Saturday, 4 July 2009

A Small Explanation

A lot of people have been asking me recently why am I doing this? Why am I giving up my well paying(ish) job, packing up my lovely house (especially now it is completely finished) and going 4,100 miles to a small country that is half the size of Scotland!!! I do not have one answer to these very good questions at all. And the harder I think about it the less of a definitive answer I have. I suppose the short answer would be 'I don’t know'.

I don’t know why, at a concert 7 years ago, my heart was touched by 25 Ugandan children. I don’t know why there was only I, out of an audience of 500+, signed up for a volunteer information pack. And I don’t know why I have had the desire year in year out to go back there. A Year ago when I told my head teacher what I was thinking of doing he turned around and asked my why I wanted to go there when there were so many needy children in this country that I could help.

I know throughout my teaching time in the UK I have helped children, and I could name about 15 right now who would have otherwise followed a very different path had I not encouraged them down the music route. There is such an absolute NEED out there in the developing world, absolutely far greater than in the UK. My position was filled very quickly at my last school, with a large number of applicants. Right now there are currently about 6 volunteers signed up for Rwanda out of a total of 18 places. However, that is a very small drop in the ocean compared with how many schools there are in Rwanda. We get to help 18 high schools out of a total of 668 and that does not go anywhere near the 2416 primary schools in the country.

So I suppose the answer to the question "why" is "why not"!

Why should I not go out there? I am young, I have no dependants, I have the skills that they need and the desire to do it, so why not?

Volunteering goes right to the core of the human nature, it is the essence of mankind - to help someone less fortunate than yourself.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Nostalgic packing

I am in the middle of packing up my life and I didn’t expect it to be this traumatic! Apart from clothes and a few books etc, EVERYTHING has to be packed into boxes and put in my newly boarded out loft. The lads are coming round on Sat to put all the boxes up as I ‘don’t do’ ladders. I figured packing would be a fairly quick process – just dump it into boxes and sort when I come back home, whenever that may be.

However, as I am sorting through and packing I can’t help but stop at everything and remember…a little ornament that was given to me over 10 years ago for helping some flute pupils. I hand sown bookmark with my name on it from some very grateful Ugandan’s that I taught. Lots and lots of photographs going back nearly 30 years covering all my major life events, and some not so major ones! It is not simple to just ‘dump’ these items in a box an seal it up, knowing that you don’t know when you will be back.

At the earliest it will be 18 months but realistically it is upward of two years. Even if I come back right at the end of my Rwanda contract I cannot move back home until I have a job to pay the mortgage and that will take time. I also do not know where I might be led in the next 18 months. I really feel that the continent of Africa is where I should be right now, and I can’t see me coming back permanently for the foreseeable future. Only time will tell when I get to see all of my ‘stuff’ again and that makes me sad. And if you think that is materialistic ok do so, but remember we are on this earth but a short time and we are to do everything within our power to make it a happy and righteous time.

Most of the things I was sad to see go in a box were gifts. They were given to me out of the kindness of someone’s heart and they meant something to the giver. They also mean a lot to me. Materialistic? Maybe, but I am not clinging on to them nor taking them with me. Just remembering the good times, and some sad ones and reliving past experiences as they have gotten me to where I am today.

If I hadn’t have done rubbish on my A-levels and deferred a year I would never have met Ali. If I hadn’t have met Ali I would never have been encouraged to go to Music college and Sing for Pleasure. If I hadn’t have gone to SFP I wouldn’t have met Dave. If I hadn’t have met Dave I wouldn’t have been invited to an African Children’s Choir concert by one of his friends. If I hadn’t have gone to the concert (which I really didn’t want to go to) I wouldn’t have volunteered with them. If I hadn’t have volunteered with them I wouldn’t be embarking on this trip of a lifetime to Rwanda and goodness knows where else.

So yes, it is a sad time, but also a really exciting one too. I am closing a door (or cardboard box lid) on one chapter and heading straight into a new and thrilling one. The next 6 months will be a strange time; I will be in a state of limbo, living at mums and doing supply work. The 12 months after that will be the most thrilling rollercoaster ride ever – Grissom would be proud!!!

Stay with me for my ride of a lifetime!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Account Name Change

Since I am now no longer volunteering with the ACC I thought I had better change my account name here to reflect that. If I have done everything right then yoiu should be automatically forwarded to the new account. If I have cocked it up (which lets face it, it likely) then the new URL is This keeps it in line with my new email address of

I hope this hasnt confused you and you still continue to follow.
Jo xx

The Sky Cracks Open

Quite literally. It is 3am and there is this horrendous thunderstorm raging overhead. I actually don’t think I have heard thunder that loud or that violent before!!

Anyway, things are now moving at one heck of a pace. I now have someone who wants to rent my house but wants to move in in less than 2 weeks - I go away in 9 days. So that means I need to pack up my entire life in the next 9 days - it is traumatic to say the least. I have already moved the majority of my clothes and shoes to mums and I spent some time today packing up the study. I didn’t get it all done as I kept going on a nostalgia trip with all of my things.

One cupboard was full of photo albums and unsorted photo's going back nearly 30 years!!!! It took me a long time to pack that box, I think there is some unwritten law that prevents you from just putting photo's away - you have to look at each and every single one. So there I was, in the middle of the study floor, surrounded by chaos, getting all nostalgic over simpler times. Why is it that when you are at school you cant wait to leave and go to uni and then when you are at uni you cant wait to leave and get a job. Then when you are finally in that adult role of having a job, car, house etc you want to go back to school/uni/whatever!

I have decided that tomorrow I have to get the rest of the study and the bathroom sorted and packed. The 'boys' are coming on Saturday to put all my boxes in my newly boarded loft so it has to be done by then and there is LOTS to do!

The thunderstorm is not the thing that is keeping me awake tonight; I actually haven’t been to sleep yet. A combination of killer hayfever and a reaction to some nasty needles has left me feeling quite yucky (not YUKy unfortunately LOL). I feel like a pin cushion. Anyone who knows me knows the thing I fear the most is needles, so trust me to pick a country that has (probably) the largest amount of inccoculations. There is even one that I have to get a certificate for and I will not be allowed out of Rwanda without showing the certificate!!! Does make me wonder what I am letting myself in for. Anyway, I am feeling rather ill and running a bit of a temp, but that could also have something to do with the temp as well – wow it is HOT!!!!

I have found quite a few blogs of other volunteers in Rwanda, not necessarily WorldTeach volunteers. There are a few PeaceCorp along with quite a few other NGO's and Non-Profit's. So it seems like there is quite a healthy ex-pat community in Rwanda - I hope I get to meet some of them. I had to fill in a questionnaire for WT about where I would like to live and work and I actually put that I didn’t mind either urban or rural areas at all but that rural might be a wider experience for me. From reading blogs now I am hoping there are one or two other muzungu's (white people) around otherwise the resident muzungu becomes the village entertainment and amusement - not sure how I would like that!


I have also made a resolve to update this blog more often. The pace things are moving at I will be in Rwanda before you know it and I need to get in the habit or regularly posting before I go. So I promise to do better!