Thursday, 6 December 2018

FA18 Farewell Dinner! Celebrating 15 years

Last night we celebrated the Fall 2018 semester Farewell Dinner with our host families, practicum site supervisors and coworkers, lecturers, drivers, staff and of course students. We are so proud of this group of students and their hard work this semester!

As is customary, among the many speeches of the evening, we have a staff speech. This year we shared collectively, speaking to the many things we are thankful for, and particularly God's faithfulness these 15 years. 


You can watch our full staff speech-- all 30 minutes, full of kids, cats, fading sunlight, cell phones and of course your USP staff, OR if you're interested you can flip to the various highlights:

Our Beginnings and Our students! (start) 
USP Director, Rachel Robinson 
The beautiful country of Uganda (3:33) 
USP Office Attendant, Lydia Koma
15 years of partnership with UCU (4:57) 
USP Program Administrator, Lydia Wankuma
Host Families! (6:52)
Homestay Coordinator, Eddie Tokpa
Honors College Partnership (9:04)
USP Program Assistant, Becky Nairuba
Practicum Sites and Supervisors (11:50)
USP Social Work Coordinator, Lisa Tokpa
Academics, our lecturers (15:20) 
Global Health Emphasis Coordinator, Micah Hughes
Safety! (18:23) 
USP Driver, John Kabugo
Rwanda (19:42) 
Program Assistant, Louise Clark 
Alumni (21:05) 
Program Assistant, Jessica Mount
The Gift of Life (24:14) 
USP nurse Avrey Hughes
God's faithfulness (25:52) 
USP Administrative Assistant, Innocent Atimango


Just a few images of an evening full of goodness:













"Presence. Actively seeking to be present in each moment of each day is difficult, but so rewarding. I've struggled with perfectionism and anxiety for so long, and practicing presence is the best way for me to seek the Lord in the most overwhelming moments. I'm so thankful for the way that Uganda and USP softened my heart and gave me the gift of  living life a little slower That's what it's all about, right? Living life together with faith, hope and love."
~USP Alum, Katelyn Springer (SP'11)

Wednesday, 28 November 2018

The Night Shift

Mukono Church of Uganda Hospital main entrance in Mukono town.
Imagine this:
It's 6:00pm on a Friday night. The sun is setting behind Mukono hill, and campus is quieting down for the weekend. Homestay students are headed for the gates of UCU, home to their families for the weekend, and on-campus students are headed down to the dining hall for dinner. But you're a Global Health student and you're about to embark on a 12-hour hospital night shift. You have the name of the nurse midwife and the doctor on call, and so you pull on your USP Global Health student scrubs, grab a cup of coffee--and head into town with a friend for your first night shift at the Church of Uganda Mukono Hospital.

As part of the Global Health Emphasis, all students do a 150-hour internship at a local healthcare organization in Uganda. USP partners with a diverse array of organizations offering internships in a variety of areas and specialties like nutrition, maternal health, physical therapy and geriatric care. The Mukono Church of Uganda Hospital, located in close proximity to Uganda Christian University, has a long-standing relationship with USP and is a significant part of the Global Health Emphasis. It is the internship site for several GHE students in any given semester, students taking Microbiology do their lab at the hospital, and others take the unique opportunity to shadow doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff from 7:00pm— 7:00am: The Night Shift. Over the twelve-hour shift, students experience what it's like to work at a hospital overnight and the diversity of cases that keep a hospital busy around the clock.

It's 2:00am. Since you arrived at the hospital, you've been in the operating theatre during an emergency C-section, a nurse has explained her perspective on the cultural and socioeconomic complexities of maternal health in Uganda, and you've taken tea with the surgeon on call. You're about to take a brief nap on a hospital cot when a patient comes in to the emergency department with a broken leg from a motorcycle accident. Adrenaline infuses your body with life again as you help the hospital team to care for this emergency. At the end of the night, you collapse in the back of the USP van as it travels back up the hill to UCU, exhausted but with a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the work of nurses and doctors throughout the long night hours. 

Spending a night at the hospital is an unique opportunity in many ways. When it's busy, you are able to observe procedures you may not be able to during the day. When it's slow--and it often is--you have the opportunity to spend real time with Ugandan healthcare professionals, learning through conversation and quality time in the wee hours of the night. The night shift at Mukono Hospital is above all a time to practice presence, being with patients who are in pain, being with health care professionals as they care for the patients, and being open to whatever happens--or doesn't happen--during a normal 12-hour day shift at the hospital.

Whether learning about maternal health on a night shift or sitting under a Mango tree learning about clean water, the Global Health Emphasis brings together observation, experience, and academic coursework with the goal of transformational learning.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

In Recognition of Social Work Supervisors

This week's blog is guest-written by Lisa Tokpa, the Social Work Coordinator for Uganda Studies Program. Lisa maintains relationships with all the organizations where USP social work students intern, teaches the social work practicum class, and supports social work students during their time at USP. You also may be lucky enough to end up in one of her general studies practicum classes! Thanks Lisa!


“You will know your vocation by the joy that it gives you.” 
~ Dorothy Day
Every semester USP students embark on an adventure marked by growth that can only happen through relationships. One of these key relationships is between students and their supervisors. For senior social work students conducting at least 400 practicum hours, this relationship has even more potential to be transformative. But this doesn’t come without work. Just like any relationship, it takes honest communication and time, but can reap rewards even beyond expectations.

Fall 2018 Social Work Practicum Site Supervisors.

Before students step foot in Uganda, supervisors gather together to connect and learn from one another’s experiences supervising American social work undergraduate students. It’s not an easy thing -- connecting with and teaching students from a very different context with expectations that have been forming over years, seeing exciting growth as they fully invest in one student who all-too-quickly leaves to make way for the next. But these professionals keep committing to a process that we are all committed to at USP – teaching the next generation the value of difference and diversity, and how to effectively engage in a globalized world. 

Working in the midst of incredible suffering, students are challenged by the joy that is emitted by these Ugandan mentors. With fascination, they can’t help but ask, “How do you keep going?” Supervisor’s responses, both verbal and in action every day, teach students about the power of community, humility in acknowledging our limitations, sustaining compassion, and continuing to be joyful in this broken world.  

We, as USP, are incredibly grateful to these amazing people who continue to be patient with our students, investing in their learning every day, and inspire them with a joy that cannot be explained. 


***
“I have learned so much about social work in Uganda and just being a social worker in general through my supervisor and coworkers. My supervisor is a strong, courageous woman who knows who she is and what her mission is in life. She has deep passion for working with children through Compassion and specifically for working with their mothers and fathers to ensure that their family is healthy and able to make the best life for them. She challenges me to be bold when working with clients and she has showed me how to deal with social issues related to Ugandan families, specifically domestic violence, within this cultural context. I want to be like her when I “grow up”. Social work practice here looks like a family welcoming you into their home, sitting with them in the comfort of their own house instead of in an office setting, maybe hitting guavas out of the guava tree in their yard and checking out their pigs and sheep, as well as maybe leaving their home with a giant papaya or stalk of sugar cane. They [co-workers] teach me to relax a little more in my role as a social worker; being open to the families we are working with while also maintaining professional boundaries.” 
 ~Suzanna Knarr (Senior SWE)
                                  
Suzanna and her supervisor Liz Nanseko.
***
"Doing my practicum at Kisoga Child Development Center has become my second home here in Uganda. My supervisor Miriam has helped me gain confidence to be open and comfortable when working with diverse clients. She shows humility to everyone she encounters and it is truly inspiring to see the hard work she does for her clients. She is so personable and relatable, and she plays a big part in my growth in the field of social work. "
~Kasey Wood (Senior SWE)

Kasey and her supervisor, Miriam Kiwanuka.

***
"When Rose greets someone, she greets them with love. When she speaks to someone, she speaks to them in love. When she is present with people, she is present in love. Over the past months I have had the opportunity to encounter what it means to love on a deeper level from my supervisor, Rose. From highlighting the importance of connections in relationships throughout the healing journey of patients and families, to being open about the concern for the well being of all people that walk through Acheru's doors; whether they are in the age bracket or not; Rose is present in love. Over the course of this semester, we have been using language around who our "monks" are while we are here in Uganda. These monks can be classified as people who accept and invite you on this season of life with them and guide you along patterns of living in Uganda. Rose has been a monk to me, and I am so grateful for her insight, humility, and presence of love as I venture on this pilgrimage through life in Uganda."
~Hannah Wagar (Junior SWE) 


Hannah Wagar and her supervisor, Rose Nakabugo at Acheru.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Snapshots of Kapchorwa Homestays


Last Friday morning, we loaded students and staff into the USP van and bus and left the slowly growing comfort of the Uganda Christian University campus, our Mukono host families, and our internships to learn about life in rural Uganda. As we leave Mukono, we quickly notice the houses and buildings growing smaller and more spread out. There are vast fields and swamps as far as we can see. Then we cross the source of the Nile River in Jinja. And finally, after a day of travelling, we turn up the small mountain road to Kapchorwa and the little van begins to climb into the clouds.

We’ve said before that homestays are the lifeblood of the Uganda Studies Program, but it’s so true that we’ll say it again. We learn so much more deeply about places like rural Uganda when we’ve also experienced what it’s like to really live there. Whether it’s up on the mountain in Kapchorwa or out in the grassy flatlands in Soroti, USP students experience a new way of living—and therefore a new way of loving—through the wonderful host families who welcome them in.

Emily Bartel showing PA Becky Nairuba how she washes dishes at her Kapchorwa homestay.

This week, we bring you a tiny snapshot of some Fall 2018 students’ experience with their families in Kapchorwa and Sipi:

“My favorite memory with my host family was going on a hike with my sister to see a waterfall and visit family…and learning to make chapati and passionfruit juice!”
—Emma Cann (Patrick & Violet Mutai)

“The best moments for me during the week were sitting with my mama in the kitchen hut every night making dinner and having the best conversations.”
—Payton Dierkes (Mama Judith & David)

“Beauty was found in the simplest of things last week. I look back with so much joy on sitting out eating lunch with my siblings during a rainstorm, and taking a walk with my brother to a waterfall, both of which were filled with laughter and meaningful conversations that further made us family.”
—Richard Guinta (Chebet Joel & Joselline)

“It was a time to reflect and experience God’s amazing beauty in the middle of the semester.”
—Derek Twinney

“Picking coffee every day…really makes you appreciate that cup a day even more.”
—Alexa Spandrio (Maliche Martin & Mercyline)

Kevin Domanski with his host niece.
USP is a program built around relationships. Everything we do here, we do in the context of relationships of friends, roommates, professors, supervisors and families who welcome us in. The experience of waking up on Mount Elgon, learning how to pick and roast coffee right where it’s grown, and live life at a "rural pace" with Ugandans would not be possible without the deep ties of these relationships with host families.

We love you, and thank you for all you do, host families!

Miriam Thurber and her host mama.
Daniel Kim with his host mama, Jocelyn Kaptire.
It's not a birthday in Uganda without being "showered"! Rachel, Eddie, and the PAs made a special visit to Madi Shae Thompson's homestay to deliver a few birthday surprises.
Rachel Baker smiling with her host family as the USP van stops by on the main road.
We made good use of the mud on our hike to see all three of the Sipi Falls!

Hiking Sipi on our debrief weekend.

Richard Guinta preparing to lead a USP worship service for students on the edge of the world.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Intersections: Reflections on a Mukono Homestay

Happy Monday, friends!

During the USP application process, students choose their living context: either an "On-Campus student" living in the dorms with fellow UCU and USP students, or a "Homestay Student," living with a host family for the full semester. Our On-campus students, also do a shorter homestay in Mukono for two-weeks, which they recently completed.

No matter their living situation, all students who come to the Uganda Studies Program are committing to engage with two different host families during their time in Uganda, one in the more urban, or suburban context of Mukono, and one in a rural context for a week mid-semester. This commitment paves the way for some of the most beautiful friendships and learning moments of the semester to take place. Host families are the life blood of our program. They welcome us in semester after semester, they call us "son" and "daughter" though we have just met, and they gently teach us so much about hospitality and generosity.  When I did USP in 2016, I was a Hometsay student, and this week, I'd love to share some thoughts on living with a homestay family in Mukono town.

The woman, the legend: Mama Robinah Lubanga, my host mom 

"The sun has sunk beneath the horizon just moments before, and has left the sky with a deep, fading glow. The bean vines climbing upward in the center of the courtyard stand dark, silhouettes, against the deepening sky. A rooster lets out a strangled cry somewhere outside. The smell of cooking matooke and woodsmoke wafts over from the cookhouse. We lean back on the porch, our backs resting against the thrashed love seat that stands against the wall. On the ground between us, drifting up from Eva’s phone are the tinny words:

Greater things are yet to come.
Greater things are still to be done here.

We sing along quietly, lost in the moment and at least for one space in time not Ugandan and American or black and white or nineteen and twenty-five. As the porch light flickers on and the mosquitoes slowly gather in swarms above our heads, we sing the end of the song as family.
I didn’t expect, when this whole crazy adventure began, that I would leave Uganda with a second family. But things are shaping up for exactly that to happen. My Ugandan sisters make me laugh and drive me up the wall simultaneously, just the way my American brothers do. The echoes of Mama calling down the hallway for us do something for her sounds pretty much the same as my mom at home.
But there are also times where I feel the weight of the fact that I’m only in this family for four months. There are moments when Luganda or cultural differences step in between us and I wonder how I ever could have thought I was part of this family. But then come moments where I let my guard down, where I stop trying so hard to be in my family and relax into the place of simply being present with my family. These are the moments where I feel at home.
An added wrinkle comes, also, when I consider that I don’t always feel like I completely fit in with my family back in America either. Especially since leaving for college and I think that’s just a part of being in community with people—as similar as we may be, we are still built for different callings. We are still fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made. We will always find a part of us that remains separate from our chosen family. And so it seems to me that the best way to find family, both here in Uganda and back in America, is to meet each other at the intersection of our faith in Christ. 
Here in Uganda, our intersections are the moments where we sit around the coffee table reading the story of Moses from a tattered Good News Bible. Or singing loud, off-key worship songs in the kitchen while washing dishes. Or thanking God before dinner that He has kept us alive and safe for another day, and has shown us just a little bit more of His glory. 
The times when we all pause and focus not on all the things that make us different, but instead on the most important thing that makes us the same—those are the times when I am woven inextricably into the fabric of this family. 

Sisters. From left to right: Louise, Judith, Eve, and Gloria

The same thing applies to my family at home in the United States. It all comes down to one simple thing, I think. Where we find God, we find love. And where we find love, no matter who with, we find family. I have found that real family comes when we intentionally say to someone else: “I acknowledge that we’re different, but I won’t let that keep us from each other. I’m going to love you anyway in the best way I know how.”

My Ugandan family is a perfect example. None of my host brothers and sisters are biologically related to my host mom. We’re all “adopted,” living together in the same house and trying to build a family pretty much from the ground up. We’ve come from seven completely different directions, far apart from each other and yet somehow converging on this one spot. This intersection of a house on Kayunga Road in Mukono, central Uganda. Mama has welcomed us into this place with all our differences and baggage and has invited us to an intersection of love. Of faith. Of dancing in the rain and chasing chickens across the courtyard. And while sometimes we still find ourselves sitting around the table with nothing to say, those moments are becoming fewer and fewer. We’ve begun to build a lattice of memories and laughter and knowledge about each other. Our intersections are becoming larger. As we draw closer and closer to each other, our family grows stronger."

~ Louise Clark

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Christians for More Than Sunday: Student Reflections on Rwanda

From left to right: Rachel Baker, Amanda Trout, Jenny Jobson, & Lauren Nagy

Rwanda. 

What exactly can I say to describe one week packed full of deep heartache juxtaposed with some of the deepest love I have ever experienced? Truth be told, it’s hard to put into words what I saw and experienced during my time in Rwanda. Together, with 28 students from the US, 10 students from UCU’s honors college, and 10 dedicated staff members, we embarked on our pilgrimage to Rwanda.
— Lauren Nagy,
    USP Global Health Emphasis, Fall 2018

We began our pilgrimage to Rwanda on August 24 at 4:30 am. 

We enjoyed a beautiful sunrise, delicious food, restful naps, and a long bus ride of meaningful conversations. After crossing the equator, I entered the southern hemisphere for the first time. We made the second big step in our journey, crossing the border and entering Rwanda. 

— Jenny Jobson
    USP Global Health Emphasis, Fall 2018

Every semester, the Uganda Studies Program packs up and travels the long road through western Uganda to Rwanda in a week-long study trip and pilgrimage. Together with USP & UCU staff, USP students, and UCU Honors College students, we travel with the hope of better understanding the suffering and triumphs in one of our closest neighboring countries to Uganda. We travel together in a close community, studying the complexities of faith and politics in Rwanda; we go with the hope of understanding the importance of faith in the unity of a nation. 

We leave with an urgent discovery that the divisions in Rwanda cannot be passed off as solely “African” or “foreign”. They are the result of a complex history of hurt in which we are deeply involved as Americans and as the Church. We discover the deep divisions within our own lives with new eyes through the lens of Rwanda. A huge thanks to two Fall 2018 students—Jenny Jobson and Lauren Nagy—for sharing their experience with entering Rwanda not as a tourist, but as a pilgrim.

On Saturday, we participated in Umuganda—a Rwandan tradition that takes place on the last Saturday of every month. They dedicate the day to working towards rebuilding the community and participating in community service. We helped to construct a church building by forming an assembly line from a large pile of bricks to the building and passing the bricks one by one. Seeing Rwandans working together side by side just twenty years after such a horrific genocide that was caused by divisions was such an incredible sight.

We spent the next three days in Kigali, visiting genocide memorials and meeting with survivors. We visited the largest genocide memorial in Rwanda, containing mass graves of about 250,000 people. It’s one thing to hear the number of 800,000 deaths but it is another thing to learn about the individual stories of each of the people killed. There was a quote at the memorial that I still remember—that genocide is not mass murder, it is one murder after another after another. 

It is hard to describe all the things that were seen and the array of emotions that were felt. I felt grief, anger, and disbelief but also hope. Despite learning about the tragedies of the 1994 genocide, we also learned about the amazing growth and reconciliation that has intentionally taken place in the last twenty years. We got to witness a panel of survivors and perpetrators sit side by side and speak of what life has been like since the genocide and how they have been able to forgive one another. In that moment, many students felt God’s presence and power in new ways and were led to examine un-forgiveness in their own lives. 

Leaving Rwanda, we all left deeply impacted by all that we had seen and learned about. Despite all of the questions and difficult emotions, it was an honor to step into the individual stories of the genocide, to meet survivors and perpetrators, and to hear about the hopeful efforts towards reconciliation.

Jenny

Jenny speaking at church in Rwanda near the Tanzanian border.

I had learned about the genocide that happened in April of 1994 in Rwanda in my high school geography class, but our discussions did no justice to the atrocities that happened there. This was an experience that brought to light much of what happened historically and socially in the country. It answered many questions, but it also brought many new questions.

At the end of the day, there is certainly one thing that I will always carry with me: That is the idea that through Christ, anyone can be reconciled to their past. The key to this is Christ. Reconciliation is not something that we can fully achieve without our savior. Countless times I saw people grant forgiveness in situations that I couldn’t imagine forgiving. It is nearly impossible to understand, but it’s a lesson that has been imprinted on my heart. Through conversations with fellow students, I have been able to reflect on my experience and realize that there is so much in my own life that I can reconcile with the help of Christ.

— Lauren

Sunset on the road to Kigali.


One of the most powerful and difficult things about traveling to Rwanda as a learner is the inevitable realization that the history of the West—our history—is tied up with the history of Rwanda. As Christians we’re hit again by the realization that we are a part of the same church that allowed the genocide in Rwanda to happen; and we are not so dissimilar from the Christians in Rwanda who were able to go to church and worship on Sunday and resume killing their neighbors on Monday.

For how many of us does Christianity get left in the building when church ends on Sunday morning? For how many of us is the Church irrelevant Monday through Saturday? 

These are some of the questions we explore as we travel in Rwanda. Through visiting memorials, museums, development and reconciliation organizations, and through hearing from Rwandans, we explore this central question:

So we call ourselves Christians. How should that make us different? 


USP and Honors College students at a stop on the Equator during our road trip.

Wednesday, 19 September 2018

Introducing Fall 2018!

Well friends, It’s early September and that means a few things here at the Uganda Studies Program. It’s the beginning of the rainy season in Uganda, so the days are marked by beautiful sunshine in the morning that reminds us we live on the Equator; in the afternoon, clouds gather on the hill behind campus and unleash downpours of warm rain in the early afternoon, usually just after the afternoon classes start. Everything is so green.

Early September also means that the semester is in full swing and there’s a brand new cohort of USP students wandering the bright shops of Mukono, gathering in the dining hall drinking tea, and learning to live with their wonderful Ugandan host families. I’d like to be the first to introduce you to the lovely group of students that are USP Fall 2018.
The USP family is complete with all our students and staff finally here!
I’d like to introduce myself too, Louise Clark, who will be hanging out here on the USP blog all semester and helping to share the stories of this program as they unfold. I’m a USP alumna from Fall 2015 and have returned to Uganda Christian University as a Program Assistant for this academic year along with Jess Mount (USP Fall ’17) and Becky Nairuba (UCU Class of 2016). Together, we live and work alongside USP students to support and help with adjusting to life in Uganda. We also love taking students out for coffee and helping plan the adventures throughout the semester that make up USP. ;)
Jess, Becky and Louise, the FA18 PA Team!
This semester, we have 16 students in our Global Health Emphasis, taking classes like Infectious Disease, Microbiology, and Nutrition and interning all over town at hospitals, rehab centers, and public health organizations. They came a month early to study nutrition before the start of the semester, and are now beginning at their internship sites this week.

Global Health Emphasis students visiting Reach One Touch One Ministries--a Ugandan organization that focuses on holistic elderly care within the community--during the August module.


There are 5 students studying social work this semester, at both the junior and senior level, and are also beginning to spend full days learning about their internship sites and getting to know their coworkers. And last but not least, there are 6 General Studies Emphasis students from all different majors taking African languages, studying in UCU and USP classes, and starting their internships as well. The USP parking lot is a busy hub of excited students leaving for their first times at their internships all over Mukono and the surrounding area! 

General Studies and Social Work students arriving at Entebbe International Airport.
Our first few weeks here have included a week-long road trip to study Rwanda’s history and development, our first week of classes here at Uganda Christian University, and the beginning of Mukono homestays for both our on-campus students and semester-long homestay students. Life has been moving fast here at USP, but we’re finally slowing down into the rhythm of the semester and living into the Luganda phrase mpola mpola. It means “slowly by slowly”; everything will happen in its own time. 

Cheers!

We'll see you next week.




Students being dropped off for semester-long homestays with dear USP host families in Mukono town. Richard and Mama Jovita (above) & Daniel and Rev. Samson & Prescilla Maliisa (below)