Dear IHP Family and Community,
As we arrived on that hot afternoon into Kampala, we noticed the streets. We bumped up and down along the potholes, stuck in our Matatu, the small vans that serve as public taxis for most Kampalans. School had just gotten out and groups of kids walked along side our car, some giggling, some confused, and some yelling, “Muzungu!” the Swahili word for ‘white person.’ By now, many mangos and much matoke later, we are used to the bumper to bumper traffic, the incredible ways Matatus seem to recover after driving into ditches, and of course, the constant ‘Muzungu’ comment being thrown our way.
This has been a month of discovery, academically, culturally, and socially. We have traveled across the equator to paddle dugout canoes around the misty islands of Lake Bunyoni. We have traveled to the east and seen where the Nile River begins among endless expanses of papyrus. In the classroom in Kampala, we have challenged our perceptions of what it means to be an entrepreneur or an innovator.
Through dozens of site visits, lectures, and academic discussions, we have engaged with the concept of social entrepreneurship. Each of us was assigned to one of three case study categories: education, social and financial inclusion, and health. We spent a full day visiting a social enterprise in one of those categories and gained confidence in pursuing our own questions and research topics. Those studying health visited MakaPads, a company that uses Ugandan papyrus to create biodegradable sanitary pads that allow low-income girls to remain in school during puberty. The social and financial inclusion group visited FINCA, a microfinance deposit institution that incentivizes small scale business owners to save and reinvest by giving out loans. The education group visited Girl Up, an organization aiming to increase gender equality and eliminate gender based violence through education and community programming. In the last week, we presented our findings to the group while also writing up individual reflections on the research experience.
One of the most educational aspects of our time in Uganda was staying with local Ugandan families. We are incredibly grateful for the warm welcome we were shown by our hosts. We enjoyed cooking, eating, travelling, living, and exploring with our host families while in Kampala. As part of our Design Thinking class, we got the opportunity to interview a member of our host family to learn about their heritage. This experience not only gave us a rare view into Ugandan life, but taught us valuable lessons about interactions across very different cultures. We will miss our host families deeply but will definitely keep them up to date on our travels. We look forward to cultivating similarly deep and educational relationships with our host families in New Delhi.
In our ‘community building’ sessions throughout the month, we reflected on our individual and collective growth. This involved difficult conversations about leadership, feedback, and cultural awareness. We challenged ourselves to think about the cultural and personal effects of studying social entrepreneurship in such a different environment. We focused specifically on the ethics of development and the implications of our presence in the spaces that we visited. We leave Uganda having gained valuable insight into the landscape of social entrepreneurship and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. We look forward to utilizing this knowledge in comparative studies in India and Brazil as we continue on with our semester.