By Tier Gibbons & Cristobal Martinez – Distribution Staff
One of us has never been to Uganda and one of us was on the Uganda Shoulder-to-Shoulder trip in May, 2013. For both of us, waking up to President Alexander’s email about canceling the service trip to Africa was shocking. We believe the college has made a mistake.
Together, we have friends and professors who have participated in the program. We’ve known them before and after their journeys and we’ve seen them return home with a better developed world perspective. It’s made us proud to be with peers who have become passionate on global issues. It also saddens us to see them upset over the decision.
The main argument against the trip revolved around the Ugandan government’s treatment of homosexuals. About a year ago, parliament enacted a law allowing homosexuality punishable by prison. This made some members of our community worry about Lasell student safety and we understand their concern.
While our college should support the homosexual community and make student safety a priority, the purpose of this program was not to make a change in Uganda’s government, but to make a difference in a community that has been almost abandoned by the government. Students who previously visited the country felt strongly that gay and bi-sexual students would never be at risk in the small, friendly village where our students taught.
While others see Uganda as a troubled East African country, Tier remembers his time there as life-changing. As an African-American who aspired to go to Africa, it was a dream come true for him to return to his roots. He is saddened future Lasers may never have the experience of teaching children in a remote Ugandan village.
The Lasell travelers will always remember working with children who were eager to learn. They remember how some students traveled two hours by foot to get to class at the Bulobi School. They remember the letters the children gave them at the end of the day.
More than anything, they remember promising the Ugandan children, Lasell would return to help again. This year, the Lasers will not return. We hope one day, the college will consider the value of the service trip to Uganda, and choose differently.