Life and Times in Uganda – One year on!!

My dear buddies and co travelers

Irio Ber !

Greetings from the “Pearl of Africa”


I  raise my  tulip champagne glass with  a toast to all of you my friends old and new on my Ugandan birthday, some of you who I have drifted away from yet remain silhouettes, many of you whom I have moved closer to and have shared my intriguing journey..most notably my ATP angels .

On  7th of April I completed  a year of my Ugandan sojourn and I reflect upon the time  I have spent here with great fondness, occasional crestfallenness, moments of glee and insight  too.

– When I catch myself smiling , staring into an adorable baby’s eyes, I see hope and a better life  and that smile from those limpid dark eyes can remove every sadness in my sometimes despondent heart . Them  babies are truly the cutest things on the planet .

–I am caught unaware by simple acts of kindness from a genuine ‘Hi’  to a note saying ” you are lost” meaning you are missed and they haven’t seen you.

–My happy heart surges with joy  when I see the beaming smiles of the youth and children …screaming and waving out “mono mono” ( foreigner)

– I do  though have fleeting glimpses of what life must have been  for these gentle  people during the 20 year wars  between 1986- 2006,  during the LRA crisis and before that the despotic / barbaric rules of Obote and Amin with catastrophic consequences leaving the country paralyzed. It is though  the sense of  reparation and desire for progress that  the Ugandans have that makes them look to  better days ….sometimes a boulevard of broken dreams and sometimes the Bohemian Rhapsody.




Yet there are things I wish I could see a change in…. A sense of urgency to do things better, optimum  use of limited resources, increased  sensitivity towards the disabled, better customer service, an easier life for the women who work so hard to make sure their children don’t go hungry,  better use of the money available to build viable sustainable institutions & value chains, stronger accountability frameworks established,  animals being treated gentler on their journey to slaughter , promote vegetarianism, include more options on restaurant  menus and yes perhaps own my little coffee shop in my lovely  Lira :)

 Few things I have learnt

  • That black is truly beautiful
  • That the  pleasures of walking are limitless
  • That having a garden is priceless
  •  That cooking can be therapeutic and thanks to my angels  for the quick tips
  • That everyday is a time to  appreciate and be grateful for the material gifts I have
  • That I do enjoy  Fish Stew ( tho I am a vegetarian,  claiming fish is vegetarian  in Assam )
  • Sit with chickens in public transport and not be afraid….well still getting there
  • Be less finicky as life is just too short to fuss over and that really everything issssOK
  • That life throws curveballs at you, but you can run and catch it and win the match !! The wheel of Karma rolls on.

So I continue with my fascination of this remarkable  country and the dark continent , but above all I express my deepest gratitude to my beloved India for teaching me to appreciate a new culture and its people and gain  the spirit of service with clinical detachment.

And I know once I am gone, life and its myriad hues will continue in Uganda but perhaps a few will remember me fondly and say PG was here.  But wooo hoooo I am not gone….Another year of happiness and a state of discernment :)




We begin our 2nd intake of students in May for the next 6 months and hoping our gender & disability strategies, income generation, post training support programs  are purposeful.  Economic  recovery will probably speed up with  the discovery of oil and increased focus on tourism, education  & health. Hopefully predatory capitalism will be decades away.

Come visit.. .”.You are most welcome ” For more info on travel in Uganda  follow this

Health , Happiness , Prosperity to your friends & families around the world

Thanks for reading!!

Apwoyo Matek , Dhanyawad!


iVolunteer – Kolkata NGO Meet

8th April, 2014

iVolunteer – Kolkata Centre

We are pleased to announce that we accomplished half day workshop on “Creating greater Impact using Skilled Volunteers” to orient Kolkata NGOs with our effective programmes for connecting skilled volunteers (skilled professionals and corporate executives) who can help them as advisors, as hands-on trainers in small groups and, as implementers to carry out their specific tasks in Marketing, Communication, IT and Human Resources.

The session was piloted by Rahul Nainwal [our Co-founder and Director]. We welcomed the participants with a warm smile. NGOs representatives introduced their organization and its impact areas in a brief. Post the introduction we addressed them about iVolunteer and its initiatives. The thought was to carve up with NGOs what we do, why we do it and how we go about it.

We focused more on addressing them – the clear concept about IMPACT. NGOs do great work on the ground but struggle to find help in the specific areas mentioned above.

IMG_20140408_113413Moving forward we discussed that how every opportunity translated into a simple task that can help them; the impact and the difference that skilled volunteers make will be easily evident to the organization and how they can measure the output of the task and ensured that volunteers will be available to the NGO till completion of the specific task/deliverable

Apart from this we talked about GYAN – how they can be a part of this. It’s basically a customized hands-on training in small groups where topics are centered on skills that will enhance the capacity of individual staff working in an NGO in a specific function; this is to enhance the customization of training input and facilitate peer learning.

NGOs shared their grand requirements and showed interest for the both the initiatives. Later on we showed them some of the outputs [task done by volunteers] of existing partnered NGOs. All I can say it was a fruitful session with 5 NGOs [8 Participants] who participated

We look forward to conduct NGO meet every month to get more of them in board.

Cherished reader, in the mean time you can support us by -

Spreading the sprite of volunteering in whatever way possible
Recommending 5 friends for volunteering to join us
connecting us with organization who need volunteers

Stay connected.

I have realized that you can still help by volunteering from home!!! – Akila

Akila Please tell us something about yourself:

I am Akila, a software engineer by profession. I got introduced to volunteering through  my software field. I have been volunteering for almost 4 years now.

 Can you tell us why you decided to volunteer with Makkala Jagriti?

I was earlier visiting the NGO’s directly for my volunteering work. But past few months  it was difficult for me to visit the NGO in person. So my volunteering had almost become  nil. Few months ago we had a session at iVolunteer office on Impact Projects, where we  got to meet representatives from different NGO’s. Each representative presented their  need for volunteers for different kind of work. This was where I got to know about the  requirement at Makkala Jagriti.

 Tell us more about the project:

 I got in touch with Roopa, the representative of Makkala Jagriti.I enquired if they have  any work that can be done from home. She immediately discussed the need for a person to translate Kannada documents to English. 
I readily accepted this and started working on the same. These documents contained science experiments/projects which students of different ages could perform. I translated several of these documents in phases.

What kind of challenges you faced during your volunteering assignment?

Though I have been in Bangalore and know Kannada it was not very simple to do the translation. The documents contained lot of scientific terms in Kannada which are not often used. The best part was when I did the translation at home; all my family members (my husband, in laws) would get involved and help me finish the work.I still continue to do the translation as and when I get mails from Makkala Jagriti team.

Once the major chunk of translation work was completed, I checked with Roopa again for any other work that could be managed from home. Makkala Jagriti required a volunteer to maintain their social networking sites.
I have taken up that activity as well and have been actively managing their networking sites.

What were you able to achieve during your volunteering with NGO?

The translation activity gave me a chance to improvise my kannada skills.
On a serious note, I have realized that you can still help by volunteering from home and not being able to go physically to a particular NGO should never stop you from volunteering.
I have also been introduced to another volunteer at Makkala Jagriti who has similar interests as mine. We are coming up with ideas to make this big!!

“Be a leader” – says Mr Pradeep K Banerjee at GYAN session


Pradeep Kumar Banerjee dons many hats. He is a leadership coach, a graphologist & mind therapist and founder of Mindzone, Kolkata. Pradeep joined iVolunteer early 2011 and since then he has taken numerous guest lectures on personality development for youth with our partner NGOs working in youth welfare. Here he shares with us the experience of his first GYAN session!

To start with I want to convey my thanks to Mr Md Tanveer for giving me such an opportunity for me to pay homage to the society, the support of which has made me what I’m today.. As I’m a professional Leadership Motivation Coach so I took the pleasure to share my talent voluntarily. 

There was no anxiety about conducting the workshop because I’m very confident about my skills but I was anxious to conduct the workshop at the earliest, because it was the first of its kind in my lifetime to deliver leadership program for a NGO. 1911917_629849987070814_1609992073_nIt was held at the office of Tiljala Shed at Palm Avenue. There were 7 participants who had attended the program. Most of them who were working with the under privileged slum dwellers. On interacting with the participants the first thing I noticed that they have no clear idea of leadership. On the program my one point issue was to realize them the Leader within. The participants had reciprocated in a most positive manner to understand the theme of the program.

From the first program of its kind I realized that regular Leadership program to organize for the NGO workers so that the could understand the real meaning of service to the society. It was great feeling when the participants express their feeling that today they have understood the actual Leadership Way. Looking forward to to attend more program of its kind in future



Namibia, where the skys are all a different hue

Namibia is  a country with  unique landscapes, skies that can leave you spell bound and sunsets to die for. In a country with a population of a mere two million people  you wont be  surprised if you find virtually nothing  while you’re travelling from one city to the other, but you’ll find breathtaking views

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There is something about this country that excites me each time I think about the wonderful time I have spent here.

it is the culture which has never stopped to impress me with the variety it has had to offer, it is the people who make Namibia that have always amazed me, the white Afrikaners, the Himbas, the Otjihereros!

I can still remember the first day that I landed in Windhoek, as I got down from the plane and approached the immigration check I felt super relaxed, it felt as if I was suddenly on a dream vacation!

Driving down to the city from the airport felt as if I was approaching any other European city with the kind of architectural excellence that Windhoek boasted of, very well planned, intricately structured and not a speck to be seen on the roads; amazingly clean!


My placement was with the Ministry of Health and Social Services in Outjo, where I was expected to work with the District Social Worker ( a former VSO Volunteer herself) on the Hospital’s Disability program.

My role was on getting the Community based rehabilitation program of Outjo Hospital off the ground, This was a government program for helping people with disabilities at a community level.

It was a tough ask this; and I knew I had a very tough job at hand, and that I had to start from scratch!

To me building and facilitating a team of community volunteers as part of this programme turned to be real fun, contrary to what I had thought earlier.


I was lucky to have working alongside me a bunch of passionate and excited youngsters with a real urge to make a difference for their people.

I made sure I gave these guys all the necessary motivation and support that they required to help them initiate some good work in the community

I was able to help the Volunteers organise a range of awareness raising activities and events in the community.


Through the support I provided them they were able to do a number of house to house surveys for identifying people with disabilities and followed this up with regular home visits for need assessments.

They also made important referrals for People with disabilities to health facilities, clinincs, vocational institutions, NGO’s and other ministry departments.

I realized though that this was not going to be enough and a responsive and alive stakeholder community was also necessary for the program to do well.

I therefore actively engaged with different partners and helped form a “people with disability welfare committee” for the district so that all the work that the volunteers were doing in the community could be adequately supported.


What I was most happy about was that besides my designated role of initiating the CBR program I was also able to take up the District Social Worker’s responsibilities whenever required or whenever she had other engagements.

As part of these other duties I gave counselling to clients who were referred to me at the Hospital i.e. cases of suicide attempt, rape, alcohol abuse, marital discord and workplace harassment.

I couldn’t have asked for better support which I got from Florida Faburada the District Social Worker and Dr. Nzenza Shepard the Principal Medical Officer of Outjo District. Their support to me is always going to be entrenched deep in my memories!


I got this big farewell in the end from the Volunteers, the Hospital Staff and the District Social worker and I felt contended that I had been able to make breakthroughs in the lives of so many people. I left Namibia knowing their lives were going to be so much better now!

Rwanda: A wonderful country to choose for volunteering!!

It was raining heavily in Kathmandu. I was in dilemma whether to go to attend iVolunteer Overseas orientation session or not. Finally, decided to attend it. The session motivated me to apply for international volunteering. I applied and went through the recruitment and assessment procedures. My VPA (Volunteer Placement Advisor) Preshu offered a volunteering opportunity in Rwanda as a District Disability Advisor.

On 12th February, 2013 I started my journey to New Delhi from home by bus. On that day I experienced mixed types of emotions first time in my life. I was feeling happy some time and at another I was totally gripped with fear. I was trying to control all the feelings centered on one basic question “what will happen in Africa?”

Keeping my fingers crossed, I landed on Rwandan land on 14th February 2013. It was 9 AM. The sky was covered with clouds. It was raining. My mind suddenly asked “Where am I – in Rwanda or in Nepal? Am I dreaming”? I saw hills everywhere and I stood speechless at the door of the plane. “Sir this way” – the Airhostess’s voice brought me back. I went to VSO Office with the Program Support Officer who had come to receive me at the airport and was formally introduced to the entire staff. After a weeklong In- Country orientation we started they journey to the placement district “NGORORERO”, enjoying a curly, mountainous road. The District Social Affairs Vice Mayor along with District Disability Officer, Health officer, VSO education volunteer and other staff received us in the district premises at around 5 PM in the evening.

For the first three months, we were only two of us – James from Kenya (Teaching Methodology Advisor) and I in the house that VSO had arranged for the volunteers. Later Gift (Education Leadership Advisor) from Zimbabwe joined us too. Villagers and neighbors used to call our house where we were staying – an International House.  :-)


It took me around three months on understanding the work environment and making my counterpart comfortable to work with me. It was the most challenging part of my placement in a new country, which was different in so many ways – culture, behaviors, language, social beliefs etc.

During this difficult phase, what really helped me to build their confidence and trust in me was the first workshop that I conducted. It was a professional training on “Training Delivery and Workshop Design” to National Council of Persons with Disabilities (NCPD) and the audience included District and Sector coordinators. It was observed by several senior officers – the Ambassador, VSO East Africa Regional Director, VSO Country Director and the district representatives. I cannot say that all the participants can now deliver training but I am sure at least 12 among 22 participants can deliver effective training when they are provided the training manual.

“Now onwards we don’t need trainer from outside to conduct district/ sector level sensitization and advocacy workshops. We have ourselves become resource persons from now onwards” – were the words of Verien, District NCPD coordinator and member of District Council.

“It reminds me of my past days of volunteering and doing lots of similar workshops.” commented the Regional Director which encouraged all other participants in the hall.




Subsequently, with the effort of all NCPD members, we were able to establish Ngororero Disability Resource Center which is a place that has all disability related material. At the Center, we conducted research on assistive devices for identification of persons with disabilities, cooperatives run by PWDs and Direct Support Programs provided by the government. These documents are now baseline and provide hand on information to influence District development plans. We developed a Sector/District coordinator mobilization mechanism in order to collect grass root information on the situation of PWDs at village level. This helps Sector /District officials to plan inclusive activities for PWDs although there are lots of challenges in implementation. There were several other activities that I completed before finishing my placement – capacity building of cell executives on disability mainstreaming, mass sensitization on PWDs issues, cooperative field visits, set up child libraries in 3 children centers and organized small grant support for 12 cooperatives. I handed over all remaining activities to Brain who replaced me. We were together for three days in Rwanda. Besides these disability activities, I worked as a resource person for the education initiatives with Teaching Methodology Advisor and Education Leadership Advisor.

Besides work, there is lot more that I gained from my placement. I experienced important aspects of working in a new environment and culture. It is not only work that shows the impact of what we do. It is our capacity to socialize, friendly behavior towards others and high values that help to build trust, confidence and bring people together. I feel very lucky because I received warmth from everybody, developed good brother sisterhood and stayed as a family member of the District. The people there had hearts of gold, full of love and care.  We were always invited by the District in all its functions and festivals. District staff used to invite us to their family functions too. Not only them, as we were four (Fred, Livelihood Advisor from Uganda joined us later) from different cultures, we used to celebrate our festivals together. During the celebration we used to invite friends, district staff and neighbors. We were so happy when the Mayor, Vice Mayor and District staff gave us visit in our home.

During my placement, we not only shared our professional knowledge but also exchanged lot of other things – life styles, cultures, food, drinks, religion, beliefs, rituals…. I observed closely marriage ceremonies, newborn baby ceremonies, baptism and different social and traditional beliefs, languages………

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Landscape of Rwanda is much similar to Nepal with lots of beautiful hills, clear sky and fresh air. Most of the time I used to go for hiking in the hills alone and observed the village life there. Ngoorero is the only district in Rwanda with hills; it is a lovely place with beautiful hiking spots, villages, tea plantations, delicious local food and drinks. Its panoramic views automatically embrace you in its lap. It generates romance in the heart and makes people fall in love with nature. We travelled to many other beautiful places too like Giseni which is very famous for Lake Kivu, Musanze city, Butare…. It leaves permanent unforgettable memories in the mind and heart.

We were all emotionally touched in the farewell get together organized by the District staff and NCPD members separately. I was feeling proud when District awarded me with the appreciation certificate on the occasion of World Disability Day, recognizing my contribution in the socio-economic development of PWDs in the district.


Rwanda is called the country of thousands hills. It’s a country with thousands of wonders also. It is almost difficult to explain. So I would recommend to any volunteer who is offered a placement in Rwanda that without thinking accept and enjoy your assignment……

Nar Bahadur Ale, Nepal

Bridging the digital divide in Uganda – K G Rajamohan

I was placed as a VSO volunteer in 2010 in the Democratic Republic of Uganda for Governance & Participation program which is one of the major global areas focused by VSO.  Let me share here how lives of the Ugandan citizens are getting changed by their active participation in governance in policy matters, especially for their socio economical progress.

The task assigned…

VSO has taken up a bold step by introducing volunteers to associate closely with government to initiate transparency in governance by involving citizens to take part in policy decisions.

To achieve this global impact, Information and Communication technology (ICT) has been taken as a tool for  social auditing and social accountability.


As a VSO volunteer, I remember in August 2010 when I was placed as Information System Adviser in the E-Society Resource Centre at Kasese managed by Rwenzori Consortium [RWECO], Kasese District Local Government and Rwenzori Information Centers Network – Fort Portal, the center was functioning like other common Internet cafés and it was only called as a “resource center”. My job responsibility was as an advisory to take up the challenge of framing Strategic Plans with expected outcome of bringing transformation at the center. To bring change from being a mere internet café to a resource cum training center which would act as a hub, networking the Government, Civil Society Organizations and people. This center had to be run with high technological intervention by using IT and ICT facilities by active participation of the Government, Civil Society Organizations, and people to be commissioning successfully within time frame of nine months [tentatively by April 2011].

After that, with full perseverance and determination I got on to the job, did intensive planning and managed successful execution of strategic plans, with the support of the Local government and RICNET team.  The e-Society Resource Center was commissioned successfully on 20th April 2011, which started functioning as a Regional Hub for Knowledge Management System and also acted as a full-fledged resource cum training center catering to needs of Kasese district. This transformation from mere internet café to resource based information center fulfilled all my wishes and my dream came true.


The Impact…..

This model has brought change in the mind set of the Local Government Authorities to involve people in discussion on all policy matters and also confirms that sharing skills and knowledge could bring real change in the life style of the people to have active participation in governance.

The Progress continues…

In a nut shell, the E-Society Resource Center in Kasese is the first model in Uganda. Kasese stands as the first district which introduced this tripartite combination of Government with public and private partnership with the civil society to show the world that a healthy and transparent administrative system can be possible with the advent of IT & ICT intervention. The center invites the attention of the Community Support Organizations [CSOs] to go hand in hand with the Government to find solutions for their social problems. The center answers the issue of inadequate access to timely and relevant information, a key aspect that limits citizen’s effective participation in planning and monitoring processes in the district. It is aimed at bringing the society of Kasese into purview of electronic usage for poverty alleviation to improve their social, economical, health, cultural and educational status. This project bridges the digital divide.

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Lasting fulfillment…

As a VSO volunteer, I had wonderful self-learning period that developed my mind set with global understanding. In fact, I enjoyed my year long stay in Kasese because I found very healthy professional working environment and also living environment for which I must thank RICNET management. On my last day before departure in a farewell meeting, I appealed to all development partners working with RIC-NET and to RIC-NET as well, to keep the fire burning. I am extremely happy to share even today, in  March 2014 acting as an online advisory member for the e-Society resource center and also sharing my views in Kasese district e-Society d-group.

[Reference: and / Article publication: RICNET News Letter: RIC-NET News - A Quarterly up-date from Rwenzori Information Centers Network – RICNET’s Sept 2011 Issue (page 2).]


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