Uganda’s Blog Debut – and what a debut it is!

Good morning Uganda, this is your captain speaking.

We’re coming into land once we’ve finished tweaking.

On your left you’ll see the world’s largest lake,

You’re probably thinking that this was a mistake.

 

We’re miles away, far from home.

You don’t know the programme, something about a loan?

But you’re here to make a difference, doing some good soon.

Here starts your adventure with Balloon.

 

“Taxi! Mbale!” you shout at the driver

Searching your pockets, only an English fiver,

You shrug your shoulders and take your seat,

The first of many challenges from which there will be no defeat.

 

You fly through the country, bumpy dusty roads,

Passing shops, houses, mansions and humble abodes.

With your newest best friends, you’ll nervously chatter,

Making new assumptions that you will quickly shatter.

 

You arrive. Nice hotel, freezing cold showers,

Take a walk around the gardens and breathe in the flowers,

Reliance – reliable. It’s starting to make sense.

You’ll love the ICVs, you’re no longer tense.

 

Your first Boda ride, “Tugende”, we go!

Fly past the kids as they scream Mzungo,

Be sure to hold on tight, helmet on your head,

The shocks pass through your spine, the potholes you’ll dread.

 

Training week passes by in a massive blur,

You’ll have that one night where the beer makes you slur,

And then its Thursday, your prepared but not ready,

Make sure you give yourself a moment, take it steady.

 

Friday morning, host home moving day,

Pack your bags and you’re on your way,

You arrive in your community, houses are like roulette,

Make sure you’re positive, you’ll love your home yet.

 

Smiling faces at the door, big meal on the table,

It might not have power but this is no stable,

Suddenly it hits you, this feeling won’t stop,

It’s time for you, my friend, to use the dreaded long drop….

 

Your team all gathers, you start to call your new friends,

“Wednesday, class room session, can you be there?” call ends.

Gather all the ents together, teach all your skills,

And when they teach it back to you, there’s no bigger thrill.

 

The smiling faces as they learn the BMC,

Customer segments and the partners who are key,

This is why you’re here, you’re laughing and we’re learning,

The business will grow but it’s the trust you’re earning.

 

Second classroom session, a spaghetti and marshmallow fumble,

Some towers stand tall but most quickly crumble,

But this is the plan, it’s the point, we all must fail,

Failure is the wind that we use to fill our sail.

 

Week three, you’re on your own, just your ents and your team,

What on earth can we do? This task seems obscene.

But then you sit with them, you chat and you talk,

Listen to every small detail, your ears like a hawk.

 

It’s from these chats you learn about their life,

The state of their business, their folly or strife.

Working together, you put ideas to the test,

Working together. This feeling is the best.

 

Your testing budget is not much, 50k is all.

But the key to good business? Always start small.

So we’ll buy some passion fruit, or perhaps some bottled water,

It may not sell, even when you know it oughta.

 

But this is the process, we learn and we grow,

We’ll spot different markets, new seeds we will sow.

Soon the business begins to morph and change form,

Growing and expanding, faster than the norm.

 

Watch your seeds grow, from saplings to trees,

These once strangers, now best friends, buzzing like bees.

But it’s all build up, foreplay if you will.

In front of the pitching panel, you fear blood will be spilt.

 

Here comes the stress, documents for your pitch,

Like a female dog, this process is a…..hitch,

Working to deadlines, compiling your data,

You want them to do well, this can’t wait till later.

 

Deadline day comes, you’re done, its all over,

Your stress a black hole, relief a super-nova!

But the work isn’t finished, you’re sure as hell not done,

It’s time for the pitch, this should be…fun?

 

You prep together, speak loud and know your stuff,

It may shatter your nerves but your ents are all tough,

Instead of panicking or running with fright,

They take on all the info, ready overnight!

 

You wait outside on that fateful day,

Begging for clues till you’re sent away.

But your ents all emerge, big smiles on their face.

“How did it go?” “Did you get it?”….”Just watch this space”.

 

It’s time to relax, celebrate and go wild,

Downing your drinks, Tuskers or Nile,

The music is loud, the club is dark,

The boys on the pull, the girls they will shark!

 

The dancing is wild, booties are obtuse!

Join in my friend, shake that German juice.

You’ll feel silly at first, dabbing and shaking,

The Ugandans will laugh, the mick they’ll be taking.

 

Just as you get here, it’s time to leave,

People will cry, tears on your sleeve,

It’s been incredible but it’s over too soon,

Suddenly you’re at home, missing Balloon.

 

Written by Gareth Whalley, Balloon Uganda ICS Volunteer

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