the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

When e-volunteering and writing collide

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.

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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.

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The academic year and writing

Although I’ve given up working in primary education, I still think of the year as divided into academic terms. In the past, as the beginning of December approached, my last reserves of energy would see me through the carol concerts and nativity plays to the final day.  More recently, I’ve held advisory posts working with senior leaders in schools to improve attainment for vulnerable and disadvantaged pupils. While not actually working in a school, that same sense of being on my knees at the end of the term accompanied these roles. I’m currently working for a local authority, bringing together information on services to support children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities. Essentially, it’s a writing job and one that I’m really enjoying. I have colleagues, I work in an office and I have sufficient positive drive to enable me to continue my creative writing journey alongside paid employment.

Three days ago, I launched a new writing project. I’m beginning a story that investigates the teenage years of the protagonist from my novel How to be Brave. The adolescent years are very much off-stage in the novel and feedback from my viva suggested it would be well worth developing this storyline to compliment my work. I now understand why many of my friends are writing trilogies. It is a joy to discover another aspect of a character I know very well and see how she copes with the new challenges I have set. I’m hoping this piece of work will progress smoothly as I have developed a new approach to writing.  This time I have plotted the entire story before attempting to write. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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In the meantime, I have to think of a new title for my completed novel. The book had been through various working titles before I settled on How to be Brave.  It was obviously a good one as Louise Beech has recently published her debut novel with this title. Her story is about a mother who connects with her seriously ill child through the medium of storytelling. Good luck, Louise.

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