The Duke and Penn State chapters have returned to the states after an amazing and rewarding experience in Uganda. After six weeks working with Community Concerns Uganda, each intern has grown personally and truly made an impact. From traveling to schools to dancing with the group savings program women, there are numerous moments to treasure. We can honestly say a piece of our hearts were left back in the pearl of Africa.
During our time there we were able to visit close to twenty primary and secondary schools. We feel that each classroom we set foot in benefited from our presentations. The students were equipped with a better understanding of their bodies, disease, and sexual/reproductive health. We hope that we influenced them to make better choices, increase their knowledge, and in turn have a better future. For the women we worked with in the villages, the new skills we taught them will help to expand their businesses and savings. The new record keeping techniques and business strategies will ensure their success in the future. In the village of Nakalanga, the pit latrines will allow the community to be more sanitary and decrease the spread of disease. If used properly the pit latrines will be of service for years to come. Lastly we hope that each person that we came in contact with during our time in Uganda was somehow impacted by something we said or did.
We can definitely say our work in Uganda not only impacted the people there, but allowed us to be impacted as well. We were given the opportunity to experience a new culture, perspective, and way of life. We now have a better understanding of the conditions in impoverished areas and the best ways to address those issues. We have been blessed with a second family and numerous friends. Community Concerns and its staff taught us that a dream can become a reality. With passion and drive, we can help change the world.
It has been a little over a week since we have returned to our respective homes and routines. Adjusting back to our normal lives sure hasn’t been easy. We have all realized a new gratitude for the luxuries that we have. Running water, refrigeration, food at our fingertips, and constant transportation are all things that we don’t take for granted. The impoverished conditions that we came across each day of our stay in Uganda are etched in our minds. However the faces we saw weren’t marked by sorrow, dread, and misery but instead happiness, serenity, and joy. These are the faces that will flash through our minds when we think of our travels. The smile of the woman dancing. The smile of the student singing. The smile of the young boy kicking around a bird’s nest as a soccer ball. The smiles of the waving orphans that we passed each morning on our way to work. These are the faces that we will remember and treasure forever.
Hi, all! I’m the Chapter Leader for Nourish Penn State. I’ve been updating the interns’ blog posts with pictures from their emails/social medias because uploading on here is very slow and uses a lot of data for them. CCUg, our partner org, posted a bunch of great photos on their Facebook page about what they’ve been up to on their last week, and I had to share! Here are a few of my favorites and make sure to check out the other blog posts for more!
Final day of the pit latrine project; handing it over to the community:
PSU IP Director, Lauren, being interviewed by NTV!
On Monday and Tuesday of last week, all of interns at Community Concerns Uganda participated in very productive team meetings. We discussed all of the projects we have been working on – the Group Savings Program, health education at the schools, working on the community garden, and the pit latrine project in Nakalanga Village. Within this discussion, we talked about each individual project’s goals, the progress we’ve made throughout our time here so far, and new recommendations that we hope to implement within the near future and by the time Penn State’s and Duke’s interns are here next summer. We were successful in developing ways in which we can address some of the challenges we’ve faced, such as finding new ways to maximize productivity, new ways in which we can organize data, and training that would help us be more effective in working with children who are undergoing hardships at home.
All of the interns attended Walibo Seed Primary school on Wednesday morning as well as Hands of Grace Primary School in the early afternoon. At both schools, we gave our usual lessons on proper sanitation and hygiene, drug and alcohol abuse, and sexual health, and it was a success. The children were all very engaged in our lessons and were quick to raise their hands to answer questions we posed for them about what they’ve learned. A teacher at Hands of Grace came up to one of our interns at the end of the lesson asking her if she was a professional speaker, for he learned so much during her lesson and was very appreciative of Community Concerns Uganda taking the time to help educate not only the students, but the teachers as well. It made us appreciate the work we do here all the more, and we were so glad that not only were the children learning, but so were the teachers.
On Thursday, we had our Group Savings Program. We were able to implement some of the recommendations that we discussed earlier in the week on how to improve the program to make things run smoother and to utilize all of our interns to their full capacity. Although it took us a while to get used to the new method of record-keeping, we are optimistic that it will help CCUg be able to be more successful and potentially be able to reach out to more communities with an increase in efficiency. On Friday morning we traveled to Lwanyama Primary School and Greenfield High School. This was a special visit for us, for the father of the CCUg coordinator, Nakirya Brenda, is the headteacher there. As we drove up to the school in the pouring rain, hundreds of children were outside in the grass smiling and clapping as our van pulled up. We gave our presentations to the four classrooms there, and afterwards were treated to a few pleasant surprises!
The two school choirs entertained us with joyful songs of welcome complete with several traditional dance performances. We were all amazed at how talented the children were, and some of us were even given the opportunity to stand up and join them in their dancing! Afterwards, we were presented with many gifts of maize, papaya, avocado, sugarcane, and eggs that the students brought for us as a way of thanking us. This generous gesture made us feel very appreciated, for we knew that such kind gifts were given in such thankfulness. Our last surprise of the day was a great feast in the headmaster’s home – matoke, rice, beans, chicken, pork, beef, fish, pineapple, mango, and much more! We ate platefuls of the delicious meal, and were very full by the time we loaded back into the van to head home for the day. It is days like these that make us truly thankful for the opportunity we’ve been given to interact with the community here and know that what we’re doing is positively impacting those we’re working with.
Happiness is a universal emotion that can be felt by all and reach across every boundary. This week, which marks the halfway point of our time here, has been full of happiness. We were all excited to begin our first full week with all of the interns. It was such a joy welcoming Lauren, Nicole, and their mother Carol to Uganda and to finally work with them. After a productive and rewarding office day, we traveled to Nakalanga on Tuesday to work with the Group Savings Program women and to see the pit latrines. Two weeks and thirty feet later, the digging of the pit latrines is finished, and after constructing a wall, they will be ready for business. We continue to see progress in the savings and success in the businesses the women in Nakalanga have. It is truly relishing knowing that we are apart of such a program that is bettering the lives of these women. Tuesday also marked Martyrs Day. Hundreds of people walked from all over Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, and other surrounding places to Kampala in order to celebrate those who have fallen. Seeing the amount of people making the trek from their respective homes was truly beautiful. Ugandan unity is something that can be seen in many different ways. We have seen it among the villagers, among the school children, and now in this commemorative day.
We were also fortunate enough to be able to attend two schools to conduct presentations on health education. The first school we went to was Good Heart Academy, a secondary school (high school in U.S. terminology). Since these students were older many were well informed and inquired about some tough, but good topics. A few students even asked for one on one time in order to discuss personal questions and receive counseling. The second school we attended was St. Patricks primary school, an elementary and middle school mix. We could see how well connected the professors and the principles were to their students. The caring and disciplinary environment that the teachers provided, further enhanced the academic success of the students. As we attend more schools every week we are able to better understand the students more and improve our teaching and presentations to better fit their accustoms. This helps us to ensure we leave these students with the most helpful and accurate information that each students can implement into their daily lives.
This week we also had the opportunity of replanting some of the passion fruit in the garden and crafting with some of the GSP women. To physically help these women is a great pleasure all of us were able to share. Another highlight of this week was dancing with the women of Wairaka. This GSP location is always lively and happy. The women clapped their hands and sang as some of us took our turn at the traditional dance. Moments like these show that people can truly be happy in any situation and do not have to let their environment steal their joy. Uganda encompasses true happiness.
Christina Williams and Anika Javed
Our first full week of work with CCUg was a huge success! Through leading GSP meetings and visiting schools to teach about reproductive health, basic hygiene, drug/alcohol abuse and life skills we can already feel the impact we are making within this community. We are welcomed with open arms to each GSP meeting we lead and greeted with bright smiles at the schools we visit. The support we feel from the men, women, and children we have met so far is more than we could have wished for.
Ashley and Vanessa led GSP meetings this week by creating templates for the women in each village to base their daily record books off of. Our hope is that through learning to write down and organize their spending and profits within their businesses the women will be able to better manage their money. They also taught about budgeting and how to create a manageable inventory list. We have made it mandatory that each GSP member obtains a record book by next week. The women seem to be excited about these new steps toward success in their businesses.
We visited two schools this week! For as silly and distracted as all kids are, the students we talked to were also eager to learn and asked valuable questions towards the end. The first school we visited was Jinja Preparatory Primary School. Our nerves were immediately calmed and taken over by excitement as they greeted us through song and cheers. Later that week we visited Bunya Senior School. Though it was a little more intimidating because each of us had to take on our own group of students, we still managed to overcome our doubts while bonding with and teaching older students. We had so much fun while providing potentially life saving information to the students. Anika focused on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, Christina talked about puberty and adolescence, Leanna focused on basic hygiene (hand-washing, dental hygiene, nutrition), Ashley spoke about self-esteem, Vanessa talked about alcohol and drug abuse, and lastly Madison focused on basic life skills. Most importantly, we made the value of education very clear to the students we spoke to.
Lauren Trinh, Nicole Trinh, and their mom, Carol, have just joined our journey. They are staying at a home not too far away with a loving woman named Sarah. We know that they will be a great addition to our team and can’t wait to show them around our new home. We love giving back to this BEAUTIFUL country. Thank you for all of your support at home! See you soon (but not too soon), America!
Leanna Glass and Ashley Cicero
Hello Nourish Family!
Our week has been nothing far from amazing. The ambience here is so lively and the people are so grateful and happy despite all their hardships. We all had our own personal fears and reservations coming here but the minute we arrived to our host family’s house all those fears subsided; not only did they welcome us with open arms, but they assured us that at that very moment we would forever be part of their extended family, and that we would not have to worry about anything while we were here. We have been given two rooms behind the main house on the compound, each room containing 3 girls sleeping on bunk beds. Originally we were to be split 2 girls to a host family but circumstances had us all living at this wonderful compound all together; I have to say this ended up working a lot better for us.
WiFi has been quite difficult to get and I apologize we have not been able to post much on this blog, as we are trying to settle our parents’ fears of all of us being overseas and in Africa. Despite the news and everything going on, I feel extremely safe in Uganda. Brenda, one of the main coordinators of CCUg, has already become like a sister to us. She and her family are so well known and respected within our village of Maga Maga. Even the men who transport us daily on what they call here bodabodas (motorcycles) know exactly who Brenda is and where her family lives. It feels good knowing we are living in the presence of such loving and community-driven people.
Our first week has mainly been about getting to know each other, as well as our host family. It is very comforting to know that I have girls by my side who all share the same interests and goals, and whom legitimately care about the community we have just gotten thrown into. Despite it only being a week in, we have fallen in love with the people here, especially the children. Personally I know that when I leave I will be bawling my eyes out saying goodbye to my new house sisters and brothers, as well as our house mom and dad whom we already have gotten quite attached to. And then of course our wonderful CCUg staff members who are so dedicated to this organization that they have built from the ground up; they are all under the age of 30 and make us feel as if we all have a lot of catching up to do.
I am really excited to see what the next couple of weeks will bring. To all the parents reading this- there is absolutely no need to worry; we are in great hands! I cannot wait for you all to see all the great progress we make! Stay tuned!
Here are some pictures from our ground breaking ceremony of the pit latrine project in Nakalanga Village, a meeting of the group savings project with women in Wairaka Town, us going to a wedding in traditional clothing, an adorable little baby rocking the shades, and a guy we spotted wearing a PSU shirt on the streets of Jinja!!
Vanessa and Leanna
Penn State/Duke Chapter
Hi guys, we are now at the airport in Nairobi, Kenya! This is our final stop before we reach Entebbe, Uganda. Our layovers and long flights have tired us out. But we are full of excitement as we approach the last leg of our journey. 22 hours of traveling later and we are just as motivated to make a lasting impact on the communities we will be working in. Can’t wait to see what Uganda has in store for us! For some of us it is the first time we are out of the country. Down below are some pictures of Nairobi!
Leanna & Anika
Penn State Chapter
Hello beautiful people!
In less then 48 hours, the interns from Penn State and Duke Universities will be embarking to Uganda, the Pearl of Africa. We will mainly be working in the Nakalanga Village, Magamaga and Wairaka Town, but will be residing with host families in the Jinja District. Community Concerns Uganda has a lot of great projects in place and we are really excited to get started. We will be helping implement the Groups Savings Program and the Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health project, as well as help in the development of the Chicken and Pit Latrine Projects that have not quite taken off due to limited funds. Although for many of us Africa will be a first, we have a very diverse team with a number of interests that we believe will greatly enhance the efforts of the greater purpose of CCUg and Nourish International in general. Not only do we have the opportunity to tangibly make a difference in the villages of Uganda, we also have the chance to immerse ourselves in a completely different culture and gain a perception on life that many people may not have even known existed. By keeping this in mind, we will view this experience as not just one of service, but as one of learning with great potential to reap priceless rewards.
Although communication may be difficult at first, we hope to do our best in keeping all our supporters in the loop. We will constantly be adding pictures as well as blogging regularly on our progress. If any of you have any resources you’d like to share that might help any of the above projects please feel free to comment below. We appreciate all your love and support!
Penn State/Duke Chapter
Now back in the United States, it is hard to imagine that just a little while ago, Duke and Vanderbilt teamed up to restore a clinic in the tiny beach town of Samara. By the end, our group had completely scraped, cleaned, painted the clinic. We even hung out with local monkeys during their lunch breaks in the mango trees!
Our two months were well spent, as we passed many hours working on the only health facility within a 45 minute radius, learned more about Costa Rican culture, and connecting with community members and other volunteers. One of the lasting memories for all of us came when we came for a final check-in with our non-profit, Crear and saw the finished product. We all reflected on how much of an impact our project will make. Now, as we continue with our college careers, we will always hold Costa Rica close in our memories as a place where team work and culture experience flourished.
At almost the halfway in our journey to clinic restoration in the small, beach town of Samara, everyone is extremely excited to see the finished product. In the last month, we have helped a community center reopen for public use by cleaning and organizing, worked more with the children, and even help with a community fundraiser, called Combate.
One of the most rewarding parts of our work has been the reaction from the community. The clinic is the closet place for community members to receive health care, and is frequented by people looking for treatment as well as those looking for a short cut to the beach. Community members have expressed their gratitude and taken a genuine interest in the restoration. Their sentiment has helped keep our moral high and us working hard. Our hope is that, in understanding their needs, we can leave the community better than we found it.
After sanding, scraping, and cleaning, we are ready to paint!
Crafts with local children!
Some of us took a break from clinic restoration to help Association Crear with its community fundraiser.
After a day of work, we stopped by a movie set to help some Columbia Univ. film school students!