Global May Uganda

  1. Please provide a brief description of your STEP Signature Project. Write two or three sentences describing the main activities your STEP Signature Project entailed.

For the duration of our Global May Uganda Program, my peers and I were able to develop a deep understanding of the native people’s human security by analyzing their current health system, developmental history, effects of climate change on the environment and agriculture, etc. Our knowledge was gained during lectures from professionals in various fields as well as site visits to places such as a malnutrition unit, a hydro power plant, the Uganda Museum, a microfinance organization, a reproductive health clinic, and many more. We also got to do several fun activities including going on a safari, hiking to breathtaking waterfalls, taking boat rides down the River Nile, and learning traditional songs and dances.

  1. What about your understanding of yourself, your assumptions, or your view of the world changed/transformed while completing your STEP Signature Project? Write one or two paragraphs to describe the change or transformation that took place.

Before departing for Uganda, my professor tasked my peers and me to write down the first three words that come to mind when we think of Africa. Our answers consisted of terms along the lines of safari animals, exotic music and dance, bright colors and patterns, etc. None of us truly knew anything about the people or culture in Uganda nor about the progress the country has been making during its development. This activity helped us to realize that we were all falling into a stereotype of what Africa was and we were only getting a single story of the continent. Because of this, we were able to go into this study abroad program with a more open mind.

While in Uganda, my peers and I were exposed to many aspects of the country as we were learning about the people’s human security. We were able to learn about the improvements the country is making in their healthcare field in relation to HIV/AIDS, how the country is working to get electricity to their people through the utilization of hydro-power dams, how the country is advocating for women’s rights through programs like Action Aid, and so much more. I was seeing a way of life that I had never witnessed before and as a result of this, I feel that I gained a new outlook on life and a new perspective of the world.

  1. What events, interactions, relationships, or activities during your STEP Signature Project led to the change/transformation that you discussed in #2, and how did those affect you? Write three or four paragraphs describing the key aspects of your experiences completing your STEP Signature Project that led to this change/transformation.

Before going on the Global May Uganda program, I had several assumptions about the country even though I was not very educated on the topics. For instance, I had previously believed that the country was suffering tremendously from a lack of healthcare services and that they were very behind. However, this is not the case. Our group received many lectures from healthcare professionals in which we learned that the hospitals and clinics offer a variety of services to their people including x-rays and various types of testing. They are also all equipped with pharmacies so that the patients are able to access medications if their condition requires it. One doctor we spoke to indicated that hospitals are performing many cesarean sections and orthopedic surgeries at a high success rate. The healthcare facilities along with the Ugandan government are also distributing several anti-retro viral (ARV) medications to help prevent the transmission of HIV/AIDS. We also found out that the government even pays for every child to have a series of vaccines. Additionally, the country is operating several malnutrition units to help babies and children get the nutrients they need and overcome malnutrition. All of these things took me by surprise, but I was extremely happy to see how well the healthcare field was doing and that my assumption was proven wrong.

Our days in Uganda were filled with several activities that allowed us to form several relationships that were impactful in our lives.  One such relationship was made during our site visit to the Youth Integrated Development Organization (YIDO). This organization utilizes micro-financing to help community members, specifically the youth and women, to start their own business to help them earn a living. Jobs are very hard to come by in Uganda even with an education. Women have an even harder time finding employment because of the way they are viewed in society; therefore, many jobs are only fit for men such as taxi driving and conducting. At this organization, my group and I were able to speak with a woman, Joyce, about her experience with micro-financing through YIDO. It was inspiring to hear her story. Joyce started taking out small loans to help her start up a business selling charcoal. She buys the charcoal in bulk and then sells it to her community members. She works with street vendors that help to advertise her business. With the money that she has made, she has been able to enroll both of her children in school. She also raises her nieces and nephews that she plans to put through school once she obtains more money. Additionally, she has future plans to build a home for her kids and expand her business to other areas. It was incredible to see how Joyce, along with many other strong women, are taking matters into their own hands to work to provide for their families. This interaction definitely led me to have a new perspective on the world.

Family is one thing that I have valued throughout my life. In Uganda, I was able to gain a new perspective on family and its meaning. When we arrived in country, our group was greeted by our School of International Training (SIT) staff. Our professor indicated that we call them “auntie” or “uncle” followed by their name. I was confused by this at first, but by the end of the trip I realized why we did this. In the short time we were there, the staff members became like our real aunts and uncles. They helped us so much and were always there if we needed anything. It was evident how much of an impact they had in our lives and because of this, we became a family. Additionally, as part of our study abroad experience, we got to be with a home-stay family for one week. Our families took us in as their own children and did everything they could to make us feel at home. Our families would greet us when we came home from school with open arms and big smiles, they would prepare traditional dinners for us, and they even taught us some of their language. They were extremely interested in our families back home, our hobbies, and all about our lives. Our families would refer to us as their daughter or son and we would call them mama and dad. It was amazing to me that these people were so welcoming to us as complete strangers, but how quickly one could become like family. This experience allowed me to realize that anyone can become family and how important it is to welcome others with open arms. It also allowed me to develop relationships that will last a lifetime.

For the duration of our visit, we stayed in several different hotels and also the home-stay. At our accommodations, we didn’t always have running water or electricity. There were times when we had to use a bucket to take showers and sometimes we didn’t get a shower at all. There were also times we had to use headlamps/flashlights to navigate our rooms because there was no electric. However, we did learn that the country is trying to solve this problem by building hydropower dams to provide electricity to its people and start to utilize the Nile River more as a water source. However, even without these obstacles, the people are so happy, friendly, and thank God for everything they have even if it is very little. My peers and I saw two sides to this. On one hand, we developed a much greater appreciation for these luxuries that we have back in the United States, but on the other hand, we were able to realize how little we need to live. Many people at home are very materialistic; they could have everything and still want more. These people had so little, yet they were thankful for what they did have and it was incredible to witness. It definitely changed my outlook on life and shifted my priorities in life allowing to me see that material items are not everything.

  1. Why is this change/transformation significant or valuable for your life? Write one or two paragraphs discussing why this change or development matters and/or relates to your academic, personal, and/or professional goals and future plans.

The change that I have seen in myself and my perceptions of the world since I have been back are something I truly value. As mentioned previously, my group and I were falling into a common stereotype surrounding Africa. As a result of Global May Uganda, we all have a deeper understanding of the country as a whole. Because of this, we will be able to provide individuals at home with multiple stories surrounding the country instead of just one single story allowing them to be more educated and not fall into this stereotype.

By traveling to Uganda, I have been able to develop a deeper appreciation for things that truly matter in my life such as family. Additionally, I have learned that material things are not necessary and many material items are not a priority in my life any longer. Academically, I had always imagined myself traveling after graduation to participate in organizations such as Doctors without Borders.  Because I have now been outside of the country and learned about the healthcare system in Uganda directly from healthcare professionals, I realize this is something I would love to do and I feel like I now have my foot in the door to do this. Overall, my Ugandan experience was the most impactful and memorable experience I have had.