Emma Manning

Volunteered for one month, August 2007

After suffering for many years under a black cloud with depression and not really knowing who I was and what my role was in the world, the cloud finally cleared and I came up with a plan with my counsellor. I had the idea that if I went abroad to do some volunteer work; I would not only be helping others I would give myself a challenge. For years I found social situations a struggle and thought if I can do this, meet total strangers and get along with them, this would show how far I had come.
So I set about finding a charity to volunteer with, this was not easy! So many were asking for huge amounts of money, and it seemed the money wasn’t really going to the projects they claimed to help. Then a friend of a friend’s friend(!) had done some volunteer work with Soft Power and said they were great. So I looked it up and liked what I saw.

After a couple of emails to Shaz my mind was made up and I booked my flights. I aimed to raise £1000 and I thought it would be really hard to reach this target but I live in a little town, and with the help of the local paper and the Nursery school, where I teach preschool children with special needs, my target was reached and some! Then the panic set in!

I was so scared of the prospect of arriving in Uganda alone and bombarded Shaz with emails with hundreds of questions (sorry Shaz!!!) Finally the time came to go and I arrived in Uganda on 3rd August 2007. It was a million miles away from the comfort of my home town of Kings Lynn but I was feeling excited about the challenge ahead… until my phone wouldn’t work, I became totally confused by the shillings and my toothpaste had spilt over loads of my clothes (small things seem huge when your sleep deprived!!) but once I met Kibii and a couple of other volunteers it felt like I’d been in Uganda forever.

I loved every minute of my month in Uganda. I stayed out on site at Namagera with some other volunteers, which was fantastic as you really get to experience life in Uganda. We had an amazing time with the children and painting the school. I made some great friends and the time went so fast and I really didn’t want to go home – well I was missing my boyfriend but apart from that!

Soft Power is an amazing charity. You really see where the money is used. Uganda is an amazing country, the people are so friendly, the countryside is stunning and the atmosphere is so laid back. If you are thinking about volunteering really just go for it and do it with Soft Power, you won’t be disappointed!

I returned home to a proposal of marriage (and am now married!!) and a desire to carry on helping Namagera School and Soft Power. So have set up links with them and the nursery I work at, sending letters, photos, pens and paper, and last academic year did a number of fundraising events and am happy to say this is going to carry on this academic year. I never stop talking about Uganda (I’m sure I bore my friends and family!) I tell everyone about the great work Soft Power do and try and encourage people to go out to Uganda. Personally the experience helped me to realise that I can be myself and get along with others.  I’m braver than I ever thought I could be. My confidence has gone from strength the strength and I’m happier than I’ve ever been. Thanks Soft Power for a life changing experience!

Emma has continued to support Soft Power Education through Kings Lynn Nursery School where she works. They hold several fundraising events throughout the year and the proceeds come to Soft Power Education.