By Abbie Hegarty, '23
I recently traveled to Kalongo, Uganda with my Innovation & Design Thinking course and professor Wendy Angst to prototype businesses to create a self-sustaining revenue model for Saint Bakhita’s Vocational Training Centre. This course and the immersion trip to Uganda were easily some of the biggest highlights in my time at Notre Dame. I feel so blessed to attend a school that creates such accessible opportunities for students to work on real problems that matter.
We had the most amazing trip to Uganda, complete with a sunrise hike of Mount Kalongo and a beautiful safari, but the most rewarding parts of the trip were the relationships we built with each other, the students at Saint Bakhita’s, and the community members who welcomed us eagerly with open arms. I loved seeing Saint Bakhita’s firsthand and interacting with the students and staff in Uganda. The experiential learning component of this course broadened my perspective of the project and helped me think much more creatively about the ways in which we can best support the students of Saint Bakhita’s. Although we completed a generous amount of ethnographic research throughout the semester at Notre Dame, I gained a much deeper understanding of the environment by working with the students at Saint Bakhita’s and interacting with the local community members during our time in Kalongo.
The most impactful part of the trip for me was visiting an elder man’s home to conduct an interview about his family’s interest in Saint Bakhita's future events. While I learned that he was highly receptive to our plans for Saint Bakhita’s involvement in the community, the most valuable insight from our conversation was his candid expression of gratitude at the conclusion of the interview. He shared his best life advice which was to cherish your education, to love and care for your parents, and to continue to do good work like supporting girls’ education in Uganda. He was so appreciative and hoped that we would return to visit him again someday. I know he is thankful for the support of Notre Dame in his community and I am equally thankful for the opportunity to play a small part in this journey. I am thrilled to continue working with the students at Saint Bakhita’s through an Applied Impact Consulting course this semester and I can’t wait to implement our ideas and see our vision for Saint Bakhita’s come to fruition.