Empowering Ugandan Learners Through an Impactful Volunteer Experience

We welcome Michael Brazinski (Program Coordinator) from the Middlebury Institute of International Studies as our guest blogger this week. In this blog, Michael shares more about his impactful volunteer experience on location in Uganda.

This summer, Team4Tech partnered with Middlebury College and two nonprofit organizations in Uganda, the African SOUP and S.O.U.L. Foundation, for an 8-week internship program for undergraduate students. During my internship, I was able to support this partnership both virtually and on-site. I coordinated this effort in collaboration with a Program Director from Team4Tech. This was one of the most meaningful experiences I’ve had, and it greatly influenced my personal views, global understanding, career, and studies.

Impactful Volunteering with SOUP and S.O.U.L

The African SOUP operates in rural eastern Uganda in a rural town called Namutumba. The organization works to strengthen Ugandan learners. SOUP accomplishes this through an educational model that both teaches students and provides educators with the appropriate skills to teach the next generation.

The S.O.U.L. Foundation, based in a town called Jinja, helps surrounding communities by providing opportunities for digital literacy certificates, classes on fashion and merchandising, and maternal health resources. 

Both organizations face several challenges in developing technology skills for learners in rural Uganda. The overarching goal for our work with the African SOUP and S.O.U.L. Foundation was to reduce the digital literacy gap for students and teachers.

More specifically, the African SOUP requested support in training teachers in Google Suite, software/hardware updates for their computer lab, tutorials on software and programs, teaching ICT skills to secondary students, and creating student learning management systems.

S.O.U.L. Foundation needed support digitizing the national ICT curriculum. In addition, they needed help in identifying a learning management system that could host their coursework and various learning resources. Throughout the experience with Team4Tech, my peers and I were continually reminded of what an impactful volunteer experience should look like.

Preparing for Uganda

Before arriving on-site for the three-week impactful volunteer experience on location in Uganda, the six interns prepped virtually with Team4Tech and nonprofit staff members and also went through Team4Tech’s leadership development curriculum. In addition, they learned about the local and cultural context of Uganda and the specific communities where SOUP and S.O.U.L. work. 

By the end of the program, interns completed scopes of work that collectively impacted over 2,600 learners from both organizations.

Volunteering by Middlebury College Students

An incredible amount of work was completed, including:

  • Instructional classes for teachers from the African SOUP on how to create a Google account, send emails, and navigate applications on Google Drive. These skills will allow teachers to communicate more effectively with other staff and provide students with engaging digital material. The training received will also allow the African SOUP to offer more teacher workshops in Google Suite and recruit more talent to benefit all learners.
  • Creation of anchor charts with useful ICT shortcuts posted around the African SOUP’s computer lab to help students engage with technology. 
  • Hardware and software evaluations of the computer lab and tech equipment 
  • Updates to the African SOUP’s Wi-Fi locations, printer, software on laptops, security cameras
  • Digitization of attendance and grading sheets for teachers at the African SOUP, which were previously recorded manually.
  • Building out a learning management system through Google Classroom to host teaching material for S.O.U.L. Foundation programs. 
  • Digitization of S.O.U.L. Foundation’s ICT curriculum, which now allows teachers and staff to save the curriculum for upcoming years, add students to their Google Classes and distribute the material to their learners. It also allows S.O.U.L. to scale its resources to more learners and organizations in the community. 

This partnership between Team4Tech, Middlebury, The African SOUP, and the S.O.U.L. Foundation was incredibly impactful for all participants, and the experience allowed me to practice and strengthen my own leadership skills.