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Somehow I managed to get from Rwanda to Zambia over the last week by a combination of boda, matatu, feet, bus, hitchhiking, and ferry, which is a subject for another entry – but now I finally have time to write a bit about how I spent most of my three weeks in Uganda.
The following is a post by Hilary Zetlen, who recently volunteered with BRAC Uganda‘s health program.
Somehow I managed to get from Rwanda to Zambia over the last week by a combination of boda, matatu, feet, bus, hitchhiking, and ferry, which is a subject for another entry – but now I finally have time to write a bit about how I spent most of my three weeks in Uganda. As I mentioned earlier, I came to Kampala to spend some time working on a project for BRAC, which is the same Bangladeshi NGO where I spent some time volunteering in Dhaka right when I began my Bonderman trip in September. To many, it seems a little curious that a Bangladeshi NGO has projects in Africa (in addition to Uganda, BRAC works in Tanzania, South Sudan, Liberia, and Sierra Leone). Admittedly, it’s difficult to reconcile Bangladesh’s image as an impoverished country struggling to provide enough resources for its own citizens with BRAC’s efforts to work against poverty on an entirely different continent. However, BRAC’s scope and influence as an organization is not limited by its Bangladeshi identity, and I very quickly came to realize why BRAC works in Africa, Afghanistan, Haiti, Sri Lanka… the list goes on. As my friend Minhaj explained to me in Dhaka back in September, BRAC essentially operates as a sort of parallel government in Bangladesh, with exceptionally well-developed infrastructure, personnel and financial support that allows it to successfully operate an amazing array of country-wide programs on health, agriculture, education, and the star of the show – microfinance.
Essentially, BRAC has a remarkable capacity for development, and has a great deal of valuable expertise on operating in resource-poor and post-conflict contexts. Thus, BRAC was offered a grant by the Gates foundation to expand its projects to East Africa in 2007, and has been working there ever since. I was amazed at how extensive BRAC’s network has become in Uganda after just a few short years, with active micro-enterprise, youth empowerment, seed bank, and so-called ultra-poor programs in poverty-stricken parts of Northeastern Uganda, to name a few. I came to BRAC Uganda to get involved in their health programs in whatever way they would let me during the few short weeks I had to spend in Uganda. I also enjoyed stuffing my face with Bengali food for a few weeks, since the BRAC compound is a strange bizarro-Bangladesh-East African hybrid where half the staff hails from Dhaka, the other half from Uganda, and the food coming out of the kitchen is all dal, rice, and Bengali-style fish.