the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other authors

When e-volunteering and writing collide

on July 5, 2020

As a former VSO international volunteer at Bidibidi Refugee Settlement in Uganda, I am  pleased to be able to continue work with colleagues remotely. I was repatriated from my post as a psychosocial and child protection adviser due to Covid19 in March 2020. Now I’m in contact with team in Yumbe to develop ways to support young children and families through the pandemic.


In Uganda, the lockdown continues much as experienced elsewhere: social distancing, wearing of masks, essential shopping only etc. Yet in a country where there have been only 870 cases (as of 30 June) and no deaths, one might think that restrictions would be easing. But such is the concern to avoid spread of the virus, there remains no proposals to reopen schools, no allowing of motorcycle taxis (bodas) to carry passengers and no opening of shopping centres. Indeed there is no indication of when lockdown may end. 
This has considerable implications for families who are forced into poverty due to loss of earning. And as for children, without schools this not only means a lack of education but can mean hunger where children rely on school feeding programmes.

In the UK, the Department for International Development and the Foreign Office have merged, and it is unclear what this might mean for the aid budget. Let’s hope the support will remain focused on helping those in most poverty. In the meantime, the work continues. With my colleagues we have been looking at ways to continue children’s education in the home by promoting songs, rhymes, games and stories as ways to offer learning. On the settlement, the best way to convey messages in remote villages is by public address systems where information is shared in local languages. I’ve been fascinated by a soundcloud podcast which includes advice on activities and games which require no materials and is sponsored by international groups. It covers topics such as hygiene, empathy, tolerance, patience, and healthy expression. Practical activities are used to spread these ideas and offer support to families to find a way through the  restrictions of the pandemic.

It’s so interesting to see ways in which my volunteering life and my writing life overlap. While in Uganda I listened to loads of podcasts due to tired eyes each evening and poor lighting which made it hard to read.  Now I’m promoting ideas for learning shared through podcasts. And all this listening has  germinated in an idea for a new novel. I’m enjoying the process of creating characters and have written a few scenes. All small steps on the road to developing a plot which gravitates around a journalist who, following redundancy, decides to investigate a cold case about a teenager who went missing in the 1970s. Watch out for more details of Little Swot, the working title of my manuscript.

3 responses to “When e-volunteering and writing collide

  1. Catherine Randall says:

    Thanks for reminding us of the situation in Uganda, Gail. It’s too easy to focus solely on our lives in the UK.

  2. […] first draft of Little Swot. It’s just as well my only other commitment is ten hours a week e-volunteering with VSO. Some days it feels like my feet hardly touch the ground but I’m not […]

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