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I can’t believe how much I’ve experienced since the last time I was here in the Qatar airport. It still hasn’t hit me yet that I’m headed back home to America, and I won’t have a hearty meal of rice, beans and matoke to look forward to tonight. Uganda Martyrs University (UMU) quickly became my home away from home during my two month stay in Uganda, which is hard to imagine because my first two weeks were far from a “honeymoon” period. Getting used to the Ugandan diet and my cockroach infested dorm room was a struggle. So I started focusing on the joyful parts of each day – the smiling faces of the dining hall staff that greeted me at each meal, the satisfying feeling after a long day of interviews in the field, the stories and realizations shared at dinner amongst my peers. These little things quickly overshadowed my frustrations, and a place that seemed so foreign upon arrival became a place of comfort and belonging.

 

As an Accounting major and Actuarial Science minor, I was nervous when I was given the health internship – going in with an open mind and a desire to learn was my only option. This summer I had the privilege of monitoring a project sponsored by the Verizon foundation and surveying the people of Nnindye Parish about their available health resources. For those of you who are not familiar with this project, its goal is to assess the impact of using SMS messages as a mode of communication between the Nnindye Health Center III and the villagers. Sending weekly SMS messages and seeing the effects first hand was my favorite part of the summer. While everyone else was doing research for the future, I was a part of a project in action, doing research to help it move forward.

 

Pulling away from UMU yesterday was bittersweet. Of course I am excited to go home and see my family, sleep in my mosquito net free bed, and share my experiences with loved ones. But I also feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. One of our fellow Notre Dame colleagues teaching in Uganda handed each student a blank note card on the first day of class, and asked them to write something they wanted her to know about Uganda. One child wrote, “Uganda is not easy.” What a powerful, simple statement. It’s overwhelming to have lived in a place filled with so many unaddressed issues. Where do you begin, and where do you end? Although I feel accomplished in providing research to improve the standard of living in Nnindye Parish, Uganda is filled with places just like Nnindye in need of the same attention. Going home to my comfortable life in America knowing so many people are struggling in Uganda is a difficult realization. All you can do is make the most positive impact you can in the time you are given. A part of me will always be thinking of the people I met and the things I experienced this summer.

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