Review of Abaana Community Outreach Africa (ACO-Africa) by Anna

on 27/10/2017

Doing good work direct to communities who need it

Before coming to volunteer with ACO-Africa, I'd already visited Uganda several times so I was familiar with the friendliness of the people and the sometimes-horizontal attitude to time-keeper. I'd also encountered people who are more than happy to take your money and use it for things other than what you intended. I knew I wanted to spend my teacher's Summer holiday in Uganda, and found ACO on Helpstay. It sounded perfect, especially the prison work as I was also doing a part-time MSc in Criminology at the time.
John answered all my questions before I came, and promised to ensure my 6 week visit included prison work as that was my area of interest.
When I arrived, it soon became clear that ACO-Africa was a well-known and valued organisation within the Mityana community. I found it really interesting doing home visits to the sick, elderly, and vulnerable children, and once I'd settled in, felt comfortable contributing my own questions about these people's situation and giving ideas about how we could help them. John was encouraging of me using my specific skills - I am a trained restorative practitioner so conducted a reconciliation (with John's expert translation!) between a mother and daughter who had left the family home. We also did presentations in 4 prisons, which I led in both planning and delivery. This was an eye-opening and valuable professional experience for me.
John is a compassionate and highly-motivated individual, with a real vocation for supporting vulnerable communities in Uganda, and is a passionate advocate for children. I was soon raising money from my friends back home, as I knew this was a good cause and money was being used responsibly for the community.
Since my first visit, I have kept in touch with John, and am still involved in the work of ACO. I have also visited again (for 2 weeks this time), and it felt like coming home. If you want to embed yourself in a local Ugandan community and are happy to live on simple comfort, then volunteering with ACO-Africa is for you!