Ciara Michel is an undergraduate student majoring in Microbiology with certificates in Global Health and African Studies. In this AFRICA IN OUR LIVES, Michel describes her recent work with Children of Peace Uganda, for which she was granted the Peter Bosscher Wisconsin Without Borders Award

Tell us a bit about the project you worked on with Children of Peace Uganda.

Children of Peace Uganda (CPU) has a variety of projects and programs to achieve their goals of holistic rehabilitation and healing of former child soldiers, children born in captivity, community members impacted by HIV, and other vulnerable populations in the region. One of their income generation projects is called the Apiary Project and is the one I worked on in my time in Lira. This project centers around training members of the community, typically child-headed households and caretakers of children impacted by war, of how to operate and manage beehives. Each point person of the household receives safety and management trainings as well as training on how to harvest and sell honey, several starter beehives, safety equipment, and access to honey extraction and processing materials. The income generated from these projects allows families to fill critical income gaps and make purchases on things for their family’s health, education, food, farm, home, and expanding their beehives!

I am the internal co-president of GlobeMed, a student organization on campus, that has been partnered with CPU since 2015. We spend a large portion of our time on campus advocating and fundraising for CPU and the Apiary Project and then send a team of interns from our organization to work with CPU staff on the Apiary Project. Since 2015, GlobeMed has expanded the program to reach over 60 additional households! While on-site, my main goals for the Apiary Project were supporting CPU staff with hosting the trainings and distributing materials, doing home visits and interviews with beneficiaries to evaluate the program’s effectiveness, and get community input for expansion and improvement of the project.

What were the most surprising or interesting aspects of your experience in Uganda?

There were so many interesting aspects of my experience in Uganda! First, it was incredible how welcoming and kind everyone on staff and in the Lira community was. Getting to talk to so many folks to exchange stories and ideas was just amazing. Another interesting component was simply adjusting to the very different way of going about life in Lira; it was very laid back at times in comparison to the constant go-go ways of life here, but also could get very hectic very fast in times of exploring the main town or the busy market spaces! I was surprised at how diverse the landscapes were in the region as well; we could go from the town center with Wi-Fi cafes and busy markets by road to more rural areas only accessible by boda boda on little dirt strips through lush areas of greenery. It was amazing to see all the sides of the region!

Were you interested in Africa before coming to UW-Madison?

I was interested in Africa only because I feel like it was the continent I learned about the least throughout my education prior to UW-Madison. I was very excited to learn more, especially when I joined GlobeMed my freshman year and found out our partner organization was located in Uganda!

What African Studies course would you recommend for other certificate students to take?

I would recommend taking History 105: Modern African History, especially if you are new to the certificate or learning deeply about African History. I loved learning about sub-Saharan Africa using a historical lens to examine communities and individuals. Professor Callaci was a really great educator and uses a variety of methods and mediums to engage us in learning.

What are your current plans for after graduation?

I am currently deciding between which graduate school to attend in pursuit of a Master of Public Health degree. Ideally after obtaining that degree, I will do something within the fields of epidemiology and infectious disease. I also hope to be able to travel back to Lira to visit the friends I made while there and explore more of the country!