Building a Better Future

Students, community benefit from project to construct health clinic in Uganda

Of the three weeks he spent taking a Drake course in Uganda last summer, one moment stands out in Braeden Stanley’s mind.

The class had just gotten off a bus and was waiting to be escorted to a nearby secondary school. As the students milled outside, music erupted. Suddenly, a marching band paraded over a nearby hill, followed by students and teachers, to greet the school’s first American visitors.

“That was the point on the trip where I almost got emotional,” says Stanley, a sophomore international business and marketing double major from Glen Ellyn, Ill. “The hospitality in Uganda was the best out of anywhere I’ve ever been. They were the nicest, most welcoming people I have ever met.”

The warmth of the Ugandan people inspired Stanley to become a driving force in an undertaking that took root long before he attended Drake.

In 2007, the first group of Drake students went to Uganda on a travel seminar about sustainable development. The trip, led by four Drake faculty members, included an outing to a rural village—childhood home of Jimmy Senteza, associate professor of finance, who was the impetus for the course.

The stop in the village became a regular part of the seminar, and after years of visits to the area, the Drake faculty decided to give back. A health clinic rose to the top of local residents’ needs.

Last year, Drake students developed plans for the health clinic. This year’s group shared them with the residents of Kasawo, the community where the clinic will be built, just a short distance from Senteza’s hometown.

“The whole village came and talked with us about the designs,” Stanley says. “That was the day I fell in love with the project.”

Stanley joined other students to lead the effort. Near the end of the trip, they discussed how to keep momentum once they returned to Drake. Debra Bishop, associate professor of practice in management and international business, worked with colleagues to start a one-credit course, which is regularly attended by 12 students—though frequently more show up to help. Currently, one priority for the group is fundraising.

“Everyone contributes a lot, and it’s awesome what we are able to get done with one weekly meeting and everyone working on their own between classes,” Stanley says.

The students’ ultimate goal is to make the clinic sustainable. To accomplish this, they have partnered with the Shining City Foundation, a nonprofit with the mission to improve the health of underserved populations.

They hope to begin construction on the clinic this year, though Stanley plans to stick with the endeavor until it is fully functional.

“This is something I am very committed to,” Stanley says. “These people welcomed us into their homes and treated us like we were family. I want to give them something to show appreciation for what they have done for me, because they have opened my eyes.”

—Elizabeth Ford Kozor, JO’07, AS’07, GR’12

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