Friday, 19 December 2014

A Look Back on a Great Semester...

The Trips You Took...


"Discovery consists not in seeking new lands but in seeing with new eyes."

 -Marcel Proust

The Friendships You Made...

"Please be a traveler, not a tourist.  Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what's right in front of you.  Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in."

-Andrew Zimmern

You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere.  That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place."

-Miriam Adeney

 The Community You Joined... 

An official UCU Alum
USP Farewell Party 

All of our speakers at the Farewell Party cutting the cake!
Singing a praise song with host families
The lovely PA's 
The USP Staff

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."

-Nelson Mandela

You will be missed!

Monday, 8 December 2014

Packing Tips & Words of Advice to Incoming Students

Words of Advice...

Mukono Town
“What I love about Uganda is that people do not let time run their lives. Yes, diving into this new adventure in a new country is scary and can be stressful, but be prepared to slow down here and to learn to take time less seriously. Learn to take yourself a little less seriously. Before coming, I wish I would have truly believed that it was going to be okay. Not only that, know that it's going to be an adventure that will leave you changed for the better.”
 - Olivia Lawrence (Current Homestay Student)

"I loved my time in Uganda specifically because of the real friendships that I have been able to create with Ugandans, and I will miss this part the most, the people I'll leave behind.  I have learned so many things here, so much about the culture and the language as well as several things about myself that I never would have learned had I not taken the step into the unknown." 
- Brigitte Zyla (Current On-campus student)

"Coming to Uganda, I expected the worst...cold showers, daily rice and beans, people I did not know, and everything else that I had been told about living here. However, perspective and attitude dramatically changes once you step off of the plane and begin to experience God's presence in this beautiful country! Showers are chilly (not going to lie) but you don't have to bucket bathe, rice and beans can easily be jazzed up with some garlic salt or your other favorite spices, and the Ugandans you meet will become your sisters and brothers in no time. Once I learned to give myself fully to the process, I was able to relax and enjoy each and every challenge that came my way. As we are about to leave this beautiful community-filled place, I encourage you to push yourself to places where you are uncomfortable. Talk to strangers, eat grasshoppers, take the opportunities to run with honors college at 5:30am, attempt to order a rolex in Luganda, and embrace the birthday bath day traditions! It is in the most uncomfortable space that you will learn the most about God, yourself, and this culture."
-Krista Vermeer (Current On-Campus Student)

Market Day in Mukono Town
"You will love the hospitality in Uganda! People will go above and beyond to make you feel welcome; it's a great opportunity to form close relationships and honor one another! Learn all you can from the people who open up their lives to you! This is what you will remember the most."
- Lauren Nadolski (Current Homestay Student)

Mukono Shops
“Embarking on this adventure is scary. It’s not easy and at times you’re going to want to go home. But remember why you came here; it will keep you going. It took a while, but I can without a doubt say that I am in love with Ugandan culture. The hospitality, generosity, and openness of Ugandans made this experience here one I will never forget. So, be open. Try new things. Don’t think about home so much. Be present. And remember that at the end of the semester, you will only regret the things you didn’t do, so don’t be afraid to try!” 
- Jamie Patterson (Current Homestay Student)

The beautiful red dirt roads you will grow to know and love...

Tips on what to pack...

Moleskin Notebook
Moleskin notebook - Its small and compact so I carry it literally everywhere I go. It's great for jotting down quick notes, thoughts, or feelings right in the moment. Big journals can be more retrospective when you write in them at the end of the day. I prefer to write down exactly what I'm thinking or feeling right when it's happening so my moleskin is perfect for that.
"I wish someone had told me more clearly that the dress is more business casual than "missionary" dress."
You will learn to carry this everywhere!
 Nalgene water bottle (bigger better than smaller)

Five-subject Notebook

More than one pair of nice sandals

V-neck t-shirts (one white, one black, one gray, one brown, one pink). These things are the items of clothing I'm so thankful I brought.

Battery powered alarm clock.  This little gem has saved me many mornings!  It's been much more helpful than my phone just because I charge it every night and I can't keep it close to my bed.

My fingernail clippers/polish (your fingernails will never be as clean as you'd like them and nail polish is a great way to cover it up. Plus it's a great thing to do with some of your Ugandan girlfriends. They love it!)

My ukulele. If you play any small instruments they really come in handy. It was a friend magnet first of all. And secondly it allowed me some good worship time and helped me to get some good alone time in with Jesus.

Chacos - It can be any sturdy sandal really. I just like having a pair of shoes that I know can survive anything. They're comfortable and I could walk in them all day. They can get wet and muddy and all that good stuff and still feel great. 

A light wrap - good for wearing around
your home or dorm
Light blanket/wrap - if you don't have one of these, you can buy one in Uganda!  These have many different uses - towel, blanket, wrap...etc.

I'm happy I didn't bring a whole semesters worth of doxycycline (You can easily buy it in Uganda for a lot less money...but be sure to start your pills before you come and at least bring a months worth!)

School supplies (pens, pencils, notebook...etc)

All the underwear that you own =)

Wet wipes


Cardigans (1 neutral and 1 color)

Cross body bag/purse

Maxi skirt (bring 2 if you can, or one maxi and one mid-calve)

"Don't worry about a thing. You are prepared and equipped for everything, and have an inexhaustible amount of resources at your fingertips when you arrive in Uganda."

*all photos by Joanna Benner

Friday, 28 November 2014

Cross Cultural Practicum: Andrea Bouwense

Andrea Bouwense is one of our current on-campus students enrolled in the 
Cross Cultural Practicum Class:

Andrea Bouwense
As a nonprofit administration major from Cornerstone University, I have benefitted from and learned an immense amount by doing a cross-cultural practicum in Uganda through the Uganda Studies Program. I am doing my practicum at an organization called Empower and Care Organization (EACO), which is a grassroots, Ugandan-founded and run community-based organization near Uganda Christian University.  EACO focuses on the areas of empowering community members through income generating activities, water and sanitation solutions, and HIV/AIDS patient care.  My roles there include overseeing and communicating with online volunteers, writing and editing grant proposals, and assisting on visits and assessments in the communities we work in.

Recently, I sat down with my supervisor, Shadrak Kyobe, who is also the founder of the Empower and Care Organization for my midterm interview.  The following is an excerpt from my interview with him:

The idea of founding EACO began in 2004, but the inspiration had begun long before. Shadrak grew up in a very poor village where he noticed how hard life was for women and children. This led him to believe that everyone deserves equal opportunities and the ability to enjoy life. He shared how he was inspired and supported by his family and some close friends. After a couple years of dreaming and planning, EACO was founded as a community based organization in 2006.
            EACO started by implementing programs such as Vocational and Life Skills Training for vulnerable women and grandmothers raising children. Another program EACO began was Restoring Hope for the Marginalized which also works with grandmothers and orphans through programs such as providing healthy lunches for orphans and other vulnerable children at school. Lastly, they also focused on the area of sexual/reproductive health by providing outreach and guidance and counseling in areas of HIV/AIDS, family planning, STIs, and life skills planning. In 2011, EACO added a Water and Sanitation program to provide latrines and clean water to improve lives. In the last several years, EACO has expanded many of these programs by adding many new projects to each of them as they see new needs and are provided with funds. They have also expanded these programs into many new villages. Today, EACO works alongside seventy-five communities in Mukono and part of Buikwe districts. Within each of those communities there are three to six villages they work with.
            EACO employs seven staff members, four full-time and three part-time. These positions are program director, chairperson, project coordinator, accountant, trainer/counselor, secretary, and field officer. I asked Shadrak what aspect he found to be the most difficult in running the organization. He shared how difficult it can be to sustain the staff while also using money to mobilize the resources in order to maintain operational. Most of the staff wants to be paid a high wage, yet there is very little money donated toward administration costs. Over 90% of the donor money is required to be used on specific projects in order to please the donor. This is a challenge that I believe most NGOs face both here as well as in the States. I predict this will always be a struggle because unless the donor money is going directly to implementing projects and helping communities, they feel it is not being used well. In reality, as Shadrak also said if the NGO does not have sufficient skills from the employees, then donors will be less inclined to give.
            Many of the things that were shared in the interview I already picked up on over the course of the last six weeks, but I still find it incredibly interesting to learn about how one man’s ideas have been blessed and expanded to positively impact the lives of hundreds of Ugandans. Comparing and contrasting my understanding of American based nonprofits and what I am witnessing with this grassroots community based organization in such a different culture and context has been enriching in the sense that I can see that there is more than one way to be effective. I have loved learning about the various programs that EACO is implementing in different communities. I admire how they see a need and create a program to fit that community. They truly are an organization for the people of the surrounding communities implemented by the people.

            I was not planning on doing my practicum this semester, but when I found out about the variety of unique organizations that they partner with I could not pass up the opportunity.  It has been such a blessing and an amazing experience to be able to work with a Ugandan organization. I have not only learned about the different aspects of nonprofit management, but also about culture and my own interests and skills. I have been able to begin to develop skills in researching and surveying community needs, as well as grant proposal writing. These skills are useful not only in a Ugandan context but also in the communities that I will return to in America and in my career in the future. I would highly recommend doing a cross-cultural practicum to any future USP student.

Andrea near the bee hives in one of the communities - this is one of
EACO's income generating projects.  

Friday, 7 November 2014

Mujuni Vincent: Celebrating 10 years!

Our beloved USP driver, Vincent Mujuni was hired 10 years ago.
Here is a look back at Vincent's time with us through the years
with all that we are thankful for...

Thanks for all of the miles and miles of safe driving...

I still remember the day he interviewed for the position and he drove Mercy Kamara (the campus mechanic) and me (the USP director) into Kampala. At one place, there was confusing sign and Mercy told him he could turn right. Vincent thought it was a test and refused. Mercy assured him it was not a test and told him he could go that way. After a couple of exchanges Vincent did not turn right and went the long way around, demonstrating from the beginning a strong determination to do what he thinks is right regardless of the consequences. ~ Mark Bartels

Vincent driving while we all sleep!

Thanks for actively participating in all things USP...

Rwanda community service project
Santa Clause
Rocking it in pink...

Thanks for your deep care and concern for students... 

Thanks for all the laughter!

Thanks for your friendship...


Staff visiting Vincent's home in Rukungiri

Rural Homestays with staff in Serere
Staff dinner in Rwanda
Vincent with a motley crew of PA's and others

Thanks for your dedication and hard work...

Here's to another 10 years!