Thursday, June 6, 2013


Kids take a break from supervising Liz's painting skills to wave hello. 
Sadly, there are folks out there who still don't comprehend the value of short-term volunteering. 

For example, guidebook publisher Lonely Planet's Africa guide informs potential volunteers that, "Unless you’ve got some expertise, and are prepared to stay for at least a year, you’re unlikely to be much use anyway." 

Really, Lonely Planet? A year or nothing? 

Perhaps the publisher should discuss its ill-advised statement with the folks at Soft Power Education or with the thousands of kids that Soft Power and its short-term volunteers have helped over the years. 

Like Big Brother Mouse in Laos, Soft Power seeks out travelers who aren't able to commit to weeks or months (or a year) of volunteering. The nonprofit offers visitors various options, including a "One Day Volunteering" program, which enables participants to tour its facilities, learn about issues affecting the area, donate, and work on an ongoing project such as painting a school or helping construct a building. 

Kip trying to stay between the lines.
Liz having a much easier time than hubby.
We had a few extra days in Jinja, so we emailed Soft Power through their website to see if they had anything available (click here for tips on finding volunteer opportunities on the road). From there, they hooked us up with an opportunity through their school refurbishment program

We were told to meet Kibii, their energetic volunteer manager who grew up nearby, at a local Nile River rafting company. From there, Kibii gave us a tour of some of the projects the organization had completed, including the Amagezi Education Centre and the Kayabirwa Children's Centre. After the tour, off we went in the back of a pickup to the site where we'd spend the rest of the day.
Kip and our guide Kibii, who manages volunteers and organizes projects for Soft Power Education. 
Painting walls back home can get tedious quickly. Yet, there's a certain joy in brushing some color to the walls of a noisy school while being closely-watched by kids who would much rather critique two muzungus working than play outside during recess. The students didn't seem to be going anywhere, so we put them to work and started testing out their English skills. 

"Which letter comes next?" we asked, as we painted our alphabetical-way around the room. In unison, the kids would shout back their answers. "Name an animal that starts with that letter"...and the game continued. 

All was well and good until a teacher came by the room. Playtime was over, it seemed, at least for the kids. 

For us, we still had hours and another alphabet or two to go. And despite the duties at hand, we couldn't wait to keep going.

Interested in volunteering with Soft Power? Check out there volunteer page and see what option works for you. 
Oddly enough, this sign is directly next to this "interesting" building.

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