Trip to East Africa gives students new perspective

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A view of Kampala, Uganda from a mosque. Halle Thornton | The Scribe
A view of Kampala, Uganda from a mosque.
Halle Thornton | The Scribe
Feb. 8, 2016

Rachel Librach
rlibrach@uccs.edu

Staying in the comfort zone can sometimes hinder us from experiencing the world, but this is not the case for 15 students who traveled to East Africa.

The students and professors visited several areas, including cities in Uganda such as Kampala, Lira and Kabale as well as Rwanda from Jan. 1-16.

Through Global Livingston Institute, the trip’s goal was to take students and community leaders out of their comfort zone and challenge what they know about poverty.

According to the GLI website, their focus is not for students to “fix” Africa but to leave with a better understanding of how they can create innovative solutions to poverty.

Senior communication major Brian Kotzot was a part of the group that traveled to East Africa.

He described the trip as being a real eye-opener into the extreme poverty levels in these East African villages that have been devastated by recent civil wars.

“U.S. people don’t understand the true hardships developing countries go through,” Kotzot said. “This trip was important to see that these people need more than money thrown at them to actually make a difference.”

With no middle class and extreme differences from the wealthy to the impoverished, Kotzot believes that this trip highlighted the cultural and social differences that most people never hear about.

He said he is also working on several projects in support of African citizens.

One of his projects involves collecting used water bottles, Frisbee discs and hacky sacks to donate to children in Uganda. He calls it the Getting Stuff Done in Africa initiative.

“The Frisbee can teach them with knowledge and examples for physics and provide fun and interactive ways to stay involved in their class,” he said.

“The hacky sack teaches kids teamwork and problem solving skills that they lack in an academic environment.”

Schools in Uganda have limited supplies, and children who attend school have a hard time focusing in class, according to Kotzot.

“The schools in Uganda hardly have enough supplies for one student, let alone a class full,” he said.

“Kids there don’t have much of a motivation to attend school or pay attention to their education. By donating water bottles, we can help each kid stay hydrated through the day and stay focused during class.”

Kotzot’s goal is to show people that something common and ordinary in our eyes can make a large difference to kids in developing nations.

Roneisha Frazier, a graduate student in higher education, also went on the trip.

Frazier went on the trip to fulfill a requirement for her major and to witness how the education system works in Africa.

“I wanted to see how the education system was different than ours. Also, me being African-American, I wanted to learn more of the cultural aspect part of it. I am an advisor for black students in BSU and incorporate what I learned there, too,” said Frazier.

The trip allowed students to step outside their comfort zone and witness both the positives and negatives of a foreign place, according to Frazier.

“We went to Rwanda’s genocide museum and it was shocking to see how that war shaped the area. In America we hear about war today and see it on the television, but it is rare to be so close to that history and witness it for yourself,” Frazier said.

For Frazier, the trip also stressed the importance of being proud of where you come from and being grateful for what you have.

“I am so much more patriotic and proud to be an American. I am so grateful to have fresh water, air conditioning, a decent health care system and free education. There really are so many things we take for granted,” she said.

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