Monday, 23 January 2017

Two-Week Mukono Homestays

A unique and special part of the USP semester is the Mukono homestay experience. Living with a Ugandan family is one of the most enriching and valuable parts of cultural immersion. All of our 18 'On-Campus' students (those who have chosen to live in dorms for the semester) live with a family in Mukono for two weeks. They’re currently halfway through their homestays and so far they’ve had a lot of great stories and photos to share.

Getting ready to be dropped off with their new families!

Ugandans are known for their incredible hospitality, which is evident in the way they welcome their
 new sons and daughters with big hugs and warm smiles.

Lauren Kenley meeting her Mama Margaret!
Students learn through participating in the daily life of their family; helping prepare meals and washing dishes, joining in as family members clean the house, feeding the chickens, making fresh fruit juice etc. They also spend time relaxing and having fun with their family, drinking tea, watching TV or having Bible studies and playing with little brothers and sisters. Some students may even have the opportunity to attend special occasions or events with their families, such as Ugandan parties, introduction (engagement) ceremonies and weddings. 

Lauren Wilkes with her new sisters!

During their homestays, students walk from their homes to campus and back every day, which adds to their experience as a local university student. Often times there are many neighborhood children eagerly waiting for them to walk by so they can greet them. Being called “Muzungu!!” by excited children becomes a familiar part of the routine, as is arriving home after a long day and taking evening tea with whoever is around. 

Jenna Gibbons with her mama Aida!

The homestay experience can be challenging at times, but stepping outside of what is comfortable and known is often when we grow the most, gaining new perspectives and insights. 

What some students are saying about their homestays...

“I’ve loved getting to know my host family. They’ve accepted me as one of their own by calling me ‘baby girl’ and serving me copious amounts of food.” - Paige Schaefer

“Every night my family comes together to read scripture, pray and sing Luganda worship songs. They truly work so hard in making sure I feel a part of the family.” - Delaina peek

“One evening when I got home from a long day of internship, I was met with a big hug from my 13-year-old host sister. This is a perfect description of how warmly I’ve been welcomed by my host family.” - Maya Rowland

“One of my favorite parts of my homestay is walking down the hill to my house and seeing my two younger siblings running up the hill to eagerly greet me after a long day of school or internship. It’s been so amazing getting to develop relationships with my host parents and eight siblings.” - Julia Stanch 

Rebecca Carswell with her host mama and sisters!

Before they know it, they’ll each have a 'home away from home' here in Mukono where they can return throughout the semester!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Hello, Spring 2017!

USP Spring 2017 (and our three Program Assistants)
Every semester brings us a unique combination of students from various schools, academic disciplines and interests, giving each group its own distinct flavor. This semester we have 18 students from 11 different schools in the US: Messiah College, Bethel University, Calvin College, Waynesburg University, Anderson University, Wheaton College, Dordt College, Liberty University, Olivet Nazarene University, Southeastern University, and Cornerstone University. We have 12 students in our Social Work Emphasis (SWE), eight of whom are seniors and four juniors. We have three General Students (GSE) students and three Global Health (GHE) students. All of our students this semester have chosen to live on campus in the dorms, so will be focused on getting to know their UCU roommates/ hall mates, as well as exploring various ways to get involved on campus.

With one full week of classes and practicums under their belts, students are settling in to their two-week homestays in Mukono this weekend, getting to know their Mukono families and learning what daily life is all about for many urban/suburban Ugandan families.

A few fun snapshots from Orientation:
Rachel, Alex, Julia, Paige and Nate arriving at Entebbe Airport

Program Assistant, Benji, teaching the students how to wash their laundry by hand,
a necessary skill to start to develop!

Eating at the Dining Hall (DH)

Debriefing the Mukono Scavenger Hunt

Discussing expectations at the Faith & Action retreat

All ready to get dropped of at their 2-week Mukono Homestays! 
We are excited about the semester ahead and all that it holds; for the opportunities for learning and growth for all us as we walk this journey together, both staff and students.

Monday, 19 December 2016

Farewell, Fall 2016!

The Fall 2016 semester has come to a close! It’s been another wonderful semester!

Farewell Dinner

To end the semester, last week we celebrated all of the students’ accomplishments at our farewell dinner. The students and all of their Mukono homestay families, campus roommates, professors and practicum supervisors attended. We heard from several speakers, handed out certificates and enjoyed a delicious meal together. 

Students looking smart in their African wear!
The full USP Fall 2016 staff.
As per USP tradition, the students help to serve dinner to all the guests.
The evening's speakers gathering around to cut the cake!
Debrief Retreat

At our recent retreat in Entebbe, the students spent the first few days debriefing and reflecting back on the semester. The second half of the retreat spent preparing for re-entry to their North American homes, schools, relationships and culture. Even though the semester has finished, the students know that their learning is only just the beginning!

Students doing a creative processing activity. 
Contact information was exchanged, hugs were hugs were given and tears were shed. It's good to remember that when goodbyes are difficult, you’re leaving people and things you’ve enjoyed and loved.

Students worshipping together
We miss you already, but wish you all the best as you integrate back into North American life! Remember all you’ve learned here in Uganda – both inside and outside of the classroom. Thanks for a wonderful USP semester!

Merry Christmas and blessings for the New Year!

USP Fall 2016! 

Friday, 9 December 2016

UCU Campus Engagement

As our Fall 2016 semester is wrapping up, students are reflecting on their time in Uganda. While going to university in Uganda looks somewhat different than the home campuses our students are used to, there are still plenty of opportunities for USP students to get connected and involved at Uganda Christian University (UCU).

Mallory Inniger

Mallory Inniger, a Global Health Emphasis student from Taylor University has had an extremely positive semester at UCU. Many of Mallory’s interactions on campus have been with her Ugandan roommate, Cathy. Together, they have attended fellowships which involved worshiping, sharing testimonies, and reading scripture with other Christians. Mallory has appreciated being able to worship in new ways while learning different perspectives that people hold about their faith.

One of Mallory’s favorite memories with Cathy was attending a cultural gala together, which was essentially a lot of people and a lot of dancing. As Mallory walked into the room, someone wrapped a grass skirt around her waist and pulled her in to the group of dancers. Mallory managed to get over feeling self-conscious and enjoyed a beautiful moment with Ugandans, enjoying life together.  

Cathy teaches her USP roommate, Mallory a Ugandan style dance

Jimmy Strid 

Jimmy Strid, a General Studies Emphasis student from Olivet Nazarene University has done a phenomenal job of getting involved and getting to know Ugandans at UCU. Among other things, Jimmy has been part of a fellowship, a Bible study, and monthly overnight worship sessions. He has also regularly played basketball with a few friends and has spent time having conversations with the new people he has met. For Jimmy, an exciting part of being at UCU has been being able to share his faith with others, realizing that Christ unites us all and erases the boundaries that we often put on people who are different from us. He has learned a great deal from the many Ugandans he has met, and has appreciated hearing about their respective journeys.

Jimmy gathers his thoughts before Bible Study 

Jessica Erickson

Jessica Erickson, a Global Health Emphasis student from Westmont College has dedicated time each day to be a part of the women’s soccer team at UCU. Jessica and fellow USP student, Elle Arnold, a General Studies student also from Westmont, wanted an opportunity to make friends on campus and since they are both passionate about sports, decided to join the soccer team. For Jessica, being a part of the team has been a “diverse experience.” Getting to know the other players on the team was challenging at first; but Jessica and Elle eventually earned the respect of their teammates by continually showing up and showing their honest desire to get to know the rest of the team. Now they feel like sisters, eating together weekly, sharing inside jokes, and opening up to one another on deeper levels. Jessica has been learning bits of Luganda and Swahili from her soccer friends as well as lessons in community and some of the struggles of being a female athlete in Uganda. Saying goodbye at the end of the semester will be incredibly hard for this team as they have grown very close, but the relationships they have built are worth it. 

Uganda Christian University Football (Soccer) Team

Jessica and Elle celebrate their team's win

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Northern Uganda: a weekend trip to Gulu

The Uganda Studies Program takes the students on a number of trips throughout the semester where learning takes place in interesting and tangible ways. One such trip we take is to visit ‘the north,’ a region of the country that until 2008, was in the throes of civil war. You have likely heard about the Lords Resistance Army (the LRA), the rebel group that terrorized the north for 20 years, famous for their abductions of children, who they conscripted into their army to fight their war.

While the LRA is no longer active in northern Uganda, the trauma of the conflict still haunts many Ugandans. By visiting several different organizations in Gulu, students had the opportunity to learn not only about the history and the recent conflict, but to see and feel and experience hope! There is a lot of creative and restorative work being done to rebuild affected individuals and communities.

It was beautifully green up north, thanks to all the rain this season.

The first organization we visited, was ChildVoice International. Their mission is to restore voices of children silenced by war. They “build therapeutic communities creating a village of refuge for children and youth traumatized by conflict – war orphans, former child soldiers, or members of displaced families. Within the residential center, participants engage in a comprehensive array of activities designed to promote healing.” Counseling, education, life skills training, vocational training, and income generating projects are services that are provided or taught to the young women at ChildVoice International.

We were privileged to hear from the staff members who answered our many questions as they talked about their passion and commitment to the work they do. We toured the grounds and saw where the young women and their children live, we walked through the farmland they cultivate, visited their fish ponds, goats, pigs and bunnies, as well as the buildings where they learn various vocational skills. A highlight for the USP students was interacting with the young women in the program, as they danced and sang traditional songs.

USP students talk with staff members about their experiences working for Child Voice International
CVI staff member teaches USP students about their fishponds. 

Jimmy, carrying a jerry cans of water from the borehole on his head,
a skill that many Ugandans learn at a young age.

We also visited The Recreation Project, whose mission is inspiring youth to overcome fear and patterns of war through active healing experiences. These active healing experiences involve group activities on their low ropes course. The TRP staff led the USP students in several of these exercises, where they also had to trust and help one another in order to complete the life-sized puzzles. Through debriefing afterwards, students talked about the challenges and the significance of vulnerability and trust.

Mallory and Kendra, play a game at The Recreation Project in which they must be the first to shout the other person's name when the curtain is dropped between them. 

The Recreation Project uses team building activities to teach people important concepts like trust and courage. Our students needed to work together to accomplish their task of crossing the creek with only two boards.

Post-struggle, group hug!  
       As always, we are grateful to visit these organizations— for the opportunity to learn about the hope they inspire and the good work they do.