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 Buwala Village

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:

After a great meal by the boys on Women’s Day, we headed to “ATV it up” and got a chance to get a little dirty and tour the rural villages of Uganda from a four-wheeler. It was almost like we were on a parade because the villagers all came to the edge of the road to wave as we flew on by.

On Tuesday, we woke up early to head out to the Buwala Village to spend the day with the women of the Akola Project. As soon as we pulled in, the women greeted us with traditional song and dance. We all can agree that we have never received such a warm welcome in our entire lives.

After the greeting, we introduced ourselves to the women by telling them about our majors and the work we have been doing for UAPO. The best part of the day was having the opportunity to experience the process of paying the women for the necklaces that they made as well as supplying them with paper to make more necklaces. We also got to play with the local children who treated us like celebrities just because we were “mzungus.” After a long day at the village we headed back to enjoy a late dinner with the entire group.

At work in the garden

Wednesday morning we headed back out to the village to help with the farming initiatives and learn more about the women’s stories. Once again we were greeted with the traditional warm Ugandan welcome and had the opportunity to see the Buwala orphanage.

After learning more about the project, we headed over to the new garden site and worked alongside the women as they prepared their garden. This gave us a chance to learn more about their personal story, the hardships they have had to overcome, and the joy the Akola Project has brought to them.

On the way home our bus broke down, but luckily Stephanie had food in her backpack provided by Carolyn’s grandma and various Dallas grocery stores. After getting over the fact we had no cellphone service, the bus driver fixed the problem by pulling a random steel pipe from the engine.

The power of one

After the situation was settled, we headed back to Jinja, where we met up with the UAPO gang for dinner and got to speak with Valence over dinner. Valence has worked hard for everything he has. He had a vision to change Uganda for the better from a very young age. At age 9, he lost his mother, categorizing him as an orphan. He managed to make it through primary and secondary school and then paid his way through university.

At the ripe age of 16, he recognized the need to assist his fellow Ugandans. This led to the start of his nonprofit, Youth Focus African Foundation, which consists of four projects in four separate villages in Uganda. It is truly amazing to speak with these young founders of such important and powerful organizations. It really makes you think about what we all are capable of.

Tomorrow we are looking forward to heading back to the village one last time, to help teach English to Ugandan children at their local school.

(Note on photos: UAPO retains the rights to these images and forbids their use for any other purpose.)

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