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!

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