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Twelve University of Tennessee students are going to Uganda this summer as part of the newly launched Gulu Study and Service Abroad Program (GSSAP), an offshoot of the Jazz for Justice Project. Students will be volunteering in Uganda from July 8 to August 12.
On arrival, students will tour Entebbe, near Lake Victoria, and Kampala, the capital; visit historic sites such as the Ugandan Parliament; and meet with faculty and staff at Makerere University. They will then proceed to Gulu in northern Uganda, where they will be based for a month. The students will have several days of classes at Gulu University, with lectures from academics and staff from humanitarian and human-rights agencies.
"The students will learn about the history and present-day context of this war-affected area," said Rosalind Hackett, one of the GSSAP coordinators. "They will serve for three weeks as interns in local organizations working on peace-building and social reconstruction. The internship is tailored to their individual academic and professional interests."
Erika Johnson of Victoria, British Columbia, a junior in honors biochemistry, cellular, and molecular biology, wants to become a surgeon and volunteer for Doctors Without Borders or a similar organization. Going to Uganda will give her the opportunity to explore the role of medicine in another culture and setting and to better understand the larger holistic setting of healthcare locally and abroad.
"I want to understand the context of the conflict, the culture of the people, and the successes and shortcomings of the medical system," Johnson said, adding that she thinks the work she does will enable her to "give something back in exchange for the valuable learning opportunity."
Johnson said she hopes to be flexible, offer an open mind and a willingness to expand her current skill set and apply these skills in new contexts, especially in sports and medicine.
Daniel Richards of Cookeville, a senior in global studies, said he wanted to get involved with the program after hearing from students and professors who have worked in Uganda.
"I am hoping to learn whatever I will ultimately learn by approaching this experience with an open mind," Richards said. "That being said, I would like to learn how people remain hopeful and resilient in the wake of hardships and suffering."
Richards hopes to gain a deeper understanding of Ugandans and how they are navigating the lingering effects of violence and conflict, to learn more about himself and his relative privilege and status, to serve the Ugandan people, and to develop a tendency towards cultural sensitivity.
"I hope that I can bring a sense of humor, a willingness to learn and to serve, an intellectual hunger and cultural curiosity, and an ability to relate, empathize, and listen to others," Richards said.
David Burman, born in Toronto, Ontario, and a senior in religious studies, decided to get involved with the GSSAP because it provides a more unique set of opportunities than other study abroad programs. He's looking forward to the opportunity to intern with a Ugandan interfaith organization (the Acholi Religious Leaders Peace Initiative), study the dynamics behind the recently ended civil war in Northern Uganda and the peace-building process that has followed, and visit a Pentecostal church in Kampala.
"Since I don't yet know what the experience will be like, or what tasks I'll be doing on my internship, my main goal in this program is to show up and participate," Burman said. "That's the best way to learn, I think."
Burman hopes to bring to the table a willingness to listen and a curiosity to learn.
Elliot Bertasi of Memphis, a junior in the College Scholars program, hopes to be a source of optimism for Ugandan people and take that learned knowledge and perspective back to America, where he can pass it along to others.
"I want to study and learn as much as possible, and to give my service in any way I can to wherever it is needed," Bertasi said.
Students will receive six credit hours for two courses, Anthropology 491 and Religious Studies 492.
The students will keep a blog while in Uganda. To read it, go to http://gssap.blogspot.com/.