Weber State University Global Education Program Coordinator Julie Rich is confident that the 2018 program for Uganda remains safe despite recent news of political tension in other countries such as Zimbabwe.
“Africa has some definite issues with regards to their political situation. But you have to look at it country by country,” Rich said. “And even when you’re in the particular country that you’re traveling to, there may be locations where there is some danger. The State Department monitors this. Our partners monitor this. We work very closely with them and take into account what the State Department has to say.”
The Global Community Engaged Learning program will be selecting 30 WSU students and alumni for a trip to Uganda in June, 2018.
The Center for Community Engaged Learning has partnered with the Lee Family Foundation and Hope4Kids International and hopes to aid in education, construction and environmental sustainability projects in rural African areas.
Recently in Zimbabwe, the military takeover headed by General Constantino Chiwenga lead to the eventual resignation of the former president of 37 years Robert Mugabe. According to an article by The Independent, Emmerson Mnangagwa was inaugurated into the presidential office on November 24th.
Uganda’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has been in office for 31 years in comparison.
Julie Rich asserts that the program would not be hindered or halted in any way as a result of these occurrences, unless they were otherwise notified by their partners currently operating in Uganda, as they are too far away to have any real impact in the more rural areas of the country.
“We were working in Mozambique last summer, there were some problems in Gorongosa National Park where people were told not to visit. We knew that before we went, the State Department said we would be fine where we were,” Rich said.
Risk management is always a unique challenge for any international program, but can always be manageable in cooperation with other international organizations. And, in the more rural areas, the day to day life of those in Uganda are often unaffected of political crisis in other parts of the continent.
Assistant Director of CCEL Mike Moon also shared these sentiments.
“Perhaps there’s not a travel warning on the website or a foreigner traveling to another location always presents a certain inherent risk. What we do to prepare Weber State Students for the trip is we do a series of pre-trip meetings and talk about safety and potential concerns,” Moon said.
Even though there may always be risks, even in our own country, he believes the experience is always worth the risk or anxiety associated with the trip.
“Students that travel with us to Uganda will learn things you can’t teach in a classroom,” Moon said. “It’s important to be vigilant and be aware of your surroundings, but I always feel safe in the places that we’re going.”