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Summer 2010 - High School Interns

Walt Whitman High School Interns with WMI Borrowers in Buyobo, Uganda

Fabulous! There is no other word to describe the nearly three week long internship that fourteen Walt Whitman High School students from Bethesda, MD undertook in Uganda this summer. Spending a week in Buyobo setting up an Internet Café and training students and borrowers alike to use the laptops donated by Discovery Communications in Silver Spring, MD, the interns became a part of village-life. Like magnets they drew crowds of small children wherever they went to carry out their myriad service projects including: assisting in the construction of a foundation for a new block of school rooms, teaching in the primary school, tutoring in the after-school English program, reading in the library program, planting trees and shrubs around the WMI building. The entire village of Buyobo was proud to host the interns and Olive Wolimbwa, WMI's Local Director in Uganda tried to sum up the experience:


Our sincerest greetings to you. On behalf of Bulambuli Widows Association, Buyobo P/S, Local Council of Buyobo community and on my own behalf, I wish to express my most sincere appreciation and gratitude for the visit of the Walt Whitman students.

To the parents of these children: thank you for allowing and facilitating your child to come to Buyobo. We are very much ware that this involved a lot of sacrifice in terms of money and time but we are grateful that your sacrifice has left a permanent impact in the lives of the people of Buyobo.

While with us your child did the following:

  1. Helped in the construction of the foundation of a three classroom block at Buyobo P/S. for which foundation they had assisted in raising money.
  2. Trained computer skills to the WMI members, school children and the community.
  3. Connected wireless internet on the computers.
  4. Taught in different classes at Buyobo P/S.
  5. Taught pupils of the library class.
  6. Planted flowers around the WMI office
  7. Visited businesses of WMI members, their homes and local markets.
  8. Freely interacted with the teachers, pupils and the community to the extent of taking part in our traditional dance (local drums/kadodi).
  9. Visited Buyobo millennium clinic, found there Nurses but their biggest challenge was drugs.

In addition to the above, they had earlier on raised money for teachers' tea of Buyobo P/S for three terms.

To our interns: Caroline, Ben, Madison, Olivia, Ted, Joey, Maggie, Sarah and Sarah, Neil, Alex, Curtis, Nicole and Jessica - we hope we were able to tell you at our Fare Well Speech how much we appreciate your work in Buyobo. You have very big hearts to come all the way to Buyobo to help our community and learn about our life here. You did not know what to expect and yet when you got here you became part of our village and our home and our family. You had enthusiasm for all the work you did. The internet café we dreamed of for years and now it is here. The new classrooms will give our children a clean and safe and quiet place to learn. Our students will not forget the lessons you taught them in school and library classes.

I hope you saw the determination and pride that our women have with running their businesses. We are achieving like we never thought possible. We are spreading our business practices and program to many other villages where women are beginning to succeed like never happened before. This makes our families become a team to make their lives better.

It is much quieter now that you are gone. We miss you. We hope you have taken some part of Buyobo with you because you have left some part of yourself here.

To the Walt Whitman Foundation: We thank you most sincerely for your contribution of $250 to the construction of the classrooms. Your students built the foundation with sturdy hands.

The impact of the intern contribution therefore will remain a permanent landmark in the lives of the people of Buyobo. Thank you, thank you so much again, not also forgetting to thank Robyn the President of WMI, Jim and Laurie the teachers and Montana who behaved freely like a born of Buyobo showing places to her friends and introducing people whom she knew to them.

We look forward to seeing them back again one day.

May God Bless you.

Yours sincerely,
Director WMI
Chairperson Bulambuli Widows Association

In addition to their work in Buyobo, the interns: conducted an educational survey with primary students in Kebale; planted trees at the schools they visited; visited In-Movement, an NGO offering arts programs to orphaned and disadvantaged youth in Kampala; and, toured the special needs school in Mbale run by the Foundation for Development of Needy Communities, the local non-profit that previously received instruments from Whitman students for its Youth Brass Band. With (mostly) good humor, the interns traveled the country from one end to the other, enduring long van rides over pock-marked dirt roads to get to their destinations.

The interns also had the opportunity to learn about Uganda's economy from two experts. They met with Allen Kagina, the Head of the Uganda Revenue Authority, and found out about the startling relationship between collecting tax revenues and a government's ability to provide services to its people. Mrs. Kagina was extremely generous with her time and WMI very much appreciated the chance for the students to hear first-hand about Uganda's economy. Tom Richardson, the IMF Rep to Uganda, and his wife, Christina Iverson, extended their warm hospitality to the students, hosting them for dinner at their home in Kampala.

It wasn't all work! Uganda is home to unique wildlife and biological research institutes. Traveling to the Ruwenzori Mountains the interns went gorilla trekking and all of them witnessed the truly awesome spectacle of the mountain gorilla, one of the planet's rarest wild animals, in its native habitat. On safari through the rugged beauty of Queen Elizabeth National Park they viewed an array of wildlife and had the good fortune to spot a resting leopard. On an island in Lake Victoria they toured the Ngamba Island Chimp Sanctuary, one of the world's only research facilities for injured and trafficked chimpanzees.

The interns are organizing their photographs, videos and thoughts recorded in their journals in order to create a new web page about their experience for the WMI web site. It should be ready in a month. In the meantime, take a look at this short Powerpoint presentation just posted to the web site to get an idea of the terrific contribution these young adults have made to rural communities in Uganda. WMI is grateful for their intrepid spirit, hard-work and enthusiasm! WMI Uganda Trip

This trip would not have been possible without the three terrific chaperones who accompanied the students: Whitman teacher, Laurie Safron, her husband Jim Cannon, and Whitman alum, Montana Stevenson, who recently graduated from UVA. Their inspired leadership and organizational skills kept everyone on track and enjoying themselves while making a huge contribution to the villages they visited.

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