Virginia Union University (VUU) alumni, namely Mingo Peterson, Juan Vincent, and Dr. James, recently returned from Uganda, specifically at the International University of Eastern Africa (IUEA). Their visit was graciously facilitated by Dr. Reginald Freeman and Dr. Deborah Freeman, who serves as Executive Directors in the "Bridging the Gap" program, a vital component of VUU's Office of Study Away, and esteemed members of the VUU community.
The "Bridging the Gap" program at Virginia Union University is pivotal in fostering international student engagement. It is designed to encourage VUU students to seize the opportunities presented by studying abroad, volunteering, and engaging in service-learning activities in Uganda, and vice versa. The program's overarching objective is to establish connections and enhance cultural understanding between our institution and other nations.
During their visit, Peterson, Vincent, and Dr. James actively participated in a distinctive mentoring initiative to educate and guide underprivileged children in Ugandan schools.
All three individuals are prominent members of VCAAM, the Virginia Union College for African American Men. This program steadfastly supports the academic pursuits of black male students within the university. Through their affiliation with VCAAM, they became acquainted with the prospect of international mentorship in Uganda.
When reflecting on their transformative experience, Peterson and Vincent expressed their profound enthusiasm for the program and the meaningful connections they forged with Ugandan students. Peterson articulated, "We demonstrated that, despite hailing from diverse nations and backgrounds, we share numerous commonalities. This program serves as a conduit for building bridges between our two countries, a much-needed endeavor."
Vincent, in particular, cherished his initial visit to primary schools, where he felt genuine acceptance and respect from the students. On the other hand, Peterson developed an affinity for Uganda's historical sites, particularly emphasizing the five kingdoms. Although they had the privilege of visiting three of these kingdoms, the Buganda and Bunyoro Kingdoms left an indelible impression on Peterson.
During their stay in a serene suburban neighborhood, they relished the opportunity to savor local delicacies, including matoke, goat meat, and a delightful assortment of fresh fruits. Remarkably, they even had the chance to pluck fruits directly from trees within the neighborhood.
Reflecting on the entire experience, Vincent shared, "The entire experience was truly remarkable. We encountered individuals who bore a striking resemblance to us, and despite the occasional jests about our accents, they embraced us wholeheartedly. Their campus was distinct, aesthetically pleasing, and remarkably affordable. We cherished every moment of our time there."
Now, the Office of Study Away at Virginia Union University is eager to expand the participation of VUU students in the Uganda program. Prospective VUU students are strongly encouraged to explore the myriad opportunities available for studying, serving, and growing in Uganda, thereby further enriching their academic journey.