International Immersion in Uganda
“Heads Up Seven Up” taught Curran Kelley ’14 a thing or two about connecting with a group of energetic primary school students in Fort Portal, Uganda. When he tried to introduce the popular guessing game to them, his efforts fell flat. Quick on his feet, he soon had the children dancing and singing the Hokey Pokey with him, a fun moment of cultural exchange.
Curran, a Digital Media Management major, participated in the first St. Edward’s International Immersion trip to Uganda in 2011. International Immersions are summer service opportunities organized by Campus Ministry. Small groups of students spend two weeks in Peru, Canada, India or Uganda, living simply and in community with each other and those they serve.
Uganda is the university’s newest International Immersion, developed in response to student interest in Africa and because of a Holy Cross presence in Uganda. Students are hosted by the Banyatereza Sisters (Sisters of Saint Teresa), a group with strong ties to Holy Cross.
Joining the Sisters in Service
Student participants serve in the numerous centers established by the sisters around their community in Fort Portal, including the school where Curran danced with local students. Last year, the St. Edward’s group also visited the Toro Children’s Home. Students rolled up their sleeves to scrub the bustling orphanage and spent one-on-one time with the children.
“Just seeing the sisters over there doing so much with so little was really amazing,” Curran says. “I came back with more awareness of what we have easy access to here.”
Students also help the sisters at the private hospital they run in Fort Portal, an AIDS clinic and a number of maternal health clinics in the surrounding countryside. In 2012, the students even assisted in the birth of a baby girl.
Connecting to Culture from Within
“Students learn about the culture and the people by working alongside them,” says Liza Manjarrez, assistant director of Campus Ministry, who oversees the International Immersion programs. “It’s a different perspective.”
Manjarrez expects the Uganda program, now in its third year,
to continue growing. This summer, she hopes to promote rural health education through simple things like hand-washing and properly mounting mosquito nets.
“My experience in Uganda shaped my perception of the world and my role in it. I found passion and purpose in the field of education, which inspired my current involvement in Teach For America, ” says Psychology major Jessica Nortman ’12, who teaches at an inner-city school in San Antonio.
Read how students at St. Edward’s put their faith into action »
Learn more about the international experiences available to students at St. Edward’s »