After hours of travel from Entebbe airport through the dusty roads of Kampala, Mukono, and Jinja, I finally arrived in Mbale in the eastern part of Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. The next day, I started the morning having tea with the local Ugandan staff that I will be working and sharing lives with for 10 weeks. That very day, I found myself grappling with how Ugandans view and manage time. We were spending more than half an hour greeting one another and having tea together before getting to work, and it is considered a crucial part of their work. The concept of time in Uganda is very different from that of the US or Korea (my home country): Uganda, a country with an agricultural orientation views time in terms of seasons or stretches of work routine, not in terms of seconds and minutes. During my time here, I have observed many times that things start later than scheduled, whether they be office meetings, field visits, or community trainings. Keeping track of time is a strange concept here and people cherish building relationships more than being on time and “productive.”
It was not only their time concept that struck me. Many other aspects of Ugandans’ lives were new to me, and I learned that from appreciating their ways of life truly begins community-based development.
The organization that I am working with, Discipling for Development (D4D) is a community-based development organization focusing on empowering people in rural villages with knowledge and skills. One of the D4D’s projects being carried out in the villages is to make sure that the households have "14 points of a healthy home": drying lines, a plate stand, fences, a kitchen with a raised cooking stand, a bathing shelter, a granary, a rubbish pit, a clean compound, fruit trees, a pit latrine with a tip top, a house for animals, a garden for vegetables, and clean water. Unlike other NGOs that provide relief such as blankets and food, D4D focuses on identifying the resources that the communities have and building on those resources for community development. Some people who only wanted tangible things left, but those who remained have seen much progress in their lives over the past years. Still, many people in the villages are not sensitized enough to realize the importance of those basic things. They do not build latrines, just spread their laundry on the grass, and do not have rubbish pits. So, we are continuously educating those people on the 14 points to improve their own homes.
By using the existing resources that they have, people in the villages see themselves able to empower themselves and better their own lives. For the rest of my internship with D4D, as an overall evaluation on the development projects that have been implemented so far, I will be conducting a research more in depth on the impact that the D4D work has had on the communities.