Rebekah McKerley
Rebekah McKerley
Uganda, 2019 - 2021
Hello! I am living in Jinja, Uganda, for 2 years working with HEAL Ministries as a social worker. HEAL is a non-profit whose goal is family preservation. In this role, I will be expanding the social work program so that we can provide more resources to single-parent families. Read More About Rebekah →

A New Year

Happy New Year from Uganda!

I spent New Year’s Eve watching fireworks and listening to live music at a local hotel, and it was honestly so much fun! Everyone was cheering and dancing and there was so much joy. I am excited to see what this new year in Uganda will hold.

I spent Christmas with this family I love so much!

We started back to work this week, and it has been crazy busy. There are so many things to do now that we are back after a month off. School fees have to be paid for our scholarship kids in primary school, teachers have to plan for the new preschool year (the new school year starts in February here), new staff has to be trained, bills have to be paid, new supplies must be bought, etc. Starting this month, I have been given some more responsibility, including being added to the management team and helping oversee staff issues.

As the new year begins, we are working on improving policies and procedures for various departments in the organization. For example, we are planning out exact procedures for any emergency that could take place that would prevent a parent from being able to take their child home at the end of the workday. We already have some procedures set in place, but it is always good to be extra thorough, especially when we are responsible for 145 children. You never know what could happen, and we have to always be prepared and know how to ethically handle any situation that could occur.

It has been interesting learning the differences between social work in the States verses social work in Uganda. Social work here in Uganda is a fairly new profession, and therefore there is not a social work council that oversees and regulates the profession. In the States, there is an entire code of ethics and values for social workers that must be followed, but here in Uganda that doesn’t exist on a national basis. A lot of the universities teach the ethics and values used in the U.S., but there is not an adapted one for best practice in Ugandan culture. The profession of social work is also commonly not understood here. Social workers tend to be used for home visits and maintaining files on clients, but there is SO much more that social workers are capable to do. They can be counselors, advocates, mediators, managers, educators, and so much more. I truly believe that social workers can make a massive difference in the fight for equity and justice here in Uganda.

Watching a storm roll in as I walk home. The compound on the left is where I live!

A word I have been thinking about a lot since the new year started is advocate. I want to be an advocate for Ugandans. I want to advocate for their rights, and I want to advocate for them to use their voices. In a country that was once a British colony, many locals are taught in school that the white person is superior. I’ve had friends tell me that they were always told to do what the white person says, and to not talk back. Even though Uganda gained independence in 1962, the effects of colonization can still be seen today. I want to advocate for our staff and kids, and help them know that their voices matter. They should stand up for their rights, their opinions, and their beliefs. They are beautiful and strong humans who must be heard.

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