Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Two-Week Mukono Homestays

"To [the Ugandan] the individual is always an abstraction; Man is a family." ~ John Taylor

Studying abroad is experiential learning; learning through doing. We can learn about the communal aspect of the culture here through readings and class discussion, but how do we really know and understand what that means, untill we become a part of it-- even if only for a short period of time?  How else do we really come to know and care about the realities that shape Ugandans lives, if not through becoming a part of a Ugandan family, and a part of those daily realities? 

The past week and a half our On-campus Students have been on their two-week Mukono homestays. Families in Uganda are as different and varied as families anywhere. And for sure, no two students are the same! As both families and students learn about each other, through their similarities and their differences, they do the work of building deep, authentic relationships. What do we have to learn about the universality of human experience through the particularly of this Ugandan context and culture?

It is not always easy, but as with most things that are worthwhile and meaningful, the effort, and willingness to push into the discomfort yields deeper relationships and understanding. As staff, we so enjoy hearing these stories of discovery, growth and connection.  

The On-Campus students, both excited and nervous and about to meet their new families...

Mama Robinah receives two students! Rachel and Rachael

Paige with her host Mama and siblings.

Mama Hope, welcoming Alexa with a big hug.
Warm smiles and hugs help quell the nervousness students may have been feeling.

Mama Margaret receiving her new daughter, Jess in to her home. 

Lauren with her new host siblings. 

Jamie meeting her host mom 
Bri with Mama Sarah

Sierra and her host mom.

This Friday the students will return to campus, their dorm rooms and roommates, but each student has a Ugandan 'home away from home' here in Mukono  now, where they can return throughout the semester, and continue to build on the relationships they have established. 

"Discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes." ~Marcel Proust

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Lessons learned in Rwanda

Every semester the Uganda Studies Program along with students from Uganda Christian University's Honors College travel to Rwanda to learn about its unique culture and history, the reconciliation process since the 1994 genocide, and its current development efforts. We visit memorials, organizations, as well as hear from various speakers on a variety of topics and themes.

Learning about reconciliation and the reconstruction of Rwanda since the 1994 genocide is one of the most meaningful aspects of the trip for many students. This semester we again, had the opportunity to visit CARSA (Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance) where we watched a documentary which helped us better understand the realities and complexities of reconciliation and development in Rwanda. We also learned about the many programs CARSA implements to teach and encourage reconciliation in various communities around Rwanda. After the documentary, we heard from a panel of Rwandans about what life has been like since the genocide and how they have worked through—and continue to work through reconciliation on a daily basis.

It was beautiful and profound to be in the presence of people whose relationships with one another seemed to many of us to be a miracle. Many students later remarked that this experience was one where they felt God’s presence and power in new ways and led them to examine un-forgiveness in their own lives. 

Participants in CARSA's reconciliation programs share their stories and answer student questions.

 "Reconciliation cannot just be a government policy or vision but it has to be grounded in community, in the people." ~CARSA Director, Christophe Mbonyigabo

Rev. Antoine speaking to the group.
We also had the privilege of hearing from Rev. Antoine Rutayisire, a prominent Rwandan leader who, among many other roles, served on the National Unity and Reconciliation Commission after the genocide, and was part of the writing Rwanda’s current constitution.

On the progress of rebuilding and Reconciliation in Rwanda after the genocide:
"It may take long, we don't mind, at least we know we are moving in the right direction."

On the current state of the Church in Rwanda:
“The churches that have grown are those churches that didn’t do business as usual… After a crisis (people) aren’t looking for tradition, they are looking for meaning, they are looking for life after death.”

Advice to us as we move forward in life:
"Be as constructive as you can in every context."  

We are grateful for the organizations that hosted us, and the speakers we heard from; both for the good work they do, and for taking the time and energy to share their journeys and stories with us. All of us who visit Rwanda, leave impacted by what they have seen, and heard. We take with us these valuable gifts and insights, and begin the process of understanding how they must impact our own lives. 
Group debrief on Bushara Island.