Life at the James Place Through the Eyes of a Short Term Volunteer Intern

I came across HEAL and had an immediate gratitude for this organization. I checked out their social media and read some of their website. They were a great place for women who wanted to stay with their children, but didn’t necessarily have the resources to do so. Instead of leaving their child at an orphanage while they figure out how to financially support themselves, they could reach out to an organization like HEAL. When HEAL started discussing internship opportunities on their social media it sparked my interest.

About eight months after I contacted HEAL, I was heading to Jinja, Uganda to spend three short weeks volunteering with this organization. I was scared. I was alone, traveling to a third world country, and didn’t know anyone, outside of my emails and a short Skype call with Tina Weir, the director. To make a long story short, every aspect of this trip was beyond amazing. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to volunteer, especially as someone who had never been to Uganda.

HEAL runs multiple programs at their location in Jinja. They have several teaching programs that include sewing, pottery, leather work and beading. They have a large daycare with about 60 children currently enrolled. This daycare includes two meals a day plus snacks, an organized PE portion, lots of play time, and a bath and nap after lunch. The children who are four to five years spend their morning in preschool and then join the rest of the children after lunch. If the children do not know English before going into school, they are enrolled in English class, another program at HEAL.  They also grow food on their property and raise chickens. They also do a KIDS Club on Saturdays that allows an unlimited amount of children from the area to come play, learn about Jesus and get a nutritious snack. There are so many parts to HEAL, I am sure I am leaving some out.

The main thing I noticed when arriving here was the amount of people HEAL is impacting. There are multiple staff in the childcare program, teachers for all of the artisan programs, a cook, security, house keepers and maintenance men. Plus the children enrolled in childcare, the women enrolled in the various programs and the kids who come for KIDS Club on Saturday. HEAL makes a difference in every single one of these Ugandan’s lives on a daily/weekly basis. They educate them, employee them, love them, nourish them and share Jesus with them. To me, this translates to men, women and children seeing their value and worth in a culture that doesn’t always make them feel valued and worthy. Plus, they are learning to be financially independent. I absolutely love this business model.

My role included spending a lot of time kissing, hugging, chasing, playing and laughing with children. I also spent a lot of time talking with the staff ladies about their life in Uganda, telling them about my life in America and also laughing with them too. As a nutritionist, I helped the kitchen staff with portion control and recommended any adjustments that could be made to their recipes. Overall, they had very well rounded meals and really didn’t need many adjustments. I also spent a lot of time with the year-long interns and the director. They welcomed me with open arms and included me in their daily lives. My trip wouldn’t have been what it was without them.

Like I said before, this experience was beyond amazing. This organization is doing life changing things, not only in the lives of Ugandans but also the visitors and volunteers who come through their gates all year around. I am grateful to HEAL for creating a space for people to be valued and loved like Jesus intended them to be. 

Morgan Drummond, California