I am sitting at my new desk in a small lightly painted office under the lee of palms and jackfruit trees from the compound next door. Two chickens are clucking around the open doorway in the bright sunshine. I share this office with Lorna and the office administrator. My brow is beaded with sweat; it must be about twenty-eight degrees. It hasn’t yet rained today. When it does it will be thick and heavy with thunder for an hour and afterwards the air will cool and breezy. For lunch I ate sweet potato, beans, and matooke; all freshly prepared in our kitchens. An unseen bird periodically emits sudden voluminous caws from the abeyant jungle that threatens to take back Kampala’s suburb of Mengo. The wailing of infants from the nursery has stopped for now. I think that they must nap after lunch. The office houses shares the same building as the NGO’s Babies Home – a transitional care centre where abandoned infants stay until a suitable family home is found for them.
Our apartment is five minutes walk from the office along a red clay road where local stalls and traders sell vegetables, chapattis, flip-flops and pirated DVDs. A couple of bars with corrugated iron roofs play auto-tuned African dance music throughout the evening, while young guys play pool outside and drink beer. Later in the night the music is replaced by a chorus of howling and barking from stray dogs. There are few other expats in Mengo, although our walk to the office attracts very little attention from locals. I have only received occasional curious stares and imploring nods from boda-boda drivers (motorcycle taxis) who congregate at the end of our road. Yesterday a few young school children called me ‘mzungu’ with excited smiles and giggles. A smile in return was enough to satisfy their curiosity. We are only a couple of kilometres from the concrete offices and shopping malls of central Kampala, but this streetscape is the same one replicated in thousands of villages and towns throughout rural sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet, here I am, wearing a shirt and work shoes and building financial models on my laptop. Running an NGO demands vision, passion, and drive, although the less glamorous or visible aspects of running an organisation, such as governance and financial planning, are also vital. That is why I am in Uganda. We will have an enormous workload over the next 6 months. I cannot wait to get started.