26th June, 2016
Every morning, a lurid purple trickles and drops into a pool on the horizon. As the red-hot African sun peaks its deadly eyes above the distant mountains of Masaka, Uganda, Northeastern’s GROW team starts another day working with Kitovu Mobile LTD. Masaka—a city where every sidewalk is a forgotten quarry weighing down sheets of napping dust with scattered slabs—has been our home. Masaka has welcomed us with its industrial arms of ecru concrete and milling Friday street markets. For seven long years, our fruitful partnership twisted and knotted the lives of gallant students and an organization wading through Uganda’s lakes of HIV, water sanitation, and economic issues. Our GROW Team, four personalities that bring new meaning to Zen and equilibrium, could not be more ecstatic to work here.
Disregarding the shallow hope of crossing off “See a wild lion” from his bucket list, Shawn was most excited to experience a new culture, a new country, and a new world. There’s so much to learn from how others live, and the personal and professional development he would stumble upon in Africa became the driving force behind the decision to go.
His goal has been tying the strings between our partner and an otherwise disconnected chapter at home in Boston. GROW, our partner, and their work have always held a translucent veil of mystery about them, leaving members to guess on the details of what’s beyond it. The hardworking members of GlobeMed at Northeastern deserve full transparency on the spoils of their dedication, which pounds his fingers on his blog’s keyboard and charges his camera’s battery, eager to accurately capture the experience. With four years left as a Behavioral Neuroscience major, Shawn is preparing to make a career out of tightly linking his chapter and his partner.
Kelly Eng’s self-prescribed but honest seniority—in both GlobeMed at Northeastern and GROW—has made her trip to Uganda only natural. Graduating in 2018 with a B.S. in Health Science, Kelly has committed three busy years to GlobeMed and our partner, Kitovu. Having climbed from Campaigns Coordinator to Co-President, she has seen—from a distance—the partnership grow and make a difference at Kitovu. At last, Kelly wants to personally and intimately witness the tangibility and validation of her three years of incontestable efforts.
Having heard from waves of past GROW interns the tales and intrigue of Kitovu’s staff and projects, as if mythical creatures, Kelly has been aching to finally meet them. Kelly was excited to see the physical wells for which all her past basketball tournaments and ugly Christmas sweater sales have fundraised.
Kelly’s dedication, commitment, and genuine love for every aspect of our partnership refuses to cease the moment we leave Uganda. Kelly wants every member of GlobeMed at Northeastern to share the same connection that she does by being here, to share the same passion for improving global health, and to share the same support of a worthy cause. Through daily vlogs, spotlight interviews of Kitovu staff, and footage of everything else we’re doing, she aims to physically and literally bring GROW back. Through this, she hopes every member of our club will not see, but taste the sun-soaked fruits of our labor and feel the earnest gratitude from the lives we’re changing.
Emily Muri, a rising second-year Health Science major, chose to follow the wide footsteps of her older sister, who had previously visited Uganda, but sprints and stomps out of the shadow and into her own unique experiences. She was looking forward to deconstructing her perception of African communities and committing her entire being towards helping them. Recognizing her potential to relate, communicate, and make a difference, Emily wanted to devote her energy to making an impact on herself by making a bigger impact on others.
This communication and relation is exactly what Emily looked forward to most. Every opportunity to play with a child or meet a new family she seizes and takes that connection to her heart. Every childhood story she hears or wedding album she looks through, she does so with a smile on her face, eager to learn more.
Emily’s motivation to join the GROW team and enthusiasm for the experiences has been her goals and her successes. Quite simply put but complexly done, Emily hoped to help. She hoped to better the lives while here and advocate for them at home. Whether it be through physically constructing a well or giving them a voice to boom through the global community, Emily wants to see an impact. She wants to improve the lives of all the children she’s heard about growing up and the married couples she’s seen captured in their finest moments. Emily insists, one way or another, she’s coming back.
Eddy Lee, making his third visit to East Africa, seeks professional development necessary to achieving his high ambitions. Through experiencing the lifestyle and understanding the people, Eddy will build a well-rounded character on GROW. This reason, alongside his personal connection to the region, motivated him to join the GROW internship. International experience is necessary for physicians. Medicine has no borders, and sickness has no borders. Eddy’s efforts to serve the communities he is passionate about in a humble way will aid his goals of becoming a doctor. As a student double majoring in Biology and Psychology, he stands out among the sea of health science majors GlobeMed at Northeastern, which has been flooded. However, he still hopes to represent GlobeMed and its principles, empowering those who need to be empowered, and providing sustainable development. In every way, Eddy is a personification of GlobeMed’s efforts to leave an impact on a global community.
What excited Eddy was most about GROW was the people—both our team and the people we’d meet here. He was attracted to the idea of traveling in a group of four, working together, playing together, and living together. His enthusiasm has shown through his vibrant personality, awarding him with the widest smile of any of us and the most positive attitude.
The community here—resourceful, grateful, and family-oriented—has been Eddy’s model mindset. He wants to keep his travels and his experiences a part of his life through learning from the culture and working with the people that embody it. Eddy’s goals, both within and outside GROW, are to become someone who’s well rounded enough to relate with people around the globe, in culture or mindset, and to create a common ground with the people he interacts with. Humanity is universal. Borders, race, religions, genders—all social constructs—do not define our ability to interact and form relationships. Eddy hopes to deconstruct societal barriers and communicate to our fullest, infinite potential. Eddy’s first step has been absorbing, listening, and learning. When the time comes to say goodbye to our home below the equator, Eddy will have a new outlook on family, hardships, and resiliency. He will learn, he will improve, and he will grow.
As a team, we’ve scored five goals in the local soccer game, been the midnight snack of countless anopheles mosquitos, and eaten 50 Nature Valley bars by the time we’ve watched our 14th Masaka sunset. Despite our differences, our shared eagerness to help has shaken and stirred into a cocktail of cooperation, triumphing every small dispute and quarrel among us. Eddy’s intelligent mention of “resiliency” when I asked him the team bio questions strummed the strings of my heart, because that’s precisely what I think makes our team a team. Life subtracted of the comforts of the Western world—such as tap water you can drink, bugs that don’t give you malaria, or washing machines—can stir the good and bad within people and sap positivity from even the most optimistic people. Resiliency is a depleting resource and every member of our team has been ready to kiss the infected, homesick sands of rock bottom. The time will come—when our hungriest member is too sick to eat and all our clothes have been soaked in a flash flood, 80 km from home-base—that one would doubt ourselves. But, my band of unstoppable forces meeting immovable object, never fails to laugh about our sorry, self-inflected failures and dance through the puddles of a new continent. Masaka, and Uganda, despite its absence of clouds in the sky and overwhelming presence of dust clouds on the ground, makes every moment a happy memory. Though we have barely stepped foot beyond the border of the dense and nameless forest beyond, the footprints we leave will be eternalized as every failure we endure, every triumph we make, and every difference we become.