We are lucky to have such amazing and committed staff who dedicate their time to developing and furthering programs at our project sites. Each of our staff members offers a unique perspective about their journey to joining FIMRC and how they spend their time on site. Today we are excited to share some fun facts about Project Bumwalukani's Field Operations Manager Amber Valdivia!
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:
I am from the coastal town of Hubert, North Carolina. Life was a slower pace and everyone knew everyone. I enjoy sewing because I wanted to be a fashion designer, among other things, when I was a kid. I do all things crafty because my grandmother is an art teacher and my sister and I spent her summers off making everything from origami to a fan out of plastic forks. I have always been drawn to nature, math, and problem solving. I started a few "nature clubs" as a child where members (neighborhood kids that I lured in with popcorn usually) were supposed to collect one nature item each week and research it and then share with the group at our meetings. Only my dog attended...sometimes. From there I found my place in math club and chess club.
All in all I think those things prepared me to work abroad where my clothes are always ripping, nature is something that lives with you, and the interesting situations you encounter while working in a different culture.
What experiences led you to a career in global health before joining the FIMRC team?
I have always enjoyed volunteer/service work. In college, I worked as a volunteer coordinator for the Office for Student Leadership and Engagement at the University of North Carolina - Wilmington. I lead Spring Break and Fall Break service trip and organized projects around the community. That office really allowed us to step us as leaders and gave us so much responsibility. My mentor, Dr. Donna Chappa Crowe, invested a lot of her time in me and sent me to every leadership conference available. As a former Peace Corps Volunteer, Dr. Chappa Crowe also helped me develop the skills I need to be a successful volunteer. I finished my Peace Corps service in 2013 in the Dominican Republic. This is how I first heard of FIMRC, when a fellow RPCV and dear friend, Joe South, who was working with FIMRC recommended I apply for this job in Uganda.
What surprised you most about Project Bumwalukani?
The conservative dress threw me off at first. Now when I see foreigners in anything above the knee I want to shout "cover yourself!"
What advice do you have to those who want to volunteer?
The disconnect from family, friends, and social media is not always easy, so bring things that will comfort you in the hard times. If you like chocolate, bring chocolate. If you are a light sleeper bring a face mask and ear plugs. No need to be a hero, we need you inner peace to be strong when we ask you to hike an hour (or two) for health education! Also, do research and ask questions before you arrive.
What is the funniest thing you've experienced living on site?
I was at a hotel in town with my husband and they had a camel walking around. We started taking photos and filming because were are total dorks and you know, CAMEL! Well the camel got mad (I imagine we should have talked to his agent) and chased us! then chased everyone around the compound! It was scary but immediately funny.
What is the strangest food you've eaten on site?
What does a typical day on site look like for you?
I begin each day with a 15 minute walk uphill to the clinic. It is the most beautiful walk, but I do enjoy it more on the way home. Most mornings I spend checking in with staff, answering emails, and organizing projects. In the afternoon I will go on community outreach in the village or to an activity in the school or trading center. I also spend a time coordinating projects and activities with volunteers. I will say everyday is something different! In the evenings, I will usually catch up on anything I didn't finish at the clinic, then go for a walk around the village.
A fun fact about yourself!
I can name any bird in Bumwalukani!