ASU students improve community resources in south Uganda
The GlobeMed club at ASU is working to improve water and sanitation infrastructure in east Africa, proving that positive impact made by undergraduates can be as far-reaching as it is heartfelt.
GlobeMed at ASU, which is one branch of a more expansive network of GlobeMed clubs across the country, works with a local partner organization to improve the lives of community members in Lyantonde, Uganda.
Anna Simperova, club co-president and biological sciences senior, said she joined the club more than three years ago because she identified with GlobeMed's mission to help families in need. She said being involved in the club has strengthened her passion for children and medicine.
“Through (GlobeMed at ASU), my eyes have been opened to the types of health disparities children face around the world,” she said in an email. “Children are the first to suffer when their basic needs, such as food and water, are unmet.”
Simperova said Lyantonde’s extreme poverty and underdevelopment made humanitarian aid necessary in order to maintain the wellbeing of children and families in the community.
Lyantonde has many child-headed households, high incidence of HIV/AIDS, poor water sources, lack of sanitation and high child mortality rates, but Simperova said GlobeMed at ASU hopes to alleviate some of these issues with the help of its non-profit partner in Uganda, the ICOD Action Network.
GlobeMed members at ASU help the ICOD Action Network to build homes, pit latrines and water tanks by providing money collected through fundraising half a world away, here in Arizona.
Since the GlobeMed club was founded at ASU in 2012, members have solicited money from private donors and corporations and has held events like car washes in order to meet fundraising goals.
This year’s fundraising goal is just over $14,000. Members have been disposing of dorm room trash in exchange for donations as part of their latest effort to meet that goal.
They are also organizing a silent auction that will take place in November.
“We are very proud of our work thus far, but there is such a need in this community for proper housing and sanitation units, and we are incrementally working towards eliminating this need,” Simperova said.
GlobeMed at ASU is making a difference outside of Uganda as well, because the club has had a very positive impact on its members, Simperova said.
“The greatest impact in members is the knowledge that they are playing an active role in improving the health of someone in need,” she said. “It is empowering to know that undergraduate students can take such a project into their own hands and work on very concrete, tangible goals.”
She said as an undergraduate student it is easy to underestimate one’s value as a change-maker, but this self-doubt is not warranted. This is proven year after year when club members are chosen to participate in an internship with the ICOD Action Network in Uganda.
Internships in Uganda
Global studies and creative writing junior Sophia McGovern was the GlobeMed intern selected to go to Uganda in the summer of 2014, and she spent 4.5 weeks in Uganda living with the founder of the ICOD Action Network and his family.
“It’s just a completely different world,” she said. “I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t a completely different planet, because everything was just so colorful, and everything that I had known about living — how to do anything, like how to wash dishes, like how to clean my clothes — didn’t apply in Uganda.”
She said it was a life-changing experience that gave her a new perspective on the luxuries of life in the U.S., and she said it was extremely satisfying to be able to meet the people that GlobeMed at ASU has helped so far.
McGovern said meeting Harriet Mukazi, who has been a beneficiary of GlobeMed at ASU since 2013, was a particularly awe-inspiring experience.
Mukazi is a single mother of three children. Her husband died of AIDS while she was pregnant with their fourth child, who died shortly after birth.
GlobeMed at ASU, in partnership with ICOD Action Network, built her and her family a home, a pit latrine and a water tank. She was also the first beneficiary of the club’s new microloan program.
Through this new program, the GlobeMed club at ASU lent Mukazi just over $100, which she will use to build a potato farm. The income generated by the potato farm will be enough to help Mukazi become financially independent, and she is expected to repay the loan in full in less than 10 months.
Although McGovern said it was “amazing” to see the club’s work in action, she said the hardest part of her time in Uganda was seeing the people the club was not able to help.
“It rained a lot while I was there, so I would see families repairing their (mud) houses, or see them going miles to collect water,” she said. “Knowing that there were so many other families that needed help was the most difficult part.”
But after returning to the U.S. from Uganda, McGovern said sharing her experiences and the photos she took with her fellow club members was overall a fun experience.
“It was amazing,” she said. “It was like everyone was inspired all over again, and everyone felt a really strong connection to what we’re doing. As a result, our club is the strongest it’s ever been.”
Megan Atencia, a global heath junior and co-president of ASU’s GlobeMed chapter, said the club’s accomplishments would have been impossible without hard work of all its members.
“It’s really cool, the dynamic we have in our group,” she said. “It’s amazing, the ideas that we’re able to accomplish and the productive discussions that we are able to have.”
Atencia said the club looks forward to hearing from members every year, like McGovern, who spent the summer interning in Uganda.
“It’s really wonderful to be reminded that all the fundraising work that we do, and all the nitty gritty logistics work we do to make events happen — It’s having a tangible impact on someone’s life,” she said. “We’re giving someone in the world so much hope.”
Reach the reporter at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @megannphillips