After two months and 36 hours of travel, I made it back to the US with a journal full of experiences and half-answered questions. Two months is not even close to enough time to understand life in Uganda and Kenya, but having seen it through the eyes of our friends in AVSI, in Memoriste Domini, and in the Missionaries of San Carlo has made all the difference. I was often overwhelmed by the differences in culture and standards of living, but those who have chosen to start a life there have shared another way of facing even the most complicated circumstances.
During my last week in Africa, I visited the AVSI schools in Nairobi, Kenya. Like the Luigi Giussani Schools in Uganda, these schools want to educate in a way that fosters the freedom of the student, according to their infinite value. As I did in Uganda, I interviewed many teachers and found again the necessity of the relationship between teachers and students. The schools are slowly changing the way students and teachers view themselves and each other.
The schools and other efforts in Uganda and Kenya are incredible and moving, but still I wondered, ‘Why come all the way here? Why answer the needs here? Why not go somewhere “easier”—the needs in inner-city DC are real too!’. Maybe it is simple, but in asking these questions I found that our friends in Uganda did not go there because they wanted to change the world or be adventurous, they went because someone there asked them to and they simply said ‘yes’. This ‘yes’ is visible in those working for AVSI who move their families from Italy, but it is also just as clear in the Ugandans who have become their friends. They have shown me—as they hope to show the students—a kind of freedom that comes from following something that is asked of you. I hope to live and teach with the same ‘yes’. For them it is Africa, for me this year it will be Rockville, MD, but our ‘yes’ in front of our students and in front of life can be the same.
A recent grad from Boston College, I will be spending the next two months in Uganda seeing my studies of education, psychology and human development in action. I am lucky enough to be volunteering with and learning from the community of educators at the Luigi Giussani Institute of Higher Education (LGIHE). My days will consist of everything from classroom observation to educational research to exploring the culture of Uganda (and Kenya for a brief visit!). I would love for you to follow along for what I am sure will be a crazy beautiful summer!