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An Unforgettable Summer Experience

August 15, 2013

It’s no surprise that Drake students stay busy during the summer. Many students stay in Des Moines or return home to complete exciting internships, but a handful of adventurous students committed to service-learning traveled to Africa.

Thanks in part to the Slay Fund for Social Justice, Andrew Harkins and James Ley had the opportunity to live in Kikandwa, a small village in Uganda, for three weeks this summer.

The Slay Fund was launched by a gift to distinctlyDrake from Brent, ED’70, and Diane, ED’70, Slay. The fund supports Drake programs that advance social justice.

Harkins and Ley were visiting Kikandwa with a group of more than 20 other Drake students and faculty. Drake has taken students to Uganda every summer for the past seven years, but Harkins and Ley were the first students to extend their trip. They stayed two weeks after the Drake group had left, living with families in the Kikandwa village and gathering information for a health facility that Drake is helping raise funds for in the area.

“The experience we had the two weeks we were in Kikandwa on our own was much more raw,” says Harkins. “We weren’t on the outside looking in; we were really a part of it. We weren’t sitting on a bus, watching people pass by on the streets. We were on the streets, talking with people, eye-to-eye. We ate food with families and we slept in the village, hearing the snores of the families and the cries of the babies.”

Harkins and Ley were responsible for investigating access to health care and the role the health facility might play in providing health education to the community. Their findings will help Drake faculty and students know how to continue planning and supporting the new health facility, one of many projects that Drake is working on in partnership with Uganda. The entire Drake group was part of the groundbreaking for the facility during their June visit.

Click here to read Harkins' blog about his experience in Uganda.

“During our visit, we learned that the most important and beneficial thing Drake can do for the village is create something sustainable,” says Harkins. “We need to make sure the village can run the health facility on their own. The people of Uganda have seen so many projects fail; they’ve watched organizations swoop in and then let things flop. We want to make sure we actually do something positive that can continue after we leave.”

Ley agrees, saying his trip to Uganda was a direct example of applying Drake’s mission of global citizenship.

"This has been an awesome project entirely," says Ley. "Not just for Drew and me, but for everyone who's been part of it—including the many alumni who have made the trip in the past. At this point, we aren't helping strangers, we are collaborating with friends."