Monday, 26 September 2016

A Glimpse into USP Practicums

The start of the USP Fall 2016 academic semester is well underway, class schedules are finally finalized and our students are digging into reading, assignments and discussion. We are impressed by this particular group as they come prepared to class each day ready to share their insights on what they read and by their willingness to be challenged by difficult questions of faith and culture.

In addition to their classes, almost all of our USP students are getting involved in the surrounding community through practicums. A huge value of the Uganda Studies Program is to learn experientially and we find practicums to be a very effective way of doing that. Having a practicum allows USP students to learn from Ugandans as they discover more about the culture and the useful ways of working and serving within it.

Anna Persenaire 

Anna Persenaire, one of USP’s eight General Studies Emphasis (GSE) students this semester, has been placed at an organization called Vision for Africa (VfA). This education-based organization provides schooling and skills training for the surrounding community. On the Vision for Africa campus there is a nursery, kindergarten, primary (elementary) school, and a vocational school that trains adult learners who run VfA's hotel, bakery, tailoring shop, and pottery studio. During her semester-long practicum, Anna will primarily be working with the kindergarten students as an extra set of hands in their classroom as she learns about education in a Ugandan context, and herself in the process.

Along with the large amount of work that takes place on the VfA campus, there are also outreach ministries based there. For example, Anna will have the chance to connect more with the surrounding community through the prison ministry they offer. Anna is excited for these opportunities and feels that they line up well with her future plans of working in the community development field through education, business, and economics.

USP driver, John, takes Anna to her practicum at Vision for Africa

Danielle Awabdeh

All Global Health Emphasis (GHE) students participate in practicums as part of their semester. These students were able to visit each of the sites that practicums are currently offered through during the August module. They then applied for the sites they were most interested in interning at based on their background and interest. 

Danielle Awabdeh is interning at Noah’s Ark Ministries, a large organization that serves as an orphanage for abandoned children, a school, and a clinic among other services. She was drawn to Noah’s Ark because its specialization in pediatrics fits with her love of children and vocational aspirations. She was also intrigued by the holistic approach to health that Noah’s Ark takes in response to the children they serve. They are not only a clinic; they provide housing, schooling, and health services to their patients and even have a community outreach program. Danielle has found the staff she’ll be working with to be “sweet” and “very welcoming.” She is looking forward to her semester with them.

Wearing her Global Health scrubs, Danielle is ready for her day at Noah's Ark 

Caleb Strom 

Another one of our General Studies Emphasis students, Caleb Strom, has a unique practicum in that he never has to leave campus to participate! Caleb is conducting his practicum this semester with Uganda Christian University’s International Student English Proficiency class. At UCU, international students spend their first year on campus in a “supplementary year” where they take courses to prepare them for UCU academics. The difference is that all of the classes are taught in English as a way to prepare these students for their upcoming years at UCU, where all classes are taught in English. Caleb will be assisting and facilitating learning for a class of 25 students. As an English major, Caleb is very excited to learn what teaching approaches work best within this international setting.

Caleb at Uganda Christian University

 Kendra Slagter

This semester, the Social Work Emphasis of USP has 4 junior level practicum students. Kendra Slagter is one of these students and she is conducting her practicum at St. Peter’s Child Development Center. Kendra will be helping and learning alongside a team who works with mothers and their children ages 0 – 3. Kendra’s love of children and her passion for vulnerable women makes this Christ-centered organization a good fit for her. The services provided at this site focus on building positive relationships and fostering healthy children with healthy attachments. Kendra is excited to participate in home visits and for the opportunity to learn from her Ugandan coworkers. 

Kendra meets her practicum supervisor, Liz

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Fall 2016 is here!

It has been a busy fall at USP with our new Global Health Emphasis starting up, our new Program Assistants, and a new group of USP students! We are finally settling into our second week of classes here at Uganda Christian University (UCU) and are excited to update you on some of the goings on of the past few weeks!

Global Health, August Modular Course
At the beginning of August, ten students from the United States arrived in Uganda to take part in the Uganda Studies Program’s first ever August modular course for our new Global Health Emphasis! The GHE students spent each morning for three weeks taking an applied statistics course, with Dr. Ray Rosentrator from Westmont College and each afternoon they visited one of the 12 local health centers and organizations that they will be interning at over the course of the semester. 

Global Health Students at the Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services of Uganda (CoRSU)
surgical center in Entebbe

By the third week in August, the rest of the group (the General Studies Emphasis-- GSE and Social Work Emphasis-- SWE students) arrived and joined their peers to make up USP Fall 2016. Cheers to the official start of the semester, and all 22 USP students! 

Students arrive at Entebbe Airport
USP starts immediately with four days of Orientation, giving students the information they need to know to live in Mukono, Uganda and to thrive in USP for the semester.

USP students play cards during orientation week
Rwanda Study Trip
Every semester, USP takes its students to Rwanda to learn about the past, present, and future of this East African Nation. In the fall, this trip-- which takes place prior to the start of the semester, lays a foundation for the questions and conversations of faith and culture that will be explored throughout the rest of the semester.

After several packed days of orientation, all 22 USP students, 10 UCU Honours College students, 6 USP staff members, the one and only Reverend Emmanuel Mukeshimana, and our 3 drivers departed for the intensive 9-day trip.  

Students reading Mirror to the Church on the road trip to Rwanda.
We spent the first weekend as guests of the Kibungo Diocese (Church of Rwanda) in southeastern Rwanda.

All Rwandans participate in community service projects around the country on the last Saturday of every month. Our group participated in one of these Umuganda projects, laying the foundation for a school. 

Henry and Gilbert help move large rocks during Umuganda.

On Sunday, our students split into four smaller groups and participated in local church services. As is customary in these rural church services, visitors are invited to share several worship songs with the congregation, and personal testimonies.

Sunday afternoon we traveled to the capital city, Kigali, and our focus shifted first to learning about and understanding the 1994 genocide that took place and Rwanda, then to visiting several organizations doing reconciliation, development and health care work. We visited several organizations and listened to a variety of speakers, a few of which are highlighted below.

We visited the church memorial at Nyamatta, a site of one of the large-scale massacres of the 1994 genocide. Following the church, we went through the Kigali Genocide Memorial where we learned in greater detail the circumstances and realities that led to the genocide. 

Entering the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
Inema Art Center was our last stop on a particularly emotional day. It provided us with a refreshing glimpse of the hope that exists in Rwanda following such a painful past. Inema is a creative, color-filled hub of energy, beauty and hope. We enjoyed the gallery-- and the beautiful work of a number of local Rwandan artists. We also learned about several of the initiatives these artists are involved in, with their communities through teaching children and other groups how to express themselves and provide for themselves using art, dance and creativity. We also enjoyed the lively traditional Rwandan dances and drumming performed by children in the Inema Dance Troupe. The night ended with the dancers teaching us how to dance! 

USP students and staff join in traditional Rwandan dance.

One of the inspiring organizations we visited was CARSA (Christian Action for Reconciliation and Social Assistance). CARSA works with a number of communities through the long and painful process of reconciliation and rebuilding life together. We were able to meet several of the people that CARSA works with and ask them questions about their journeys of forgiveness and reconciliation with one another.  

Our time in Rwanda was packed and we experienced a wide range of emotions as we reflected on the horror of the past, the beauty of the present, and the hope of the future. An important part of learning comes through debriefing together. After Rwanda, we retreated to the beautiful Bushara Island where we had the chance to discuss, reflect, worship, and enjoy a beautiful space together.

Students and staff take boats on their way to the island for debrief!

USP director, Rachel leads students in a creative debriefing exercise.

Beautiful Bushara Island!

We are thankful for a really good start to our Fall 2016 semester, and are grateful for a group of positive, engaged students. Looking forward to all that is yet to come!