UCCS graduate student travels to Uganda for second time to start nonprofit organization

October 17, 2016

Gabbie Matl

gmatl@uccs.edu

     When you see a need, you should fill it.

     This is a philosophy that UCCS student Brian Kotzot lives by.

     Kotzot, a geographic information science graduate student, left Colorado on Sept. 16 for his second trip to Uganda. Kotzot traveled to Rugando, Uganda to start a non-profit organization, GSD Africa, where he will work with students at Katereza Primary School until Dec. 8.

     Kotzot plans to focus on agriculture, nutrition and education. Strong leaders are needed in Uganda, according to Kotzot.

     Kotzot first went to Uganda in spring 2014 to study abroad. His experience during his first trip and connections with other nonprofit organizations has been beneficial to build his business model for GSD Africa.

     “I would like to leapfrog off of other people. I’m taking in all of the missteps of prior nonprofits,” said Kotzot.

     The youth in Uganda and the nation’s few leaders of civil wars is what influenced him.

     “There is a generation of people who grew up without a good coach, without a good priest (or) without a good teacher,” said Kotzot.

     These observations are what influenced his decision to start GSD Africa.

     “With my background in leadership and communication, as well as in geography and environmental studies, I figured what better thing to do than start a nonprofit, or at least go in that direction?”

     For his second trip, Kotzot said he educated himself about aspects of the community, including gardening and construction.

     Connecting to the citizens and listening to their stories is the most important aspect to Kotzot.

     “One of the biggest things out there with these child soldiers is that they just want to have their story heard.”

     Kotzot is not bringing any supplies with him other than water bottles to hand out since his focus is to foster the economy. Small items like these make a huge impact, said Kotzot.

     “If you go out to places that need such help, that are in such dire need, you can just know how to do a tourniquet, give aspirin when it’s needed and to call out diarrhea and what’s causing it,” said Kotzot.

     Kotzot decided that he wanted to help people by pursuing the military or the Peace Corps once he turned 18.

     Kotzot started travelling during his time in the military, where he had the opportunity to visit Germany and Eastern Europe.

     Kotzot has been saving up to go on this trip, and hopes it will bring attention to the plight of other parts of the world.

     “It’s about reorganizing our priorities. We always go ‘What will make us money? What will make us happy?’ instead of ‘What is the best thing we can be doing,’” said Kotzot.

     “If we find the best thing we can be doing, I believe we’ll find a way to make money and be happy.”