Intern Update: First Impressions

by Mary Maxton Fowler, July 14, 2017

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These first two days have already shown me so much about this beautiful place and it’s beautiful people. Kevin- the best mom in Uganda- is providing her wonderful home for us to stay in and the views for the sunset are out of this world. We are completely immersed in the culture here as we went to the markets to buy local fruits and vegetables, made a visit to the salon (which I never thought I would say in Africa), drove around town ourselves, and even visited the local bar BJ’z for trivia night.

I love how crazy this all seems to some of my friends in America, but yet it feels so normal for me now that I am here. At the same time, seeing how this part of the world lives makes me rethink how I live. I pay over $20 for a few meals worth of vegetables in America, while here we paid $6 for the same amount. I never think twice about flushing the toilet in America, while here it is not flushed every time. I drink water from any sink in America, while here we are only drinking bottled water. In America, I think less about the important topics, while I think more about them here in Uganda.

Along with immersing ourselves in the culture, we also immersed ourselves into planning ahead for the work needed. The previous interns that were here taught the kids awesome lessons on basic computer skills, menstrual health, loyalty, kindness, and bravery. We plan to continue that lesson on important character traits starting this weekend.

As we continue to plan out what activities we will do with the kids these next few weekends, we also assessed the needs needed elsewhere in the community. One of these critical needs is the refugee settlements in Uganda, as Uganda is home to the biggest one in the world. Since so many Sudanese refugees are fleeing conflict in their own country, Gulu is being flooded with them. This is such a current, important issue that we have decided to dedicate some of our time here to seeing how we can deliver menstrual health education and other education to these refugees at the entry points of nearby resettlement camps.

I am so excited that we are going outside the borders of the classroom in every type of way these next few weeks. I am so excited that I came here with somewhat of a plan and it is completely changing to fulfill the needs of the community. I am so excited to have come back to Africa. I am so excited to have come to know HCU. Most of all, I am so excited to have come to make a difference in this beautiful community of Gulu.

After working in Tanzania last summer, I’d hoped I’d be writing about new adventures in Africa someday- but I wasn’t quite sure the day would actually come-but here I am back in Africa, in a different country, writing about my Ugandan experience thus far.

My trip started off a little rocky, feeling sick with some rough travels. Even though I was returning to a place I loved so much, I was still as anxious as ever- that anxiety stripped away when I awoke the next morning in Entebbe overhearing the lyrics, “rise and shine and give God the glory glory” play at the building next door.

It was a piece of home and a reminder that I have a home here too.

We started the day with Entebbe by morning and Gulu by night. Traveling through Entebbe had me mind-blown by how many people are living there; I’ve never seen anything like it. Cars, motorcycles, bikes, and people cover every inch of the ground.

While we waited at the airport for Jamie’s plane to arrive, I got talking to Kevin about how HCU came to be. While many people have inspired me through my volunteer experiences, Kevin, Jamie, and Ella are truly an inspiration I have come to know. It all started when Jamie and Ella interned in Gulu a few years ago and noticed that there was much more to be done here. There were no existing extracurricular education programs and so that is where they decided to fill the gap with HCU: a program that would focus on literacy, technology, and arts education, but most of all fulfilling the community’s needs. Originally, this was through their Youth Literacy Program, which provides weekend and after-school classes to 77 local children in Gulu. The recent addition of the Girl Power Gulu program teaches menstrual education to girls and women in the community.

Hearing Kevin’s passion as she talked about this nonprofit organization already had me hooked. Not only does Kevin work with HCU, but she also has two other jobs as a social worker and as a mother of two. She is God sent. Seeing these three women from all different parts of the world come together to create such a needed foundation for this community is unbelievable to see firsthand. I’m so lucky to be a small part of it.

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