By Chris Cook, Duke Sports Information
When Duke rower Caroline Kiritsy finally left Uganda last summer as part of the DukeEngage program, the village of Kaihura didn't look much different. She didn't help construct a medical center, plant crops or dig a well. She came armed with little more than markers and paper, but during a two-month span made a lasting impact on the lives of nearly 80 orphans who have seen more hardships in their short lifespans than most people can imagine.
"We didn't really have a tangible goal," Kiritsy said. "We weren't building a bridge or constructing a well or anything like that, which at first I found a little challenging because I'm also an engineer and I'm very results-oriented. I like to see the effects of what I'm doing, so that was challenging at first because I didn't feel like I was having a huge impact."
Even now, months removed from her time in Uganda, Kiritsy still can't quantify the impact that she and 14 other Duke students made in the HIV-stricken community of Kaihura, which is about 45 minutes from the city of Fort Portal but worlds away from the electricity and running water that those in the city enjoy. But even though Kiritsy has no numbers to back it up, she has no doubt that she made an impact on the residents of that small village in Kaihura, Uganda.
"I was working with about 30 orphans, many of which have HIV," Kiritsy said. "They don't have a lot to smile about or to be happy about. Just to play with them and see them smile, that was very rewarding in the end."
Below is a message issued by DukeEngage Director Dr. Eric Mlyn Monday (7/12) to parents of DukeEngage students who are serving communities in Uganda this summer. All reports coming in from the field tell us that students are safe, doing well and eager to continue their work in Mbarara (group program) and Mityama (joint independent project). Learn more about the group program efforts here.
We have heard from a few of you with natural concerns about the safety and well being of your students in Uganda taking part in either our group program in Mbarara or pursuing an independent project in Mityama following the pair of bombings that recently struck Kampala yesterday. All of our students are well.
I am writing to let you know that we have been gathering information over the past 18 hours to help us understand the situation and its potential impact on students. We know that some of you have been in contact with your students, so you have assuredly heard that students are fine and in good spirits. We’ve also been in touch with students either directly or through the on-the-ground coordinator in Mbarara. Dr. Alex Cho, program leader for the Mbarara group, has also been apprised of the situation and is prepared to be supportive as needed.
Earlier today, we discussed the situation with Chris Boroski, the director of Duke’s risk management office, who is our primary liaison with International SOS, the organization that provides local security assessments for DukeEngage sites overseas and, when necessary, direct aid to students and staff in the field. We have received no information from ISOS or other Duke staff in Uganda to indicate that students are in danger at this time at their respective service sites.
Because student safety is paramount, we are instituting immediately some limitations on student travel away from their service sites. Specifically, we have directed students and staff not to travel to Kampala and surrounding areas this weekend, including the tourist area of Jinja. Security checkpoints and roadblocks in and around the capitol have been increased, making travel by car potentially uncertain. Additionally, we are asking DukeEngage participants to avoid high profile and tourist areas in the country and will reassess this as we continue to receive additional information.
We will update you as soon as additional security information becomes available.
You may also wish to read the related message recently posted from the Overseas Security Advisory Council: http://www.osac.gov/Reports/report.cfm?contentID=119279
If you have any questions or further concerns, feel free to contact me at email@example.com or 919-668-1724.
Eric Mlyn, Ph.D.