Receiving an email saying there is someone coming to your site always gives an initial knot in your stomach that being informed of an audit always does. Sure, even if you have been doing a great job and things are going well, you never know what the auditor, or in this case the visitor, may learn.
That knot came to me upon opening an email from not just Peace Corps, but also USAID indicating they wanted to send a photographer to document my Peace Corps life. Each year the US Mission to Uganda creates a “Report to the Ugandan People” outlining all the work the mission is doing in county. This report aggregates stories, projects, photos, and reports from the US State Department, USAID, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Peace Corps in Uganda, National Institutes of Health, PEPFAR, and the Department of Defense (DOD)… and the photographer was sent to capture my story in the hopes of adding it to the 2017 report.
Fortunately, the communications officer and photographer downplayed the assignment indicating they just were going to be in the area and were looking to get a glimpse of my life as a Peace Corps volunteer. Although I haven’t been all too busy at work and felt like I may not be the ideal candidate, I accepted their request to stop by for some photos and an interview.
Dorcus, the USAID communications specialist, and Karin, the contracted photographer, swung by the office on a busy morning as the team was preparing to host a prospective donor for a capacity assessment. With the chaos in the office, Karin recommended we head outside to sit down and discuss my work. Her questioning started with familiarizing herself with my technical work, but the conversation quickly switched as I talked about goal two and three of Peace Corps to explain how two thirds of my work pertains to cultural exchange.
As we discussed and the conversation deepened around goals two and three, my interactions and holiday celebrations with my homestay family blossomed as the essential element to my Peace Corps story. After sharing a few laughs of my Easter stage fright we took a walk around the office to get some “action shots.” The whole ordeal took only an hour before they were off to their next assignment for the day.
While sitting at my desk that afternoon I was thinking to myself that there is no way my story makes the report because the office photos don’t match the fun cultural exchange stories that came out in the interview. Just as I was pondering that thought my phone rang. It was Karin and she asked if I could organize a visit to my family’s house the following day since one of their assignments canceled and she wanted to capture those interactions I spoke of.
Although my host sister Maureen currently lives in Kampala, she still worked as my main point of contact to ensure that my mom would be home the next day for us to swing by for some photos. That initial knot of a site visit deepened as I thought about whether or not this visit would live up to my eccentric story telling…
The visit ended with some small drinks and hugs all around. Karin was welcomed into the family and Dorcus continued to giggle from the stories. Not only did the photos live up to the stories, but now my family and I have more stories (and photos to go along with’em). Perhaps even one day these stories will also be shared with the Ugandan people.
All photos were taken by Karin Bridger, a freelance photographer and videographer based out of Kampala, on assignment with USAID