Uganda - Gulu (St. Monica's)

Population facets: 

Partner Organization:  St. Monica’s Vocational School for Girls (Sacred Heart of Jesus Sisters)

Location: Gulu District, Uganda

Number of Students:  2-4 students

Dates:  Site determines dates.

In person opportunities summer 2022: Yes

Virtual opportunities summer 2022: No

Additional Information:

Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, if we are unable to deploy students in person, students will not be obligated to complete the ISSLP and may withdraw without penalty. For students wishing to continue with the ISSLP in virtual mode, ISSLP staff will work with them to be placed with a virtual international service option.

Participation Requirements:

  • Language & Proficiency Requirement: None, but students should learn some basic Acholi. Attempting to learn the local dialect is important and goes a long way to establishing relationships. English is the language of instruction.
  • Gender Requirement:  Female
  • Required Experience:  Some experience teaching and/or tutoring is strongly encouraged. Compassion, patience, and love is most important.
  • Major Requirement:  Strong interest in women’s education and empowerment of girls and women
  • Student Minimum Age:  None
  • Special Requirements:  Experience or comfort teaching groups and youth is helpful because students could be teaching classes of 5-20 students. Any skills in sewing/tailoring, catering, cooking, and baking would be an additional benefit.  For work in the clinic and dispensary, interest in medicine and public health is necessary.  Experience in basic medical skills (i.e. EMT certified, blood pressures, vital signs, etc.) is helpful but not necessary.  General experience in healthcare setting is encouraged.
  • Other:  Students should have background knowledge about the recent war in northern Uganda and the current political situation. Interest in peace studies and/or or African studies would be beneficial. It is helpful if participants have already taken or plan to take an African related course prior to summer. Because students are living with Sisters, students should be open to participating in Catholic faith life.
  • Desire to learn from others, openness and good verbal communication skills.

Special Training Required Prior to Summer Deployment: 

(The following sessions and workshops will be organized and provided by the ISSLP during the Spring semester. Additional training sessions may be added as needed.)

  • Laboratory Safety Training (if planning on working in clinic)
  • Teaching/Classroom Management workshop (if teaching)
  • Teaching English as a Foreign Language (if teaching)
  • First AID and CPR Training
  • Self-Defense Session

Site Description:  

For 25 years, Joseph Kony and his Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) terrorized Northern Uganda. They abducted children and forced them to commit atrocities against their own families and communities. Girls as young as thirteen were degraded by serving as sex slaves for Kony and his officers. The war has been over but decades of brutal conflict have deeply scarred the people of Northern Uganda. Over the past decade, child soldiers have returned to the very communities they committed violent crimes against, and the girls carry with them a constant reminder of their abuse: their captors' children. These girls and their children are often ostracized by their communities, and most lack the skills they need to provide for their families. They are invited to St. Monica's where they learn skills to provide for their families. Through vocational training, these young women gain independence. Through community with their fellow students, they find forgiveness. Through the restoration of their lost futures, they find hope.

Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe leads St. Monica’s Vocational School in Gulu, Uganda, originally established to provide practical skills to restore dignity, independence, and hope to formerly abducted women. Today the school takes in many of the children of these previously captive girls as well as others in the community. Its mission continues by giving any girl in northern Uganda access to education, valuable trade skills in tailoring and catering, and social entrepreneurship in order for them to be independent and to be both financially and personally secure. St. Monica’s Vocational School has given hope to more than 2,000 young women. Currently, approximately 250 girls and 250 children live at St. Monica’s. Sister Rosemary also oversees the beginnings of a second school in Atiak, in northern Uganda. She built both schools from almost nothing and resides at St. Monica’s while often traveling around the world for speaking engagements. ISSLP students would have the opportunity to know her on a personal basis and learn much from her and her Sisters.

A native of Paidha, Uganda, Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe began serving the people of her country after joining the Catholic order of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in 1976. Since 2001, Sr. Rosemary Nyirumbe has served as director of St. Monica’s Vocational School. She lived through the horror created by Kony's LRA and now works to heal the wounds inflicted on her people. In recent years, she has been recognized with awards and honors which include 2014 TIME Magazine's 100 Most Influential People in the World, 2014 United Nations "Women Impact" Award, 2012 Starkey Hearing Foundation “So The World May Hear” Award, and 2007 CNN Hero Award.  She was an invited panelist at the 2015 World Economic Forum in Davos, a speaker at TIME 100 Gala in 2014, as well as a speaker at the 2015 Women of the World Forum in New York City.  In March 2015, Sr. Rosemary visited the University of Notre Dame at the invitation of the Center for Social Concerns and provided a public lecture and a screening of the documentary Sewing Hope.

Scope of Work & Responsibilities:

Notice: Scope of work may have some changes based on the needs of the partner organizations at the time of student arrival/engagement. 

This site will be in person for summer 2022.

This section reflects the most recent scope of work for students who deployed in the last few years to St. Monica’s, Uganda. This scope of work may change based on the needs of the organization at the time of student arrival and/or due to COVID-19 restrictions.

At St. Monica’s Vocational School, ISSLP students will have the opportunity to assist the compound in a variety of ways. Students can choose to work in the health care center, the compound’s restaurant, assist in teaching at the nursery, or assist in teaching the newly created Adult Literacy Program for women. Participants may assist in teaching either together or separately but teaching separately is encouraged to allow the students to feel more comfortable and open.

The opportunities for work are extremely varied, and the Sisters prefer for the participants to discern what most needs to be done for the school, and then pursue more deeply. Even when a set schedule is in place, participants can expect to spend time doing small tasks that the Sisters need assistance with around the compound.  When school is in session, classes conclude around 5 pm. Participants can join and assist the girls in extracurricular activities such as sports (volleyball, football/soccer), theatre/music, and prayer.

A few days a week, and as often as desired, participants are encouraged to spend time and play with the nursery-aged and primary-school children who come to St. Monica’s in the afternoon at the Nursery and Kindergarten Center.

St. Monica’s works on a rotational schedule for all programs so our ISSLP would be dependent on what responsibilities can be allocated in what time frames. St. Monica’s has expressed particular need for participants to teach in the Adult Literacy Program and research and investigate the training of mothers in child care.

Students may also have an opportunity to visit Sr. Rosemary’s second school in Atiak, Uganda and work with children as assistant caretakers.  Students may also visit several other communities in which the Sisters of the Sacred Heart work.

ISSLP students have in the past participated in prison ministry and went each week with other students from the vocational school to the women’s side of the Gulu prison to pray with the women and occasionally preach.  2017 students spent two weeks in Erusi working in a primary school run by the sister.  In 2016, one participant primarily taught English to the nursery students and to the women in the Adult Literacy Program which included preparing lesson plans and homework and communicated with teachers and staff to ensure seamless operations and that times for classes were covered.  Another student worked in the clinic assisting with testing for malaria. Additionally, students were asked to give a talk on prayer and served as friends to the students.

Housing & Lodging Information:

Participants will live on the grounds of St. Monica’s School at the Banana Village, guest housing consisting of traditional style round huts, each with two rooms and a shower.  At Atik, students stay with the sisters in a guest house with similar accommodations as at St. Monica’s in Gulu.

For More Information: 

Read “Sewing Hope” book about St. Monica’s and Sr. Rosemary. The book is invaluable.
Watch documentary film also called “Sewing Hope,” directed by Derek Watson and narrated by Oscar winner Forest Whitaker (Not Rated; 56 minutes).

Former ISSLP Participants:

Notice: Certain sites may be canceled and other sites added at any point during the selection and orientation process.
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