This fall I was given the unique opportunity to work with Schools Building Schools (SBS) as the Field Coordinator in Mbarara, Uganda. SBS is a relatively young federally registered charity, founded and based in Canada. The organization’s mandate is two-fold, looking to provide vocational training education to youth in East Africa while also giving Canadian youth meaningful opportunities to become engaged both in Canada and abroad. SBS partners with existing vocational schools to provide essential infrastructure, which allows more students to be educated each year. The organization also works on capacity-building projects with its partners, which was one of my major roles as Field Coordinator.
During my placement with SBS, I was working with a partner school called the Kent Foundation Training Institute. One of the exciting aspects of my role as Field Coordinator was that my three major projects were so different that they provided me with a wide variety of experiences and learning opportunities. As SBS had recently funded the construction of a new block of classrooms at Kent, one of my main roles was to produce a proposal for the school’s board members as to the most effective ways to recruit new students. This project involved researching marketing tactics in Uganda as well as preparing a proposal, with the school’s budget in mind. Another project that I was engaged in was overseeing an income-generating chicken coop that SBS had recently initiated in collaboration with Kent, whereby staff raise chickens and the profits generated benefit the school. The daily challenges associated with this project taught me more about the realities of development work than I could have ever learned in a classroom in Canada. My third project was a tracer study of past graduates from Kent, looking at how their experiences at Kent have impacted their lives as well as aspects of Kent they would like to see changed. This was definitely the most fulfilling project, as it reinforced my understanding as to the impact that vocational training truly makes in a country like Uganda and the importance of the work in which I was engaged.
As an International Studies student, working abroad with SBS has provided me with a multitude of skills that will be applicable for future endeavours in both academic and professional settings. However, this placement has been much more than merely a job, but has led me to fall in love with SBS and the important work the organization is carrying out as well as Uganda itself. I can say with certainty that I will continue volunteering with SBS in the future and look forward to watching the organization grow, benefiting more youth in both East Africa and Canada.
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