GOING TO UGANDA
Molly Sheehan ’07 , is headed for Africa, to coach soccer and teach English. A Haverford biology major who studied Swahili at Bryn Mawr, she had planned to go to Rwanda as a Watson Fellow. "I didn't get the Watson," Sheehan laughs, and in talking with an organization called Children of Hope, she learned that "the Rwandans are all francophones, who wouldn't understand Swahili anyhow." Next week, she leaves the US for a town called Bududa, on the Ugandan border with Kenya, to work with orphaned children.
The Children of Hope are 200 kids between the ages of three and 18 who are being supported by the community of Bududa and the Children of Hope Program, which is U.S.-based and under the umbrella of the African Great Lakes Initiative, a Quaker organization that sends recent grads to help in Africa in various ways. After completing five weeks of orientation in a work camp, Sheehan will be teaching and helping generally in a technical school, which offers classes in sewing, nursing, carpentry and construction. Basically, she’ll be teaching English. But she’s also setting up a sports program in Bududa for soccer, and other athletic activities.
“The sports will help as a way of learning conflict mediation, hopefully pleasantly,” she says. “ We’ll also mix in a little philosophy if we can. The young kids in the Children of Hope just need to feel socialized, part of a group, and cared about. I just wanted to do this . . .”
Sheehan received a Pickett grant and money from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (the Senior Bridge Internship) to cover her costs and travel, and is also fundraising within the Philadelphia Quaker community: “I should have all my expenses covered, I think. I’m also fundraising for the Kids’ League, a Ugandan youth sports organization, to incorporate the Bududa sports teams into a sustainable larger organization.”
The sports come naturally. Sheehan ran cross-country at Haverford for four years (before that she’d been on the track team at Perkiomen Valley High School). She wanted to take a year off between graduating Haverford and going to either Cornell, Tufts or UC Berkeley, to do graduate work in molecular nutrition or possibly nutritional biochemistry. “After I finish my education, and possibly while in grad school, I would like to coach track in a city . . . I’ve had an incredible experience with athletics at Haverford. The women runners here are strong and beautiful people who are a testament to how sport can enrich every aspect of our lives. Being on a supportive, healthy team has kept me motivated through college. I hope I can provide this opportunity to others in my trip, and in my later work...
“Career-wise, I hope to pursue academic research in nutrition.”
Sheehan was especially grateful to her advisor, Associate Professor of Biology Rob Fairman, “for doing everything in his power to help me reach my goals. He has really gone above and beyond what is necessary, and is a major reason I was able to fund my project.”
When she finishes in Uganda in January of 2008, she’ll work until the fall semester begins: “I might take a little time off,” she says. “Maybe in the summer after next.”