Written by Cory Twibell Friday, 27 August 2010 00:00
Uganda, a landlocked country in the eastern half of Africa, has seen its share of turmoil and treachery, but Katelynn Carroll, like many volunteers around the world, is helping the country in a grassroots effort to create a brighter and more positive future for its inhabitants.
Carroll, a Hicksville High School Class of 2007 graduate, recently returned from an 11-day volunteer mission in the tiny village of Wairaka (pronounced “why-lee-ca”) located outside of Jinja, Uganda. A fellow Hicksville Comet from the Class of 2005, Frank Regan, joined her on the journey.
The mission, with all its complications and uncertainties, accomplishments and aspirations, mirrored a day in the life of the average Wairaka villager.
During the mission, Carroll and Regan, as part of Team Rafiki (meaning “friends” in Swahili) and a partnership with The Giving Circle, helped to bring running water and solar-power to a village that for centuries had been undeveloped.
“It was a really great trip … it gave a chance for us to get to know everybody there and meet the children at the orphanage,” said Carroll.
With 31 bags of supplies and 10 volunteers making it safely to Jinja after spending more than half a day in transit, the villagers of Wairaka graciously welcomed Carroll and her peers with hugs and song.
Members of Team Rafiki and The Giving Circle built a well to tap into the underground water as well as a solar-powered farmhouse, chicken coops and pig pens. The group also planted orange, lemon, mango and guava trees, beans, watermelon and more.
Carroll noted she will always remember seeing how everyone was willing to work together and how all of the villagers “were really happy to help,” she said.
“We also traced all of the children’s feet and recorded their clothing size in order to put together packages for each child. When we came back to the hotel, we filled a backpack for each child with an outfit, toys, pens and pencils, coloring books, stickers, candy, toothbrushes and toothpaste,” said Carroll on the group’s blog (koikoihouse.blog spot.com).
As different as her new surroundings were compared to Hicksville, Carroll said she didn’t miss too much about home – save for the bathroom situation.
“In hotels there were normal bathrooms. In places where we stopped there would be cement slabs with holes … in the village it was just sugar cane fields,” Carroll said.
Carroll, however, wasn’t a stranger to foreign environments as she had been to Tanzania in 2009, and she plans on revisiting the village in Uganda in the near future to help build a new orphanage and a local school. Currently, the closest school to the village is a five-mile walk, and many children cannot make the walk for fear of abduction as a result of human trafficking in the region.
Working mainly on the farm in the hot sun throughout the week, Carroll said the group was brought on a safari trip on the weekend, wherein they were accompanied by non-stop rain, a six-hour delay for a broken-down van and a sudden diagnosis of kidney stones for a member of the group.
But the unforeseeable circumstances eventually yielded a once-in-a-lifetime panoramic view.
“Pretty soon, the rain stopped and [we] stood hanging out of the moon roof throughout the Safari. It was just magical seeing all the animals in their natural habitat,” said Carroll.
“That was our little break when we were there,” she added.
Set to be a senior at the College of Saint Rose in the fall, Carroll plans on earning a master’s degree in speech pathology after completing her undergraduate requirements.
According to the African Economic Outlook, “Uganda also continues to be a leader in social progress in Africa. Although much remains to be done, it has advanced on the poverty reduction front and made improvements in health and education, including the introduction of universal primary and secondary education and the construction of health facilities at the local government level.”
Carroll, Team Rafiki and The Giving Circle are proud to say they have played a vital role in that progress.