Student Leadership Initiative, Africa

Seven members of SMU’s recently formed Student Leadership Initiative (SLI) are in Rwanda, Uganda and Johannesburg during May 2012. The students are researching human rights issues and empowerment solutions for three African countries recovering from decades of genocide, war, famine, disease and apartheid. Pat Davis, associate director of the Embrey Human Rights Program, is accompanying them on the program.

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Uganda: City life

An update from Katie, a sophomore majoring in dance, international studies and human rights:

Today was a nice transition into Uganda. We got to meet up with Frank (CEO of Empower African Children, the non-profit we will be partnering with here in Uganda) and his wife Linda for a lovely breakfast this morning at the ARA (American Recreation Association) where we are staying. I was slightly cranky and cramping – ugh! – but in high spirits, nonetheless. Michael forgot to change his clock since Kampala is an hour ahead of Kigali so I had to wake him up!

I’m so glad Frank and Linda are here with us, they’re both such sweethearts, completely committed to changing kids’ lives and fully capable of doing so. Linda told us about a church group she’s leading to the Holy Land this Christmas break and said Michael and I were more than welcome to join! I’d so love to go…. Already planning my next adventure….

Amon took us around Kampala, and you could so tell this place is his home. We went to the National Museum – very informative, but not the most exciting place in the world….

But then – LUNCH! Oh my gosh it was incredible. We requested authentic Ugandan food from Amon, and he gave us exactly that. We all got a bowl of broth with half a fish in it, bones, skin, and all. Then we got a plate full of interesting local things – pumpkin, a certain kind of banana, cassava, and other yummy things. I tried banana juice – a very strong and incredibly sweet syrup-like drink…seemed like it should go more in the category with caramel than with juice. The passion fruit juice was a bit tart and the cocktail juice – watermelon, carrot, and other things – was refreshing. We also had bowls of purple millet; you pull some off with your fingers, roll it into a ball like dough, press your thumb in to make a mini bowl, dip it in the fish broth, then eat the whole thing! I can’t even describe the taste!

We walked around the corner (for our digestion, according to Amon) and spent some time at the craft market! I bought tons of great handmade bracelets for all my girlfriends (and for super cheap!)

Kampala is quite different from Kigali. I picked up a habit early on of writing down every interesting sign and billboard I saw while driving. Some are incredibly thought-provoking and others quite absurd. Please enjoy:

  • Coca-Cola advertisement (the only American brand I saw advertised in Uganda): “Open Happiness – A Billion Reasons to Believe in Africa”
  • “Beating my wife destroyed my marriage. Don’t do what I did.” – True Manhood, USAID
  • Newspaper headline: “Educated Women Cheat Most”
  • “Save the children in Uganda!”
  • Gallery and craft shop: “Support the women in Uganda”
  • “Democratic Governments thrive on openness” – Human Rights Uganda, ActionAid
  • “Who are you really sleeping with? Get off the sexual network, get tested for HIV, start a new life” (numerous billboards picturing embracing couples)
  • Gaddafi National Mosque – built by Idi Amin and finished by Muammar Gaddafi…
  • “Is this a fair fight? Choose not to use violence.” (Picture of  husband and wife slapping each other)
  • “La Butchery: Goat’s Meat, Ox Liver, Kidney”
  • “New Obama” – Sudanese Restaurant
  • “Obama’s Kabalagala” – another restaurant
  • “For Democracy, Reject Ignorance” ; “Listen, Analyse, Choose” ; “We are all Ugandans – Voting should not divide us” – political statements painted boldly on fences
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