Varley, Class of 2003
Minors: German and International Studies (concentration in Latin
Volunteer for RACOBAO and Soft Power Education
Marci's blog: www.marcis-uganda.blogspot.com
My interest in language and culture was sparked when I spent a year as a Rotary
Exchange Student in Latacunga, Ecuador before college. Upon arriving at Randolph-Macon,
I was pleasantly surprised when I had the fortune of studying with Professor Malin.
His excitement and passion for learning about and dissecting Spanish culture fueled
the fire that had sparked in the previous year and solidified my interest in learning
more. As a sophomore, I was ready to take on another language, and, after dabbling
in French, I ultimately ended up studying German. Studying German led me to a summer
program in Germany before my senior year, which led to a self-created internship
in Germany during January Term, and finally, a year in Germany post graduation.
The experience of living within a culture is truly the best way to learn a language
and gives you the chance to be a part of the different traditions and ways of living.
It is also one of the best ways to learn about yourself!
After returning from Germany, I found a job as a Program
Associate at Meridian International Center in Washington, DC. Meridian is one of
several programming agencies that is contracted by the State Department to organize
3 week programs for guests of the International Visitor Leadership Program. I had
the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and at times use both my
Spanish and German skills to communicate with the visitors. Although many of the
guests had a grasp of the English language, it was always well received and appreciated
when I spoke to them in their native languages.
Most recently, I spent 3 ½ months living in rural Uganda volunteering with a local
organization. Rakai Community Based AIDS Organization (RACOBAO) started as a project
of the Lutheran World Federation in 1992 and became a local NGO this past January
2008. The organization aims to assist anyone in the Rakai and Lyantonde Districts
(the worst hit in Uganda by AIDS) who is affected by the pandemic. Their many programs
include sponsoring students in secondary school, running a vocational school; trainings
on better hygiene and sanitation, organic farming, and on the importance of knowing
your HIV/AIDS status; medical outreach and assistance; and livelihood and food support
which means building homes, kitchens, latrines and water tanks for the people suffering
the most. My biggest roles as a volunteer are to assist in writing human interest
stories about the people and families RACOBAO is helping, create video presentations
with my photographs to be given to donors and used at fundraisers, and to teach
English at the vocational school for children who did not have a chance to finish
The 14 weeks I spent in Uganda this spring were the
most life-changing weeks of my life. Having the chance to be a part of work that
finds people with expressionless, empty faces and despair in their eyes and help
give them hope, smiles and faces full of life and the glimmer of a future they never
thought possible is truly priceless. The work was so fulfilling and rewarding that
I am headed back in a few short weeks to spend 6 months volunteering with two organizations,
RACOBAO and Soft Power Education. Most of my time will be spent with Soft Power,
although I plan to take monthly trips to RACOBAO’s office to continue my projects
with them. With Soft Power, I will be re-building schools in the villages next to
the Nile River, painting learning/teaching aides on the school walls, teaching English
and hopefully have the chance to work in many other areas of the organization as
well. I cannot wait to see what this next experience brings!
Although my job title is currently volunteer, I hope to one day be able to work
with an organization that does similar humanitarian, grass roots work in the developing
nations of the world. I would love to get back to Latin America and to have the
chance to use my Spanish skills more…but in the meantime, I will try to learn more
Luganda (the main tribal language in Uganda; English is the official language) and
continue my journey in Uganda. Tulabagane!
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