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Nahid Dabiri, Volunteer Missionary Movement, Uganda

Picture taken by Kate

There are places in the world that remind us of Ireland; western Uganda is one of those and is located in the southern hemisphere. The capital, Kampala, is approximately 6800 km from Dublin. If you do not consider the picturesque Mountains of the Moon and the lush tropical vegetation, the rains and the green meadows bring to mind the Irish countryside.

I have always been attracted to the Pareto principle 80:20 and I always hoped that the world could move in a more equitable relationship of 50:50. I first sought to contribute to change in Peru where I supported the work of Operazione Mato Grosso on a voluntary basis, then in India I supported the work of Namaste Onore a Te Onlus and in Ireland I have volunteered for Oxfam in their Fair Trade Shop in Dublin.

In 2007 I started to work for IBM and took part in some CSR activities. In 2010, at the Irish Aid Centre, I met the Irish NGO Volunteer Missionary Movement which recruits people with professional experience and links them with potential partners in the Global South. I was very impressed with the work of VMM, participated in an introductory week and was offered a destination in Uganda with Caritas in Fort Portal as a Monitoring and Evaluation Adviser.

On February 4th, 2011 I took a British Airways flight from London to Kampala and there I began my adventure in Uganda. Arriving in Uganda is like getting to Eden: the force of nature and the richness of the traditions have a strong impact. I was assigned to the offices of Caritas in Fort Portal and soon I became aware of the harsh reality of a country that came from years of dictatorships, massacres, violence (Amin and Obote). Caritas, with the help of many international donors, was able to trigger a slow process of development in rural communities where water is still not municipal, and often the access to study is denied, women are marginalized and the environment is defrauded.

After a few months I adapted to life in Uganda, where water and electricity are intermittent, food is essentially based on millet, rice, beans and matoke (mashed bananas), washing clothes is a hard manual labour, and the wait and patience incurred is a ritual that brought me to review my frantic western lifestyle.

It was my sincere wish to share a piece of my life with Ugandans and the return to the western world is a step that must sooner or later be faced. Upon returning to Dublin I received support by Comhlámh trough the “Coming Home Weekend” and the “What Next” workshops.

Living in Uganda for one year has made me a stronger woman, richer of experiences and full of the indelible marks of the special people who I met. Countless volunteers, development workers, priests, nuns, ordinary people from all over the world and real friends have accompanied me during the long months alternated by sun and rain.