Jenny Hickman

Just over 5 months ago, a close friend sent me a card with the words:

“The best discoveries are made outside your comfort zone”.

Now 5 months later and back home in Australia I am sure of it!

I have just spent the time of my life in the beautiful country of Uganda in East Africa and have had the experience of a lifetime.  Early last year, I found out about Soft Power Education from a friend who had recently travelled through Africa and spent “One Day Makes a Difference” with this charity. Later that year, together with my 17 year old nephew, I spent 4 weeks with Soft Power doing volunteer work painting at a pre-school.  When we got back home we both realized that Uganda had woven a “spell” around us but neither of us could quite explain the most amazing time we had just experienced and we found ourselves determined to do something different in our lives.  My nephew decided to go back to school to finish his studies. I decided to do a course to teach English as a second language.

In May this year the “spell” drew me back to Uganda to work with Soft Power Education once again.  I was very much out of my comfort zone:  traveling alone and taking on the task for Soft Power Education of implementing English lessons for the women in the rural villages of Kyabirwa and Bujagali, near Jinja.

The people of Kyabirwa and Bujagali welcomed me into their homes and hearts and for 4½ months I shared in their lives.  I received so much friendship and love that I really felt as though I was at home. Over 4½ months I met several Soft Power Education short-term and long-term volunteers from all over the world and have made some firm friendships.

The success of the English classes was both rewarding and humbling.  I felt proud of myself for achieving something so meaningful to the wonderful women that I taught but I felt prouder of these women as I watched them, not just learn English, but blossom and grow in self-confidence.  I gained so much more from them than I could ever have given them; it surely was the experience of a lifetime!

At the end of the 4½ months we had a farewell/graduation afternoon tea at the Soft Power Education Centre and I still can’t find the words to describe the overwhelming feeling of appreciation and friendship from all the women.  I will never forget any of these women, their families or their country and I’m sure the “spell” will draw me back some time sooner rather than later!  I would recommend the Soft Power Education volunteer experience to anyone.

Jenny Hickman 17 October 2008

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