URF is a truly unique and incredible organization. To combat poverty, we must also empower women.

“The community and the people truly touched my heart.  They are motivated and passionate.  I know I will return to Uganda again someday.”

Catherine shared her experience in this email message to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review paper in 2010. You can watch trailer of  the documentary, “ESSUBI-Growing up with Hope” her group made. Hope you enjoy it.

——— Forwarded message ———-
From: Hansen, Catherine M <>
Date: Sun, Mar 14, 2010 at 3:38 PM
Subject: URF article

Mr. Pani, Thank you for generating interest in Uganda Rural Fund and the work that they are doing, especially in reference to the recent mudslides.  John Mary sent me a few questions (below).  I have included my answers beneath each question.

a. your involvement during my time at SJU- the dome fundraiser for school construction and why u got involved

As a pre-med student at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John’s University, I became increasingly global health, particularly the AIDS epidemic and its effects on the developing world.  I joined an on campus group, the Global AIDS Awareness Organization, headed by John Mary Lugemwa.  Through our discussion of the issue as a whole, it became clear that health is significantly intertwined with education so we concentrated our efforts on fundraising to help build URF’s school Hope Integrated Academy.  Our primary project was working at sporting and other events at the Metrodome, selling food as vendors.  I became involved because I was interested in the issues, but stayed because fundraising was fun with a passionate group of individuals.

b. the LINK documentary project and your recent experience in Uganda and what your group is planning to do on campus and surrounding community –

Extending the LINK (ETL) is a student-run social venture that films documentaries about under-told global social and economic issues, which we bring back to campus and the surrounding community to inspire volunteer action.  Through our campus connection with John Mary’s work, we decided to focus on child-headed families in Uganda.  As a group we felt this issue needed special attention because it gives an insight into the lives of our peers in Uganda.  While all we have to worry about studying, youth of our same ages are the primary caretakers of their families, and must work to generate income and provide food, paraffin, and medical supplies.  Additionally, by focusing on this issue, we are revitalizing a valuable relationship between Hope Integrated Academy and our campuses.  It is important for us not only to present the issues to students but to provide them with opportunities take action and make a difference.  Because Hope Academy already has a strong history with St. Ben’s and St. John’s, students have many avenues to volunteer or raise money with URF.  Currently, we are working on several fundraisers with students on campus.  For example, next weekend we are holding a benefit concert for URF at which we will premiere the documentary trailer.  We will have large premiere events for the documentary in April and will also present in area classrooms and youth groups.  We want students to think critically about why this issue occurs, and what they can do to help.  It helps for us to have the documentary as a visual.  Now, hundreds of students, local organizations, and community members are pumped up, involved, and doing what they can to help.

c. your personal inspiration or motivation for doing this work

It never ceases to amaze me what a dedicated group of individuals can accomplish when they put their minds to it.  I have come to realize that each person has something valuable to give, and when we come together, and when we come together that effect can be astonishing.  In ETL, for example, our work would be impossible without the dedication and involvement of students and faculty from all academic departments–film, management, communication, biology–as well as alumni and local organizations.  And to think that all of this started with just one man, John Mary Lugemwa!

When I think about all of the hard work that the students at Hope Academy have every single day, I think the least I can do is give a little bit of my time and energy.  Especially with the recent mudslides, the students at Hope Academy–people with so little–are coming together and giving what they can, doing what they can.  When I see that kind of love, it motivates me to keep working.  Sometimes the issues seem so big that putting forth effort can be intimidating, but I am convinced that every little bit counts.  I don’t have much, but the talents that I have I plan to utilize to the best of my ability.

c. reflection on URF model or your experience working with urf/the community.

URF is a truly unique and incredible organization.  As a whole, it is a progressive in the sense that that it realizes that not one single issue exists in absence of others.  For to give students education to be valuable, we must also work to provide food.  To combat poverty, we must also empower women.  The school encompasses basic school subjects, but also trains for a future with computers, financial literacy, leadership, and entrepreneurship.  The sheer scope of the programs is incredible.  I know everyone that has gone to Uganda says the same thing, but the community and the people truly touched my heart.  They are motivated and passionate.  I know I will return to Uganda again someday.

Thank you.  Please let me know if there is anymore information you need.  

Catherine Hansen
Extending the Link
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University, MN