Optometrist recalls rewarding volunteer experience in Uganda
PUBLISHED: 16:11 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:22 25 September 2019
A Lowestoft man who lived in a community without fresh water or roads has spoken of his volunteering experience in Uganda.
Turan Kaya travelled to Hoima in western Uganda on a three month placement with the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in January this year.
Mr Kaya said: "Hoima is a large town located in western Uganda surrounded by many smaller villages. Most of my activities took place in the Kyakaboga resettlement community on the outskirts of Hoima."
The 26-year-old Lowestoft optometrist said he was fully immersed in the community and lived with a host family to gain a better understanding of the challenges locals face.
Mr Kaya said: "This community was made up of displaced families, moved from their original land by the Ugandan government due to the construction of a new airport and oil pipeline.
"They faced many challenges, extreme poverty and a lack of opportunity and employable skills being the root cause of it all," he said.
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He said the community had no fresh water supply, roads, access to a health care centre, a lack of teachers, job opportunities as well as being geographically and politically isolated.
"The government had failed to recognise and aid the struggles of these people," he said.
In a team of four volunteers, Mr Kaya worked with local NGOs to hold to account the local and central governments fulfil their duties.
Mr Kaya said: "We wrote letters to the local MP and government, held a radio talk show on the subject and organised community dialogues to help facilitate communication between the community and local chiefs and government.
"Apart from the social accountability and advocacy work, I helped to organise community action days where we raised awareness of numerous issues such as gender equality and sexual reproductive health within the community."
The volunteer also provided training such as soap and shoe making as well as bee keeping.
Mr Kaya said: "I have encouraged all of my friends and family to volunteer in community development projects not only here in the UK but abroad too.
"Our contemporary society is becoming increasingly individualistic. I believe we need to reverse this trend."
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