Mustang Consulting in Uganda

During Spring Break 2010, students and faculty are volunteering in Uganda with the Ugandan American Partnership Organization (UAPO), a nonprofit founded by SMU graduate Brittany Merrill ’07 that supports women and children in their communities.

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The beginning of our journey’s end

An update from Carolyn, a senior CCPA major; Whitney, a senior CCPA major, with minors in business and Spanish; and Stephanie, a senior majoring in CCPA and psychology:

As we write this we are currently sitting in the Entebbe Airport in Kampala, Uganda, awaiting our flight to “London Town.” We have a lot of time on our hands so we are using it to reflect on our trip.

Uganda1.JPG On our last full day in Jinja we traveled to the Buwala Village one last time. We first visited the home of Paul and Rose (the proud owners of UAPO’s first project, the Buwala Orphanage, home to 21 orphans). After meeting up with Paul, he walked us down the road to both the local schools. At the schools we helped the children with their English and passed out writing books and pencils supplied by Dr. Dixon and Dr. McPhail.

It was amazing to see how excited these kids were over a simple pad of paper and a pencil. Upon giving them the supplies, Dr. Dixon made them promise that they would always do their best. Seeing the kids’ excitement over mere school supplies was a humbling experience. The fact that they were so happy and eager to learn is a reminder of the value of education not only in America but also in small African villages.

Uganda2.JPG Before we left the village we also had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with some of the Ugandan women who are members of the Akola Project. We met with them in order to hear more about their stories and understand the impact the Akola Project has had on their lives. We were surprised to learn that they use their extra money from necklace sales to buy salt, soap and school fees for their children. The things we consider necessities are luxuries to these hard-working women.

The fact that we were able to meet with these women in their own homes proves the genuine trust and relationships that UAPO has developed in the past 5 years. As we made our final departure from the village, we left with a better appreciation for the work UAPO is doing and the impact it has on the lives of these women. The stories we witnessed will resonate with us long after we leave Uganda.

For our last dinner we traveled to Bujugali Falls to watch the sunset over the Nile River and eat a traditional Ugandan meal. We had the pleasure of dining at Mama Joyce’s Fine African Cuisine. As it turned out, Mama Joyce’s was a one-table hut lighted by only a few lanterns. The dinner was served family-style by Mama Joyce’s adorable, hard-working children. We feasted on rice, cabbage, greens, “chips” (French fries), beans, sweet potatoes, chicken, maize, and “matoke” (mashed banana – a Ugandan favorite!). For entertainment, the local children serenaded us with some traditional African songs. While some of us were skeptical at first, the dinner turned out to be quite delightful.

Friday we woke up with heavy hearts since it was our last day in Uganda. We started the day with a yummy breakfast at The Source Cafe, followed by some last-minute shopping in Jinja. We boarded the bus for Kampala and had the opportunity to feel the equatorial shift one last time. Upon our arrival in Kampala, we ate a quick bite at a different Hotel Triangle and had 50 minutes to “power shop.” After power shopping, we had some time to shower and prepare for our 24-hour-long trip home.

During our bus ride we have had a chance to reflect on the trip and re-evaluate our future endeavors. As seniors we are most grateful for this experience because it reminds us that there are many things we want to accomplish upon leaving SMU and entering the “real world.” We will always remember our experiences in Uganda, the friends we’ve made, and the difference we can all make in the world.

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