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MIUSA’s WILD Program 2008: A Unique Experience

My acceptance to Mobility International USA’s 4th Women’s’ Institute on Leadership and Disability Program 2008 thrilled me! I felt proud that MIUSA would take a chance on me to participate in this program. Both academically and socially, I was unsure of what stood before me…because America is a place I had never been. This thought was somewhat intimidating for me at first; but I realized that I would be with 26 other women in the same boat. I relaxed and instead became very anxious…I could not wait to see Eugene, make new friends, meet my facilitators, and set to work.

I had a fabulous time being in a different country, re-evaluating my leadership capabilities, meeting and interacting with other women leaders with disabilities from different cultures and backgrounds. This not only challenged the way I identified myself as an individual, but also challenged the way I saw other people and my outlook towards figurative national boundaries.

I was elated about the idea of living with a host family. This experience though short-lived, was a great opportunity to immerse myself into the Eugene area, learning and observing the American people and their customs. I was particularly impressed by the fact that my host Dad helped much in the Kitchen. He once said to me, “I ought to be a Ugandan house wife. What do you think?” I thought that was hilarious!!!

On leadership training, our facilitators were very inviting when it came to various thoughts and opinions thereby enhancing group participation and team building. Also, the WILD Sisters were generally open-minded, friendly, and willing to talk about even the most controversial of subjects in a positive and productive way. We shared the passion to initiate positive changes for women with disabilities in each our communities; we shared many common problems and learned some good practices from one another. I was encouraged by the energy that was displayed by each delegate as we went through our respective projects. These women were such a huge inspiration for me. I learned something from each one of them.

I took time to do different things. I tried different types of foods and I was curious to learn from each delegate what their individual aspirations were. My efforts at really getting to know my roommate were almost frustrated because we didn’t speak the same language and there was no interpreter. This made doing even the simplest tasks around the room a challenge. At first I felt like I was an alien who had just landed in some different universe but as time went on, I began to pick-up some survival Spanish phrases. For obvious reasons, one phrase that was most uttered by me was “no comprender” (which means...” I don’t understand”). My Spanish speaking colleagues thought it was funny and they laughed about it all the time…I was never offended…instead, I shared the humor because I knew that they were just appreciative that a foreigner was attempting to speak their language. As such, I made lasting friends and I felt good in my surroundings!

The language barrier experience in itself opened my eyes and conscience to such needs like Sign Language, Large Print, Braille and Tactile. I understood first-hand the frustration that persons with hearing and sight impairments go through when information is not presented to them in accessible formats. This not only made me realize that there is still so much more to do with regard to disability rights activism in Uganda; but it also made me a well-rounded person considering that this is something that can be brought to any setting, academic or professional.

People say that participating in international exchange programs is a life changing experience, and they're right! If you ask me, the WILD Program is something I would not hesitate doing again; because it is a great way to make friends, connect with resource people and expand one’s horizons through networking and travel. While at the same time acquiring leadership training; something to add to one’s resume’.

Personally, I feel like as if a whole new world has been opened up to me. I now have a new family in America and friends in all the 5 continents. I have seen places and participated in fun activities that I couldn't have imagined in my dreams.

To the MUISA Team, Wal-Mart Stores and all who made my participation in the WILD Program possible, you make a difference in this world…just by being in it. Mwebale nyo! (which means…Thank you very much). www.miusa.org

Comments

Olivia's picture

Hullo Suz

Just passed by here briefly for today...i will be introducing myself to this community sometime soon.

Thomas Lwebuga's picture

Congratulations

Dear Olivia,

Congratulations on being accepted to take part in the WILDSisters program. Were you in Eugene Oregon? If you are still in the Pacific Northwest please get in touch. There are a few Ugandans in the area that you can connect with.

Thomas

Olivia's picture

I like the Idea

Dear Thomas,
It is nice to meet you here. I am back to Uganda now; i only stayed in Eugene Oregon for three weeks. I am not sure if i will find another opportunity to travel to the Pacific Northwest sometime soon...but iam hoping against hope that it happens for me as i have a 2yrs visa. I am sad that i am unable to meet the Ugandans in the area but i really think its such a brilliant idea...iam glad you offered. For now, we can link up on here...and you can even write to me in Luganda if you like. How long have you been in America?

JMKELLAM's picture

Congratulations

Olivia:

It sounds like a well-deserved honor that you were invited to be part of the conference. I'm glad you made connections and friends. You are all doing such important work. The disability rights movement has a long way to in many countries. People with disabilities need, not just physical adaptions, but social and career opportunities as well. I'm glad you are an advocate because it sounds like you are doing a great job.

What new foods did you try?! If given the chance would you come back and visit America again?

Your new friend,

Jenna Kellam

Olivia's picture

Thanks Jenna

Hullo Jenna,
You are right! proffessionally iam an attorney and my passion is to see better facilitation for people with disabilities in my community/country. Tell you what? when i was in America...seeing all the accessible roads, buses and public buildings...i felt like Uganda was 25/30 yrs behind America in terms of inclusion for disabled people. Surely,there are mob opportunities for disabled people out there...including the adaptive sports which were really fun! As a disability activist in Uganda, its a sad reality that i may not get to see all those changes here in Uganda in my generation...but i want to remain positive...so i have told myself...whether or not the desired inclusion happens in my generation; at least i will have dared to stand up to be counted in that number of individuals who seek positive change through dialogue...and hopefully that contribution will make a chapter in history.
About the food, i tried different pizzas, burgers and desserts...i really liked the dessert with straw berries in whipped cream.

About visiting America again...YES, i would if i get another opportunity. More so, i like an opportunity to study International Development/Business in America if i find a bursary.

Joellen's picture

Amazing recap

Thank you for your interesting and thorough recap. It's rare that someone takes the time to do this and it is so very useful.
Blessing on your journey,
Joellen

Olivia's picture

It's my Pleasure

Thanks for appreciating Joellen.
I am glad to hear from you. writing is a skill that i have developed over the years...because it complements my proffession as an attorney; naturally i form opinions about almost all circumstances that i live through...so writing to me is not only a hobby; it is also my way to voice my experiences and capture the lessons learn't. I hope we can link up here sometime.

Regards Olivia

Jennifer Ruwart's picture

Welcome to PulseWire

Olivia,

I love your story! (so much I spotlighted it on our homepage!) And I am so disappointed to think that you were only 2 hours from Portland and World Pulse and we didn't get to meet. Next time! (unless as Thomas asked, you are still here?)

Tell me, what foods did you try? What sights did you see? What was the one thing you learned that surprised you the most?

In sisterhood,
Jennifer

Olivia's picture

Thanks Jennifer,

Hullo Jennifer,
iam glad you like my story and i feel honoured to know that you spotlighted it on the homepage. Unfortunately, iam back to Uganda already but iam positive i will meet you somehow. I would love an opportunity to come Again to America to study International Development/Business if i find a bursary. For now, we can link up on here...and you can ask me all you need to know about Uganda or and my work.
About the food, i tried different pizzas, burgers and desserts. I really liked the dessert with strawberries in whipped cream and some orange yorgurt.
I visited serene christian camp,the light house,the University of Oregon and some river (i forget the name...i think it is Makenzie).

The thing i learned that suprised me the most was the fact that you have different time zones within the different states in America.

Regards, Olivia

Lisa's picture

Thank you Olivia

Thanks for sharing your experience, Olivia. I like your anecdote about struggling to communicate with your roommate. I was just in Puerto Rico and while many spoke English and I spoke some Spanish, I spent a lot of time trying to communicate with funny faces and gestures in order to connect with the amazing people I was meeting. While it can be frustrating to communicate when there is no common language, I found that the tiniest breakthroughs and successes were overwhelmingly rewarding. I wish you all the best with your work on your return to Uganda and I hope you are able to return to the United States again soon!

Warm wishes,

Lisa

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