From Mitchell To Uganda

DWU Students Work With Villages In Community Development


For a handful of students at Dakota Wesleyan, their winter break was spent thousands of miles away… not on a vacation but on a special mission trip to Uganda.  For some, it was their first time leaving the country, for others it was not… but for all, it was an experience that they’ll cherish forever.

“I… cried a little bit saying goodbye to some people because they just make…,” recalled Dakota Wesleyan University Senior Lexyjo Deneke who hadn’t traveled outside of the US before this trip. ” [They have] Such a great impact on your life and we were only there for ten days.”

While the trip to the Namayemba and Nakigujju villages in eastern Uganda, and capitol Kampala,  was brief, it changed the life of Lexyjo Deneke… as well as the lives of the fellow classmates she went with.

“We helped in the medical outreach program… there was a little volleyball camp that some of us put on,” explained Deneke, saying that those who took part in the volleyball are always welcome to join the DWU volleyball team.  Lexyjo Deneke, a senior at Dakota Wesleyan said that, in addition to the volleyball camp and medical outreach, they helped with sustainable farming.

Their work included setting up a makeshift clinic that saw over 500 patients everyday. They also helped develop a curriculum to sustain a school lunch project so 450 kids could eat meals, with work beginning at 7am every morning, as freshman Nathan Bader explained. He said that they’d get up and drive somewhere between ten and fifteen kilometers, or five to ten miles, to Namayemba from where they were staying. He said they’d usually work about 12 hours a day, alongside other Ugandans before returning back to where they were staying.

While the students worked hard, whether it was setting up the makeshift clinic, helping make a curriculum or teaching new ways for sustainable farming, executive director of McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service Alisha Vincent, who organized the trip, says it was important to work with residents, not for.

“If you’re going to take students or connect a university to an international setting it’s really important, if you can, to dive deep with the community that you’re connected to,” Vincent explained. “Because that’s always better… if you can have these long term relationships, long term friendships.”

Vincent has been taking students to the Namayemba and Nakigujju villages for the past four years, saying she’s seen their help with the community change it for the better. She recalled a moment on this latest trip with students, being part of a gifting ceremony that was the result of a program that was started years ago. Executive director of McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service Alisha Vincent explained how about four years ago, they had brought livestock to a church as part of their Livestock for Life program, which gives gifts like goats or pigs to families with the goal that, as the animals start to reproduce, the family will gift the offspring to another family.

Along with work, thought, there was also plenty of fun to be had. Like dancing with the local Ugandans or playing volleyball or simply spending time at home.

“They’re great hosts and just beautiful people in general. You just go and you meet them and it’s an instant connection because they’re all so nice,” said Dakota Wesleyan junior Anna Pazeour.

Alisha Vincent, who organized the trip and who is executive director of McGovern Center for Leadership and Public Service, says that each student had to raise around $3,000 for the trip. While only around $2,000-$2,500 was require to travel, Vincent says that the remaining money was invested into the communities that they helped work with.

Categories: Community, Education, Local News