MNO citizen works alongside Ugandan youth organization

Courtney Vaughan_Uganda
Supervisor Babirye Prossy (left), and Intern Courtney
Vaughan (right) represent the Centre for Youth Driven
Development Initiatives in the 2015 World Aids Day
Commemoration Celebration in Wakiso District, Uganda. 
Click here to view a larger version of the picture.

Courtney Vaughan is an MNO citizen and this summer worked as a Métis Nation of Ontario Summer Youth Cultural Program (SYCP) staff member in Sault Ste. Marie. Below is a first-hand account of Courtney’s volunteer trip to Uganda:

I am walking down the red dirt road alongside my housemate. My new neighbours are yelling out to me in a language that, three days earlier, I didn’t even know existed. My Ugandan friend tells me that they are saying, “How are you, foreigner? How long will you be here?” With two days under my belt, I still ask whether that blue bug with wings can bite, and, “If that plant rubs against me, will I break out in hives?”

I am completely out of my element: I don’t know the language; I don’t know the people; and, I don’t know the land—and everyone here knows it.

Where am I? I am in Uganda in East Africa. I am living in the village of Ndazabazadde, which in the local language—Luganda, means “womb of the parents.” We are in the district of Wakiso, just 45 minutes north of Kampala—the bustling capital city of Uganda.

I am volunteering here as an International Youth Intern through Global Affairs Canada. Through their partnership with Douglas College in Vancouver and the Ugandan Community Libraries Association, I was chosen to go to Uganda to volunteer fox six months as an Educational Worker at the Centre for Youth Driven Development Initiatives—a community resource centre and library.

At the centre, I was involved in a variety of the library’s programs and projects, but I felt most in my element working with a group of local women on building a sustainable micro-business project—a micro-bakery. These women inspired me: they were resilient, creative, and passionate. From the traditional grandmother and elder who knows of the medicinal use of every plant I can see, to the young mother trying to occupy that awkward space between traditional ways and the modern world, to my mischievous host aunty who insisted upon meddling in my romantic life. All of these women exist within a tight-knit and interdependent village community.

Although I most certainly was out of my home, my roots, and the land to where I belong, I found myself within a place of belonging: it was in the love of the grandmothers; it was in the red mud that left a permanent hue of orange on my toenails; it was in eating the food that grew in my yard and the avocado that was given to me by my next-door neighbour; it was in the community and the land where I found comfort.

Being away from my roots, I realized that it is the land and community that I value the most. Not money, not creature comforts like Starbucks and electricity available at my whim—the most common complaint of the other Canadian interns. I gained a renewed passion and pride in being Métis, and I am incredibly grateful to be a part of a culture that similarly values the land and those with whom I share it.

Published on: September 8, 2016

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