Archive | 2010/11 – President of AIESEC in Uganda RSS feed for this section

Dear AIESEC in Uganda

1 Jul

when I heard of you the first time, I had just been in Africa for 4 weeks. The person who I first met, was Ram. We were facis together at EALDS 2008 in Nanyuki, Kenya. If you know Ram, you know the first impression and will smile now!

At that time I had been in AIESEC for over 4 years. I had been to many countries and even more conferences.

It was a conference like no other. A conference, where I realized the importance of AIESEC to Africa. The relevance of a youth leadership development organization is already incredible high. The impact of a student-run organization that practices integrity, participation and initiative cannot be valued in Shillings!

In the next 18 months I interacted with you severally. I met and worked with Frank, Eunice, Chris, Wakib and Peter, who are all very special individuals, from who I learnt that there is responsible leadership, that there is selflessness and that things can run differently in another place. They taught me that there are fine differences in cultures in East Africa and I learnt to value them! I went through a tough time, loosing my “assumptions”!

At IC 2009 in Malaysia I experienced your delegation: A rather quiet group, many beautiful girls, who stand out whenever they started discussion but I got fascinated by the unique spirit that the MCP spread.

After I lost the MCP elections in Kenya, I took heart and applied as President of AIESEC in Uganda. A breathtaking idea! Filling out an application for you although I had never seen you was hard! Developing strategies and getting the on-ground picture over email? You challenged me from the start!

But you made me feel welcome and valued.

I formed my team of 10, knowing that we were going to be 11 at some point!

In India you were crowned over all African countries. We were called on stage to receive the UBS Award for Regional Excellence! We were proud about the generations of leaders and especially the Amplifire team, who worked so hard on making this possible. They grew you through growing the LCs. It sounds so easy, but I was yet to find out how hard it is.

Our first conference, our first proposals, our first reports, long team meetings, legislation, new projects and initiatives, partnerships signed, partnerships lost, promising leaders and resigning ones, two new expansions and other LCs limping. It felt like flying and it felt like crawling. A hard time with long nights and early mornings! Frustrated moments, then a good word, smiles and hope!

The team traveled to India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya, the Netherlands, Mexico and Norway. Sometimes we took bodas, taxis, buses, stairways, horizon, KCs, Queens, sometimes air-buses, sometimes planes and sometimes we walked!

The 11th person joined us on in January, amazing! Alumni, Members and Leaders were surprised, but we Titans were clear about it: We have to love each other in all situations and everybody’s contribution is unique! So today I congratulate you: We are changing perceptions every day!

When we brought you the ING Award home, we made you a role model for dozens of other small countries. A country with 16 OGX can send out 80 people just the next year? 136 Leadership positions in 12 months with 300 members? Our unique project structure make it posible. 211 incoming exchanges realized by 6 LCs, a unique rate in the global network!

Great events like the Career Week, Y2B and the Annual Dinner take long preparations but lead to treasured moments! An amazing “Sweet 16” Dinner started the Titans goodbye from you and the Planning Conference shows the ambition, diversity and brilliance of the 2015 generation!

I wish you all the best. I know you are going to treat people harshly, like you treated me and my team.

You give experiences, that shake people up and challenge them to the core. You take a lot and you don’t always reward within weeks or months. Some efforts you don’t seem to reward at all or even notice!

Let me not get caught in that trap! Your reward comes late but I know it comes!

Every coin that somebody spends on you, they spend on themselves. Every word file, every letter, every wiki, every presentation, is a milestone on building ourselves. You give networks, you give skills, you give friends for a lifetime.

Being responsible for you during this year was the greatest challenge I could have ever imagined. The year of the 11/7 bombblast, Pakalast National Elections, some big shoes to step in, an empty bank account, promises to fulfil and debts to clear.

We promised you to make “The Noise we need”… In the last 12 months we sometimes got tired from making noise. We lost focus on what is needed. But we definitely tried and there is a lot we delivered!

Crazy Parties in the MC house, Entrepreneurship trainings, HIV outreaches in the villages, the Career Week in the universities, we sat next to important people in official meetings and they stared at us in aaawww showcasing our activities. We defined policies and build a democratic youth driven system. We stopped complaining about what we can’t change and just contributed what is needed!

We made friends with our interns and house mates. The amount of flags in our living room truly shows the diversity of our year. We matched colors that were not regarded matchable.

We promised you to change “One Life, One Day!”. We sent out 90 students on international internships this year. We changed hundreds of peoples perceptions within East Africa, we sent students to Colombia, Germany, Finland, Nigeria, Pakistan, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Botswana, India, Singapore, Oman and more countries. Our international volunteers have educated thousands of children, teachers, women and men in urban and rural areas. Encounters that are opening up new perspectives and opportunities! Trainings to our members, project and event leaders, LC leaders are just the beginning… the challenging job role and the networks is what enriches their studies!

We reached 336 out of our 366 Exchange Goal but we DID change lives every day!

The biggest contributors to my personal path this year were my MC team members, my LCPs and a group of very special alumni… Individuals, who let themselves be lead by me, who lead me, who explored new ways of doing things, who followed agreements, who broke agreements, who explained themselves, who taught me how to be a girl, who showed me how to be a woman, who inspired me to be a mum, who laughed with me, who made me laugh, who advised me, who shared their food, who lent and borrowed clothes, who shared their worries, who gave me feedback, who got stuff done, who didn’t do sh*t, who danced and sweated, who closed the door, when silence was needed, who opened the window, when oxygen got scarce.

I am very happy to have you!

But after all the pictures are taken, what only you know is how deeply AIESEC touches Uganda and how much deeper it can touch the country and change Eastern and Central Africa. I am dreaming of the day when we expand to the neighboring countries. I can see hundreds of members attend a  National Conference. I am dreaming of the 1000th Ugandan students to go abroad. I can’t wait for the years when you will comfortably submit your bid to host a global Conference!

Having done what I could, I am now leaning back a bit and give other people the chance to steer you forward to greater heights. Taking the responsibility for you means the chance of changing hundreds and thousands of lives and the fate  of a thirsty country!

You are just amazing and have given me so much…

Laughter, Rumors, Tears, Scars, Scandals, Memories, Friends!

I will be a part of you for the next 16 years and more!

Thanks to Ram, Frank, Wakib, Eunice, Ivan, Eva, Matthew, Jimmy, Donah, Nashera, Emma, Joram, Nassir, Abu, KJ, Peter and Cindy for the never-ending inspiration you gave me and untapping the strength I needed for this year!

Thanks to Hugo, David, Malina, Fiona, Amos, Abraham, Ismael, Femi, Kaisha, and many other MCPs for sharing your thoughts and experiences with me!

Thanks to my parents for their great support and anyone else who were part of my year, members, interns, alumni, friends and enemies.

Thanks to Matoke, Rolex, Bread and Butter, Gologo and Sunda!

Be strong, AIESEC in Uganda!

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Bye, Uganda! Tulabagane :-)

16 Jun

My year in Uganda is over… wow, time flies!!!

A great experience in a challenging environment.

Uganda was so beautiful! I just love the green hills, the mist in the valleys, the palm trees and the rain forest atmosphere in the mornings and evenings. Getting used to the food was possible, though not really simple. I lost around 5 kgs in Uganda, I guess due to the heat, the hills and the somehow irregular dinners. Kampala also frustrated me a lot. Kampala can also be dusty and loud. There are things that “don’t work”, people who can’t agree to common sense, wrong directions I was given. Traffic is crazy, but Boda Bodas were a good way out.

The Work was amazing. Quite flexible working hours, working with ambitious individuals, networking with NGOs and corporates. I was able to achieve at least 70% of what I had set out to do. Managing a National Office for an organization is not as easy as thought. I was juggling member motivation, available financial resources, company relations, press, the Board and many more. It was not always easy, but I believe to have left most processes in a better state than when I started. It is about constant improvement 🙂

I made really great friends and we had an intense time together. Eva, my great friend was pregnant and gave birth. Together with the boys Ivan, Matthew and Jimmy we ran the house, crazy madness. The pressure of working on the National Team was too much for some, others just couldn’t get enough of work. The ki-boy and his cup, his girlfriend and his food. The malaria cases that were treated by Chinese doctors. 6 Brazilians in the house, 10 Chinese, 4 Germans, exhausting diversity! Our house warming party on Canada Day. The bomb blast in July. Water shortage in August. Crazy East African days with old friends who we last met in Zanzibar. Nights where we hosted at least 40 people in 21 beds. The elections in February. Interns who kissed at least 4 of the boys on the team. Black and Yellow. The memories will last!

Now I am going to Kenya, for a 2-month engagement! Let’s see how re-integration there will go.

I will definitely come back to Uganda. For a visit or for a job. Tulabagane!

And these are some pictures of my team in the last week 🙂

People ask me how to prepare for Africa

22 Apr

When I say Africa Stay, I dont mean your 2-week Safari. I dont mean an Expatriate, who is coming to work on a Western Salary. This article is meant for young people, who prepare for a 2-12 month stay in Africa (preferably Uganda 😉 ), for volunteering or internship purpose. People who want to get involved with local people and experience Africa outside 5-star hotels and tour cars.

What to pack in my suitcase….

Sure, the main question is: What should I bring from home and what can I buy when I am there? Most capital cities have huge supermarkets with all that can be bought in Europe. Should I bring…

…Shampoo, Contact Lense Liquid, Sunscreen? – You get those but they are quite expensive. (For ladies: Just bring the Tampons, they can be hard to find)

…Washing powder, Soap, Body Lotion, Toilet Paper? – Is this a serious question?? This is Africa, not the moon.

…Mosquito net, water purifying tablets? – Definitely you should use them, but you can buy those items cheaper here than in most Western countries

… my towel, sleeping bag, bedsheets? – That one really depends on your personality. The degree of homesickness and fear of insects varies between individuals. If it will make you feel more safe, clean or comfortable, bring it. But just know that Africa is much cleaner, than you might expect!

… my laptop, my expensive phone and camera? – Depends on where you are going. There are very safe countries. Just know one thing: YOU ARE WHITE! You will stick out and attract attention (of good and bad people). If you wave around your phone and camera all the time, you might “lose” them. A laptop will most definitely be helpful for your work and also leisure time (watch movies, write a jounal, write your blog and email offline and then take the files to an internet cafe on a flash disc). If you dont want to use your iPhone, you can always by a cheap, internet enabled phone for around

… travellers cheques? – I have really not seen travellers cheques anywhere here. Just bring Euro OR Dollar (depending where you come from) and your credit card / Maestro card. ATMs are everywhere in larger cities!

A last word about the size of your suitcase: Bring just as much luggage as you can handle yourself. 40 kg might just be a bit to much. There are very many clothes markets in Africa, cheap and nice second hand dresses, jeans and tops. Aquire shoes that fit the local roads and fashion cheaply just in a few hours.

You will have the best experience in Africa, when you come with the mindset of getting to know the local lifestyle.

What preventive health measures should I take?

This is my personal experience and does not replace your own judgement or consultation of a doctor.

Of course you will be advised by your doctor to carry 5 kg of medication and take malaria prophylaxis through out your stay. The truth is that in capital cities all medication is available – probably cheaper than at home. What you should do is take the necessary vaccinations, check your guidebook to see what is advised. Yellow fever, Tetanus/Diphteria, Measles, Polio, Hepatitis A and B should be included in the list of vaccinations you take (if you never have).

Personally I have not taken Malaria Prophylaxis in the last 2 years and have NOT contracted Malaria. I sleep under a mosquito net and wear long trousers in the evenings. In case I get a temperature, I immediately go for a malaria test (2-5 Euros).

Also check your health insurerer’s policies whether they will cover you for a long-term stay abroad.

What can I read to prepare better?

You could prepare historic knowledge, learn some basic language skills. Look up music on YouTube and watch clips of top local comedians. I also think hearing experiences of other travellers will help you to integrate better. Look out for blogs of other internationals, but dont overprepare or overanalyse. Every persons view is different. I promise you that you will still make your own mistakes, get a serious culture shock and step on peoples feet (culturally I mean). It is good to read about intercultural competence and some of the theory behind cultures (Hofstede)

On historic and social knowledge: There are many books written by Africans, which I would probably prefer to those written by foreigners. Also national newspapers can be read online or news clips watched on youtube. Get a feel of what moves people in the country you are going to!

Enjoy yourself. Enjoy Africa. Your time is limited anyways!

Uganda pre election fever

11 Feb

Today it is exactly one week to National Elections in Uganda!

After Kenya. After Ivory Coast. After Egypt. After Tunisia.

So what is happening in Kampala right now? There will be at least 4 rounds of elections in the next weeks, for President, Parliament, Mayor and Local Governments. What a marathon! Campaigns, Speeches, Lots of posters. Also visible is that there is no content in the campaigns. The current president is proudly presenting numbers of his achievements and the opposition tries to show how useless he was over the last 10+ years. Most Ugandans are not impressed by the candidates () or the way they communicate their messages (“Uganda is ready for Federalism”). In fact some people are saying lets stick with the current President, at least he is rich already and will steal less than a new president who has to first grab some money for his whole family and pay back his supporters.

Tension regarding Post-Election Violence? Security was largely scaled up in the city. Hundreds of Military representatives with Guns. ID and bag checks at every building you wish to enter. Do I expect Post Election Violence? No. Firstly the situation is completely different than it was in Kenya or in Ivory Coast. Power seems to stay with the incumbent president. Plus secondly: Who would start rioting with the amount of guns that were waved in our faces daily in the last weeks? I think the only disorganization currently is caused by the military, not by the opposition or the people themselves.

Let us hope for peaceful elections. To hope for a more prosperous Uganda in next 5 years would clearly be asked to much of the politicians. We will have to do that ourselves!

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Trip to Masaka

29 Jan

One of my team members invited us for a weekend to his mum’s farm near Masaka.

We had an awesome time and a great introduction to the Baganda Culture. Thank you Matthew!!!

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Another crazy trip! Christmas in Germany

22 Dec

Christmas in Germany starts usually latest in October, when the first sweets are being sold in the shops. Also latest in November it is sooo cold, that obviously you start looking for candles, woolen hats and hot tea.

Now for me this time round it was a bit different. I have hot tea every morning for breakfast (not only but also to prepare for the cold shower), candles at least two nights per week since July (no, the power cuts have not decreased). And it took until early December for me to eat the first Christmas sweets at a friend’s place (who had Swiss friends visiting him).

In the house we planned a christmas party for the 18th December. The interns prepared Food and songs from Australia, Brazil, China, Taiwan, France, Denmark and the Netherlands. Guacamole, Heineken and barbecue for Christmas 
Of course we had to “Wichtel”. We exchanged gifts and it was a pretty awesome afternoon and would have been a really great evening, but Jimmy and I had to run of early to catch out bus to Nairobi.

It was my first bus ride during the day to Nairobi, so I finally saw the River Nile near Jinja. The bus broke down (did you really expect something else?), so we had 5 extra hours until Nairobi not only to sleep but also to talk about 2010 and the work and make plans for the holidays.

During the day I passed Upendo Rescue Center, the school looked great! They had cemented the ground around the entrance, which was usually so muddy. I was also happy to hear about the food contributions from local companies. The now new class-8 students told me about their plans of going to secondary school and maybe even university! A big dream for them, regarding the school fees that secondary schools charge.

I spent the evening at the university with AIESECers from Kenya and we shared about what had happened in the last weeks and months. The mood was relaxed and holidays in the air!

Then 20 minutes before I left to the airport we heard the ugly news: In the City Center 4 unknown had thrown grenades at a Kampala Coach bus that was leaving Nairobi towards Kampala. 1 dead, over 20 sincerely injured.
Al-Shabab does really not support Museveni’s opinion and Uganda’s involvement in Somalia and takes the upcoming elections to spread horror and unsecurity through more terrorism.

I arrived at the airport at midnight, checked in at 4am and the plane took off at 8am. Completely sleep-deprived I am now able to sleep 2 hours intervals on any floor of this world (check out my stories from Tanzania 😉

In Istanbul the screen at the transit desk read “Frankfurt – cancelled”. But Turkish Airlines had a really nice Plan B and booked all 3 Frankfurt flights of that day into one plane. We were only 1 bus full geting on a plane for over 300 passengers. There was one black guy, he had a strange accent, somehow I put him o be a Nigerian. When I searched  my place, I realized, that my seat was right next to him. I smiled (within) and sat down without much talking.

When the Steward came to ask for his boarding pass (and noone else on he flight had to show his again) I was really annoyed and mentioned to my neighbour that for white people there still seem to be different rules. He laughed and we started talking. Imagine, how I starred at him when he mentioned he left Entebbe in the morning. A freaking Ugandan, had studied at Makerere, was on his first flight ever to Europe and sat next to ME. It was just a funny coincidence and we chatted for the next two hours. At least we got two plates of chicken, when he asked the Stewardess for it. For black people there are other rules 😉

So here I am in Frankfurt at the airport. My parents are somewhere to pick me up. Christmas I am coming!

7 months in Uganda

20 Dec

I have stayed in Uganda for 7 months now. Yes, my stay had many breaks; I went to Rwanda, India, Tunisia, Kenya in between, but the main point here is: I should be able to answer the question: “How is Uganda?”

First of all: Uganda is different from Kenya.
The food, the culture, the people, the economy, the language, the history. This is a different country.

Did anyone think, that Poland and Germany are the same?

It seems obvious but strikes me still all the time and makes it hard for me to figure out many things.

Secondly: Uganda is Jungle.
The most beautiful time of the day is the evening, when misty clouds come up between the hills of Kampala, the birds go silent and the crickets start their noise and the palm trees stand out majestically above the daily traffic chaos.

This country is fertile! Bananas grow everywhere, Jackfruit trees. Grasshoppers make noise in my bedroom the whole night. The amount of spiders in the house easily exceeds the amount of liters of water we use per month. Without ever planting anything in our garden we were able to harvest 2 water melons and at least 50 tomatoes.

This is the time when Uganda feels closer to Congo than to Kenya.

Thirdly: Ugandans have a rich culture
No. Not true. Not only one. Uganda has over 50 different tribes, and for me it is still impossible to distinguish them. But for example the Baganda have a rich culture and traditions. Even if I can not visit the famous tombs (they were destroyed in a fire early this year), I can still observe the king, the clothes and the relations between genders and generations. It is visible in daily life and influences also the behavior of the youth.

Girls relate mainly amongst each other and boys with boys. Friendship between girls is an important good. Dating is another big riddle to me, because Ugandan men are used to buying their girls everything and contributing 80% of the conversation. Girls are left in awe and can’t help but fall in love with a man who can provide for a family. As long as she can cook, listen and is pretty, she is wife material. The family is someone’s most important stakeholder. This can even lead to employers having to watch the employees being late or taking off during important work periods because of (elsewhere as basic regarded) family incidents.

Ugandans are more reserved. They don’t exactly openly speak critically, jump on new opportunities or take up responsibilities.
They are happy if somebody is interested in their culture but they don’t force it on you. Yes, they always greet strangers. But I hereby officially refuse to accept that Ugandans are more hospitable that Kenyans, if at all I suggest that it is a different kind of hospitability. There is no way I can live in Kenya for 7 months but not be invited to a family function by my friends. My Luganda is still sooo basic, even though I have asked for lessons often.

Ugandans are more traditional, less westernized. So much in Theory. They passionately hate homosexuality and as much as Christians and Muslims seem rivals in building mosques/churches and attracting believers to the right god, they both believe that life without god is doomed to fail.
One thing I do not understand in this context are the nearly naked (mostly fat) women on the front pages of the newspapers that are displayed everywhere on the street (with wanna-be moral key messages like “so and so was seen with whores”, “police cant fight it. pole dancing now a key activity in Kampalas night clubs“). Well-dressed Ugandan young men who pray several hours every Sunday stand at the newspaper stands and “read” the cover page for several minutes, shake their heads politically correct before hurrying on.

Ugandans love their music. And I agree; their music is awesome! A bit slower, Caribbean somehow, with humorous messages. Ugandan young men can actually go out and dance by themselves for hours. For me after living in Nairobi for long, this was a great relief, as I don’t always enjoy the in Kenya usual one-on-one penetration and constant running away from boys. For many of our interns it was still a big shock, because one on one dancing is much more intense here than even I know it. This is a public place, so I cannot repeat the explanation I got once when I told a guy to keep his crotch near his own behind.

Lastly and mos importantly: Uganda is a great place to live
The economic potential is there, the East African market is growing, there are many Opportunities to start businesses or contribute to the expansion of infrastructures.
Low rents, relatively cheap food and transport costs, now also cheaper internet and phone costs. Kampala is a very safe environment; we have lovely neighbors and extremely pleasant weather.
The ubiquitous dust is the downside but at least I wont have to blame myself for smoking in case I die of lung cancer.