to be proven wrong! After a pretty tough interview process I got a job with World Vision NZ in a fundraising role based in Christchurch. It was a bit of a change for me and a big learning curve but I met some inspiring people who were able to break down the cynicism I had built up while living in London. I saw successful business people be incredibly generous and it was heartwarming.

Through this role I had the pleasure of taking four supporters to Tanzania to visit World Vision’s microfinance programme, VisionFund. We witnessed the difference small loans were making to business people and farmers who would otherwise never be able to get the credit (or had to rely on dangerous loan sharks) to grow their income and support their families. I was able to see through the supporters eyes how they viewed the use of their hard earned resources by an NGO. It was encouraging. They were impressed with how much the women and men they met could achieve with so little.

The added bonus of this trip was that I was able to also visit Uganda. Almost exactly a year after I left I was able to return and take my brother with me. We did a lot of travelling in just a week and a half. James coped well considering how jetlagged he was, only falling asleep mid-conversation a few times!

Our first trip was south west from Kampala to visit my sponsor child living near the border with Tanzania (14 hour round trip!!). Robert was pretty shy to start with, probably a bit overwhelmed by all the attention, but he showed himself to be an incredibly intelligent, articulate and generous boy. His father was also very kind and obviously cares a lot for his children.

Early the next morning we headed north to Murchison Falls National Park for a 3 day safari. The highlight for me was the hippo having a midnight snack right outside our tent! We then squeezed into a ‘private hire’ car (private meaning we shared a ride with 8 other people in a 7-seater car with our bags strapped to the roof in a shower of rain!) and continued on to Gulu.

We stayed with my good friend Sarah for the next five days, visiting her school where we ran a sports lesson for the kids, and then spent two days at The Recreation Project. It was so good to be able to see friends and work colleagues again. To see how things had progressed and hear what they had been up to. A couple of the exciting developments since I had left Uganda included:

  • Michael receiving further Premier Skills funding to continue his football coaching programmes.
  • Charles, Programme Coordinator at TRP, gaining a scholarship to study for his Masters in London.
  • Irene becoming Programme Coordinator at TRP and starting a rock climbing club for young women!!
  • My former neighbour opening her own shop in town.

It was hard to say goodbye again but I left with a happy heart knowing things in northern Uganda are hopeful, even in the face of so many obstacles. We took the Postbus back to Kampala and spent our last night in Uganda watching the girls and guys from The Breakdance Project strut their stuff at my friend Eliza’s house.

A week after I arrived back in NZ I went for my induction with VSA. I had been offered a role with World Vision Vanuatu the week before I flew to Tanzania. So my journey since leaving the landlocked East African country of Uganda has led to the small island nation of Vanuatu in the South Pacific and another big adventure…to continue the story follow my new blog ‘Island Life in Vanuatu’

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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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