H.J. Cody student volunteer grateful to be able to help in Uganda

H.J. Cody student volunteer grateful to be able to help in Uganda

Bootsma learned a great deal about Ugandan culture and customs while helping those in need.

H.J. Cody student Taylor Bootsma has returned from Uganda with a feeling of accomplishment, after her first trip participating in several projects in the African nation, all of which were done in conjunction with the Rotary Club, and the Adopt a Village Program.

Bootsma took some time to chat with the Sylvan Lake News about her work while in Uganda, specifically with the Town of Masaka’s Rotary Club.

Bootsma noted a major theme of the work she did with Rotary in Uganda was to “give a hand up, not a handout,” when providing aid. She noted she helped to provide many villages in the area the resources they needed to get established, rely on themselves and prosper on their own accord.

A great deal of the assistance that was provided through Adopt a Village was gathered through a high tea fundraising event, which amassed a significant number of donations, Bootsma noted.

Specifically, Bootsma and the other volunteers were tasked with the administrative duty of checking up on an Adopt a Village program which was initiated a decade ago, “getting feedback, to see if the programs we were setting up there were still working, and making sure they had limited issues,” said Bootsma.

“They were doing awesome,” she said of the area she visited. “When we went there, they were giving us baskets of food; they were so grateful.”

A lot of the work Bootsma and the other volunteers did entailed delivery of products to villages in need, “making sure the right money was going to the right people, and those kinds of things, since one of the issues with a lot of these things is the money sometimes slips into the wrong places and you don’t know where it goes.”

Much of Bootsma’s work entailed the delivery of goods, as well. Bootsma reflected fondly on a point at which she visited a school in the area, whereupon she was able to meet numerous children whose education is sponsored by Canadians.

Bootsma described the experience of immersing herself in such a different culture “shocking and beautiful,” recalling how distinctly red the dirt was in Uganda, and how a vast amount of transport in the country relies on motorcycle-like vehicles called boda bodas.

“It’s crazy, compared to here. There are people who had absolutely nothing there, but everyone was still happy – it was very interesting to see,” said Bootsma, who added another interesting thing she learned was that “everyone carries things on their heads. I kind of thought that was just something made up to make art look cool – but it’s not, it’s real and they have amazing balance.”

Bootsma intimated it was a life-changing lesson to see people flourishing and happy in spite of their hardships, and noted it really made her aware of how sheltered, most average people in Canada are, by comparison.

“The Adopt a Village Program is so amazing – they select a village that’s more in a rural area, and donate cattle and chicken, and they give them a lot of seed. They build water tanks, so they can collect fresh water and wash their hands,” said Bootsma. “A major thing was setting up handwashing stations in these villages they worked in.”

Bootsma said it was inevitable a strong relationship was forged between the Rotary Club she travelled with to Uganda, and the Masaka Rotary Club, adding “we need someone to make sure there was someone keeping up with the projects. You can’t just set up a project and leave it.”

Bootsma had a great deal of praise for the Masaka Rotary Club, because “they didn’t have a whole lot, either. The poverty over there is so crazy. It was so neat to see how much they wanted to help out – even though they had so little.”

Bootsma said she wants to do something like what she did in Uganda again, adding that although it was her first time traveling there, many of the people she traveled with had been there before, multiple times.

“I wanted to go and gain the knowledge I’d need, so that if I wanted to do something like that again, I could take more of a leadership role in that,” said Bootsma.