by Pam Pérez, a member of the SkillCorps® Uganda October 2018 team
Uganda is nothing like I expected! Although I’ve extensively traveled in the world, nothing could prepare my SkillsCorps team and I for what to expect when meeting the staff and students at the Amaanyi Center.
While at Amaanyi, my knowledge and understanding of what ABA could be expanded like never before. I learned the principle and meaning of “family” in Uganda. Students at Amaanyi don’t just have instruction provided by a kind and loving teachers but they also learn and teach one another. Many students at Amaanyi teach their peers, how to farm, count money, cook and share all that life has to offer.
On their community walks, I witness how much each student truly cares for the well-being of the other and how the teachers and caretakers go beyond their efforts in having all the students have a safe, loving and productive place to live. In this family, I also got to take part and learn from students how to properly cut vegetables and implement an emerging behavior plan!
I also learned that Uganda has 54 different tribes and languages but they all come together as one as a family when they meet and do life together. Most importantly, I learned that the main mission of those at the center was to create “Amaanyi” (powerful in Luganda) students.
Through that understanding of “family” in Uganda, the team and I were invited to come and join the Amaanyi family and provide strategies on how to provide all learners with reinforcement, how to consider a family’s need and life back in the village when designing a discharge plan and how to incorporate peer-mediated learning in our clinical practices back home.
I also had the privilege to learn about Uganda through its diverse cuisine. Its always a pleasure to share my passion of exploring and cooking new foods with others. Our colleagues at Amaanyi introduced the team and I to Chapati, matooke, posho and grilled and stewed meats for lunch and special dinners.
The SkillCorps team was then provided the opportunity to share American dishes with the students and staff at Amaanyi. The team then created and shared a traditional Thanksgiving meal with our friends at Amaanyi. It was through the sharing of our meals and the story of Thanksgiving that we further developed our deep bonds and realized that we have more in common despite coming from different hemispheres.
I would encourage anyone whose interested in empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities and growing and expanding your “family” to visit and serve alongside the wonderful staff and students Amaanyi Center in Entebbe, Uganda!