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Students share Ugandan stories

Sarah Swiderski | Tuesday, October 2, 2012

While many Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame students spend a semester abroad in Europe and Australia, six Belles chose a less traditional location for their international studies: Uganda.

These rising senior nursing and education students shared stories, photos and videos of their six-week summer experience in a capstone presentation Monday.

The students stayed with the sisters of the Holy Cross in Kyarusozi, Uganda, and worked with the sisters in rural community’s school and health clinic.

Using the phrasing of a popular Ugandan Coca-Cola advertisement that proclaims there are “a billion reasons to believe in Africa,” the students shared their personal reasons for believing in Uganda.

After working in the Kymbogo Health Center in Kyarusozi, senior nursing student Joy Johnston said she believes in the country’s unique way of life.

“Working with the staff [at the clinic], there was no stress,” Johnston said. “They don’t rush, but they do what they need to do.”

She also described the differences in technology.

“There is no technology. So if someone has an IV, they rely on gravity,” she said.

Senior Cassie Fill, a nursing student, said she believes her time in Uganda changed her initial perception of African lifestyles.

“Contrary to stereotypes … [Ugandans] are healthier than people think,” she said. “As I finished my first day, I realized I had stereotyped them.”

Senior nursing student Genevieve Spittler said “the sheer beauty of the country” and its people was reason enough to believe in Africa, especially when she and the other students had the opportunity to assist in deliveries while working at the clinic.

“To hear a child’s first breath is the most beautiful thing,” Spittler said.

The three education students shared their experiences of working in Moreau Nursery and Primary School, which teaches children from the equivalent of preschool to fourth grade.

Senior Jen Prather, an elementary education major, said the connection she made with people in Uganda and the other Saint Mary’s students defined her abroad experience.

“My reason for believing in Africa is because of our faithful and spiritual bond [with one another],” she said. “We all had formed a new family together and it wasn’t just the six of us.”

Senior Sarah Copi said she shared a similar feeling of community with the children she met.

“They taught me more than I could ever teach them,” she said.

Copi said the hospitality of the Ugandan people meant a great deal to her.

“They taught us generosity. They were always willing to give and share even if they didn’t have a lot,” she said.

Senior elementary education major Nora Quirk said her students displayed a willingness to learn and valued education highly.

“Every day there would be at least ten students who did not want to leave,” she said. “Every child takes an active role in their education.”

Quirk said she wants to bring that same enthusiasm into her future classroom.

“I really want to make sure I instill that value in my students here in the United States,” she said.

In addition to speaking about their experiences, the students sold jewelry and other crafts purchased at Maria’s Shop in Fort Portal, Uganda. The proceeds from these items will support the Kymbogo Health Center and Moreau Nursery and Primary school in Kyarusozi.

The Uganda Summer Program is available to rising seniors majoring in nursing and education. Three students from each major are selected and receive seven academic credits for the program. Interested students can apply online through the Center of Women’s Intercultural Leadership on the Saint Mary’s website.