Erica Schmidt

Volunteer December 2005 to April 2006

“So what do you miss most from Uganda?” People have asked me this often since I’ve been back in the States. It’s a tough question to answer, but two things come to mind faster than any others. I miss seeing more stars in the sky than I could ever see in my lifetime here. I could go outside here in Texas, count the stars I see, and they’d fit on both of my hands; if I had tried to count the stars I looked at each night in Africa, I never would have gone to sleep. Being outside at night I always preferred walking “with the stars” rather than with a flashlight/torch, and it was crazy how well I could see using what nature provided. The stars are beautiful, plentiful, and absolutely amazing in every way you could imagine them to be.

What else I’ve missed the most since I’ve been home are the friends I quickly grew to love. Young and old presented themselves to me with more kindheartedness than I could have ever reciprocated, and the relationships I left with were consequently deep and long lasting. I loved walking down the road each morning to be greeted by every person I passed. My walks back home also never went empty-handed as children ran faster than Olympic sprinters to grab my hand before the others did; by the time I arrived home I sometimes had as many as ten children by my side. Ten children whose poverty is great but whose happiness and love for others are far greater. I feel fortunate I was able to see that.

So finally the advice I’d give to any person considering volunteering with Soft Power Education is to go for it. You can’t possibly be disappointed by the experience you will have and the memories you will gain. If I could have stayed longer I would have, and I’m sure I will when I return some day. You should definitely stay as long as you can, because once you leave you’ll only want to come back. The first thing every volunteer that left before me wrote in emails and letters was how they wished they could still be in Uganda, and that statement always made me feel so grateful that I was in such a wonderful place. It’s difficult for many people to take time off from work or school and volunteer so far from home, so if you are lucky enough to be planning a trip to serve others, why not spend your time doing it in a country as beautiful as Uganda and with an organization as fun and thoughtful as Soft Power?