Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Long Goodbye

Every good thing comes to an end. This is now true of the USP Fall 2012 semester. The students finished classes, took their exams, said their goodbyes and flew back to the US on December 11th. To celebrate and honor the academic accomplishments of the semester, the relationships built, and provide the opportunity to say goodbye, USP holds a farewell dinner at the end of each semester. This is a much loved and enjoyed tradition.

The evening of December 6, was the Fall 2012 Farewell Dinner. It is an important occasion as seen in the dress! Some students come in African dresses they had made in Mukono town, and others wear traditional outfits provided by their families. 

 Students Rachel and Anna in traditional Ugandan gomezi.

USP student Erin with her host mother in traditional attire from western Uganda.

The evening consisted of students gathering with various people who made the semester a success; host families, practicum and social work site representatives, UCU lecturers and students, and many of the friends that students made along the way. As a way of thanking all of the people who attended, and as is customary in Uganda, there were a number of speeches made by various group representatives. Certificates were then given to the USP students for their completion of the Uganda Studies Program, dinner was shared and the farewell made complete with the cutting and eating of cake.

USP student, Tracie giving a speech on behalf of the Social Work students.

 UCU Honors College student, Jesse giving a speech on behalf of UCU students.

 USP staff member, Lisa giving a speech on behalf of the USP staff.

 USP student, Allison receiving her certificate.

 As part of the tradition, USP students serve the food to all the guests in attendance.

The farewell cake, being cut by all who made speeches.

As the night wrapped up, tears were shed and contact information was exchanged as the students said their farewells to those they had built relationships with in Mukono. Writing on behalf of the USP staff, I know that seeing them off at the airport in a few days will be hard because of the relationships we have also built with them. Yet we will always be connected to them because they will always be connected to Uganda. So I’ll let this blog post be a goodbye to the Fall 2012 USP students. Stay in touch and come back to visit!

Post by program assistant, Tiffany Gathers 

Monday, 3 December 2012

Social Work in Uganda

Rachel Yutzy is a Social Work major completing her junior level social work practicum this semester on USP.

Over the last four months, I have been doing my social work practicum at a Compassion International site, Seeta Child Development Center. I can honestly say that my practicum was my favorite part of my experience in Uganda; I learned a lot about social work, Uganda, and myself.

I could have never imagined the learning experience I would gain from doing my internship abroad. Social Work is a very “Western” career. In the States, we have strict protocol as to how to do everything. We have a lot of theory and a lot of ideals. On a clinical level, we are very individualistic. We focus on the client at hand and attempt to know every detail of his or her life. One of the greatest challenges and best experiences was taking my American, higher education, book knowledge and theory, and applying to a situation on the other side of the world. Some things sound great on paper, but do not play out well due to the fact that the theory is tailored to a Western culture.

One prominent aspect of Ugandan culture is community. This aspect is a bit interesting in a social work setting. One of my first “counseling” sessions with a child was with about three extra adults in the room. According to the social workers, this is normal. This is what the community does. Everyone knows everything about everyone else and the value of the advice increases with the number of people reiterating it. From my context, this is not what you do. “Counseling” is done in privacy, or in a group of people struggling with the same thing, not in a community setting. However, as I was immersed in the culture, I began to realize just how much community affected the lives of the children with whom I was working. In a conversation with a co-worker, I learned that a lot of the children are orphaned or abandoned. The extended family or the community will take in the children. It is a community and a familial duty. He was appalled at the idea of a foster care system, where strangers take in children.
It was also interesting to see the similarities. Social work is still social work, no matter where you are on the globe. As my supervisor said, “Social Workers do everything. Everything is in the job description”. That could not have been said better. It seems as though social work agencies are always understaffed and underfunded; yet they still thrive and they still make a difference in their communities. I learned so much about the diversity and the flexibility of social work. I learned how it changes in culture. I learned how it functions on nothing. I saw dedication to hope, faith, and love in ways I have never seen before. I learned how the social work values, service, social justice, dignity and worth of a person, importance of human relationships, integrity, and competence can be universally applied, even when cultural norms are vastly different.

Post by Rachel Yutzy