Erin Nouse

Volunteer for Soft Power December 2005 to April

Day one with Soft Power: Our taxi pulled into this beautiful campsite overlooking the Nile river. When I think of the Nile, I think of ancient Egyptians from my elementary school textbook, not Erin (me) overlooking it.  People were setting up tents under trees, dogs were frolicking, and I was mesmerized, but before I got lost in my imagination of all the things I could do here, this grasshopper walked up to me. Okay, it was actually a tall English man with crazy hair and a grasshopperish stride, not to mention one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. He introduced himself. “Hi I’m George, not Georgie.” At the time, I wasn’t sure who Georgie was but I was certainly glad to hear that this grasshopper man was not called that.
The sub county of Budondo where Soft Power is working is beautiful. It is lush, full of banana trees, mud huts, brick homes, and barefoot children who I promise you’ll want to take home.

While volunteering for Soft Power, I lived with a Ugandan family minutes away from several campsites where some of the other volunteers stay. There are plenty of living options. You can stay in a tent, banda, or dorm, live with a family, or live at a school which I did for a week – good fun!

Some of the things I did: I helped with the day volunteers by giving them tours of the community and taking them out to schools to paint for the day.  I got to help design and build a jungle gym from scratch for a local preschool. There were a handful of us working on it including Rachel, our four-year-old friend who proved to be quite useful when trying to figure out how high to hang the monkey bars. I lived inside a classroom at Nsuube Primary School for a week with a couple of other volunteers to finish the murals inside the classrooms. I went to an opening for one of Soft Power’s finished products. We were presented with a plaque and a goat for the completion of the school.

But, if you haven’t already gathered, Soft Power is not all work and no play. It’s loads of fun!  After painting yourself silly each day, there is always a place to sit and read a book, always a party at NRE bar, and always some sun bathing to be done at Eden Rock. My personal favorite way of ending the day was to jump in the Nile which is for the most part crocodile free. I went rafting twice, learned how to roll in a kayak, and went Bungee jumping over the Nile.

I’ll admit that after nine months in Africa (4.5 in Uganda with Soft Power), I was eager to go home, but quickly realized that going home meant leaving Uganda and all the friends I’d made there. I met so many people from all over – Australians, Canadians, English people, etc. I even met my very first kiwi. I had many tearful goodbyes, but one more memorable was with my good Ugandan friend, Jessica.  Unsure of how to respond to my unbridled emotion, she told me that I had to keep quiet and that soon I would realize that I am both American and Ugandan and should learn to deal with the situation. Now that I’m back in Corpus Christi, Texas, nearer to family and friends and the beach, I think I am learning to deal with the situation. It always feels good to be home, but I have forever left a part of my heart in Uganda. I’ll be back. I just hope its sooner rather than later.