Tuesday, 14 February 2017

USP Program Assistants: a closer look

The Uganda Studies Program has an amazing cross-cultural staff comprised of individuals with varying skills and knowledge. Each staff member plays a big role in having the program move along smoothly. One of the positions in USP that is continuously changing is the role of the Program Assistant – known at USP as “PAs.” Each year USP hires two American PAs beginning in the fall and one Ugandan PA beginning in January. The role of the USP PA is always dynamic and never boring! Here are some reflections from those who have filled this important role at USP:

Benji (Current Ugandan PA)
“Being a PA has shown me the importance of being there for someone in the good times, vulnerable times, and sick times. It is a priceless gift that you could offer whereby you don’t expect anything in return. Being a PA teaches someone the value of selflessness.”

Favorite parts of the job

  • Getting to know students and staff and getting to learn more about different cultures.
Current PAs: Becca, Benji, Talitha

Talitha (Current American PA)
“Being a PA has challenged me to become a more adaptable person because the job has so many parts to it. I have learned a lot about myself through the process and have grown in my knowledge of working cross-culturally. Having a relational job can be so fulfilling and I have learned a lot about cultural humility and being open to new experiences from the students who have come through the program. Getting to be involved in social work classes and activities has also grown me professionally. The PA position is very broad, involved, and holistic.”

Favorite parts of the job:
  • Having meaningful conversations with students
  • Getting to interact with a diverse group of people


Current and past PAs get together in Kampala, Uganda
From Left: Andi, Becca, Jean, Talitha

Innocent (Current USP Admin Assistant and former Ugandan PA 2013)  
 “The experience I had as a PA is one I wouldn’t have had anywhere else. It was a needed experience to be able to transition into any other future job. As a PA I got a little bit of everything that I couldn’t get in a specific specialized job title. The work was humbling and I realized how the attitude is what counts in any job. You can do anything with a great attitude. The job had its own challenges, but there is a lot to learn and the experience outweighed the challenges. I grew greatly in relating cross-culturally and I made great memories that led to great friendships.”

Favorite parts of the job:

  •  The teamwork involved in working with people cross-culturally.
  • Getting to learn about your own culture while learning about theirs.
  • Being a part of the classes with students.

Current PAs, Talitha and Becca, along with 2013 PA, Innocent celebrating Becca's Birthday 

So what does a USP PA Do??
Because the PA position is so broad, it can be difficult to define exactly what a PA does. The primary role of a PA is to care for our USP students. This can take on many forms, but often means being available, caring for sick students and having intentional conversations. PAs live on campus in the same dorms as students and join them for meals in the campus dining hall. PAs prepare meals and restock med kits for when we are traveling and help coordinate USP trips as well as class field trips. PAs can often be found sitting in and contributing to classes as well as planning USP events. They help out in the office by sitting at the front desk, running errands when office supplies are low, and assist staff members in various projects. Some of the behind-the-scenes activities of the PAs include attending staff meetings, keeping up with USP social media, and setting up the classroom for lecturers. USP staff are adaptable and share many responsibilities -- PAs are no exception as they help out where they can to share the load of running an exciting, cross-cultural program.


Preparing sack lunches for a road trip

Celebrating a student birthday
Getting med kits stocked for Rural Homestays

Monday, 6 February 2017

Student Blog Highlight: Lauren Kenley

My Ugandan Family
Blog post written by USP student Lauren Kenley 
If you'd like to check out her blog, click here.
community. engaging with diverse populations. simply being present. 
Prior to coming to Uganda I’d say that I understood these principles and that I practiced them. Liberty University is all about creating good community, in my social work classes we are taught ways to engage with diverse populations, and prior to coming I read the popular book, Present Over Perfect. I thought and felt like I understood these in practice and in theory.
And then I moved into a Ugandan home for two weeks and learned that I knew very little about community, simply being present with people, and engaging with diverse populations.
For two weeks this sweet family opened up their home to me. They gave me food to eat, water to drink, and my own little room to sleep in. They took me to church with them, introduced me to their friends, and took me to both a wedding and an introduction ceremony (it’s like a proposal!). They fully welcomed me into their home and accepted me as their own. Renaming me Namakula and adopting me into their clan, the Pangolin clan. They let me help them wash dishes and mop the floors, gave me instant coffee, rather then tea, and let me watch them cook the Irish potatoes and the matoke over a charcoal fire pot.

But far more than the introducing me to their delicious new foods, their friends, and their cultural norms. They taught me what it means to be still. Not to plan ahead and worry about what is coming up next, but just to sit down and drink a cup of tea (or in my case, coffee). They taught me what it looks like for a family unit to work together and help each other in all things: cooking, cleaning, laundry, house work. And they truly taught me what it looks like to engage in a diverse population. It’s tricky. Combining two totally different cultural backgrounds and placing them in the same house requires lots of patience, but they were so gracious with me when I failed to greet them properly or mixed up my Lugandan words. I certainly have a lot to learn – a lot. The longer I am here, the more I am realizing that.

I’m grateful for my Ugandan family, away from my family. I’m grateful to have so many little sisters in Uganda and a sweet mom who makes herself so available to me. While challenging at times, I’m grateful for a program that sees the value in placing you with Ugandan families and not just in a dorm room.
Looking back I cannot believe that Wednesday will make a month of living in Uganda. Time here has seriously flown by. Can’t wait to see what the next three months hold as I continue to live and learn in Uganda.
You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you. Isaiah 26:3
XOXO, Lauren 

Sunday, 29 January 2017

USP reunion

We're excited to announce our second
All-USP Alumni Reunion
THIS SUMMER!
July 1-2, 2017
 Trinity Christian College 
Chicago, Illinois
Meet up with USP students from your semester and make new connections with students from other semesters! 
Connect with former and current staff members!
Learn what's happening currently at USP and UCU!
Plan a fun day in Chicago with others from your semester!
Five years ago, USP had its very first all-USP alumni reunion in Washington DC with 60+ in attendance spanning the ten years of the program. It was a fun and meaningful weekend of connections and re-connections. Students from the same semesters had a good excuse to get together and reminisce, and those who shared the same host family or practicum sites finally had the opportunity to finally meet one another. Staff members from various USP eras were present, as well as a number of Honors College/ UCU students who were living in the US at the time.

Our hope is to have a USP reunion every 5 years in a different region of the US. We are excited to head to the midwest this year, to the great city of CHICAGO! This is a fantastic destination city to explore with friends... its relatively easy/inexpensive to get to with two major airport hubs, has a great public transportation system, deep dish pizza, the best Ethiopian food in the country and... the CUBS!

We'd love to see you and catch up... so get in touch with others from your semester, plan a fun weekend together and COME!

Reunion 2012
Chicago 2017 Details:
Days/times: 11:00am Saturday, July 1-- 1:00pm Sunday, July 2. 
Location: Trinity Christian College (Southwest suburbs of Chicago) We have reserved suites which accommodate up to 4 people. You can book a whole suite, if you plan to come with your family, or get a group from your semester and book a suite together. 
Cost: Our goal is to keep the cost as low as possible. Accommodation for one night plus two meals will likely be approximately $50 per person. (There will also be a family rate...) More details coming soon!
Registration: Our registration link will be live by March 01, 2017. We will use the USP FaceBook page to announce when it is open, and post updates on reunion plans as we go. If you are not on FaceBook and would like to receive updates, please send an email to: m.t.bartels@ugandapartners.org.  

USP Staff sure to be there:
Mark and Abby Bartels -- USP's founders (along with kids Daniel, Mary and Rachel)
Rachel Robinson -- Former IMME Coordinator and current USP Director
Micah Hughes -- Global Health Coordinator (with his family Avrey, 
and daughters Ella and Zion)
Julie Darcey-- Program Assistant 2011-2012
Julia (Yoder) Rawlings Onghetich -- Assistant Coordinator 2014-2015 (with husband and HC alum Bob Rawlings Onghetich, and their son Tim) 
Katie Green -- Program Assistant 2014-2015/ Assistant Coordinator Fall 2015
Innocent Atimango -- Program Assistant 2013 / current Administrative Assistant (PRAY for her visa, folks!!!) 
Becca Stripe-- Program Assistant 2016-2017
Fingers Crossed!!: Ruth Berta (PA 2012-13), Hannah Groves Cowman (PA 2013-14),
Courtney Beiler (PA 2015-2016)
Take Action:
1. Put the reunion on your calendar and plan to come!
2. Email with any questions: m.t.bartels@ugandapartners.org
3. Send photos from the last reunion: abigailgbartels@gmail.com 
4. If you are connected with others from your semester, and are willing to get in touch with them via email so that we can try to get in touch with as many folks as possible, email rachelrobinson1@mac.com.

Any and all of these actions are a huge gift to us as we try to nurture the threads of community that began in Mukono and have now spread through time and place!


💥Fun photos from our last reunion!💥

Mark and Gwyn on registration:

Getting to know who's who:

The contingent from USP's Spring 2007 semester:

All the 'sons and daughters' of the Etokoit host family in Mukono:

UCU and Honors College alumni in attendance:

...There may have been some debriefing 😀:

...and sharing experiences:

Updates, greetings and epic slide shows from USP/ UCU:


Creative Processing (aka gorilla art!):



See you in Chi-Town this summer!

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