One of the most memorable and interesting cultural experiences of this study abroad was a visit to the Baha’i House of Worship. The Baha’i Faith combines multiple religions, but all believe in one Almighty God. They accept the Holy books given from the different Messengers of religions. In their Faith, the religions represent different points in history and the development of religion. Through the promotion of integration of worship and service to humanity, the Baha’i Faith fills it followers with hope and love for humanity.
The temple in Uganda is currently the only one in all of Africa. When you enter you are to be silent, which really added to the Divine atmosphere of the temple. I had never heard of the faith, so it was beautiful to see they had so much peace while embracing different religions. Especially since religion drives a lot of separation and wars in many countries and all throughout history. It was intriguing to learn about this religion and to be welcomed into their temple during our visit.
Another memorable experience is our visit to the only government funded mental health institution in the entire country, Butabika Hospital. Knowing that it is the only government funded institution shows that mental health is not prioritized in their society. At this institution, they have an area for those experiencing drug and alcohol addiction, women, men, children, and even for inmates experiencing mental health issues before their sentencing. There are 550 beds, but over 850 patients. For drug and alcohol addiction, there are about 9 other recovery centers in the country. This information was overwhelmingly sad to hear, but the hard work of the doctors, nurses, and leaders who run them was inspiring. To be as understaffed as they are, but willing to work and help these individuals shows true dedication and passion for mental health. We met with psychiatrist, Dr. David Basangwa, the director of Butabika Hospital, who has been working there since 1994. It was truly an honor to meet with one of the few psychiatrists in the continent of Africa and someone who takes mental health seriously. He was joyous to meet with us and tell us about the institution. I was astonished at how little resources they had, but glad that they had a mental health facility. There are many stigmas around mental health in Uganda, but the same is true still in America. It is an area that we will have to continue advocate for, and this experience only inspires me more, to pursue this field of work.
Overall, my takeaway from both experiences is to be open-minded and more aware of my own bias and judgement whether that relates to religion or how someone leads an organization. My experiences have given me another motivation to work. Prior, I wanted to work hard enough, so that I wouldn’t have to work anymore. Now, I want to work hard to help others without an end date.