06/1/15

A venture on the outside.

Date: January -April 2015

Education?

My first contribution to the community outside the university was a largely unforeseen professional venture; it was a task in which I had neither prior exposure nor interest. During my second term, I actively participated in the English language tutoring service at Love your Neighbour (LYN) community center as a volunteer. Under supervision, I was tasked to prepare English language studying materials for students mostly at high school level. This was with out a few challenges: it was a weekly commitment, and I had to avail study materials to all tutors on time – a crucial role in the program.

The supportive community went a long way in inspiring my continued contribution to the role – the establishment had a well established system to augment the volunteers in their respective roles. Soon, it became an activity I looked forward to, every week. I had always had interest in writing and the English language, and hence having an outlet for my passions through supporting the education of other students with in the community opened up a new personal interest for me. I was utterly surprised.

There was a lot to reap in terms of skills and experience. I acquired interpersonal skills, from both working with the other volunteers, and the students. In time, I became more proficient in communicating with learners. Since much of my duties were focused on paper work, I acquired documentation and organizational skills which I believe could be particularly useful in any office setting.  Given the close nature of the members of the community center, I often had contact with other members out of the tutor program. I soon got to learn about their contributions to communities world wide, including parts of Africa. I was particularly fascinated about the organization’s ability to successfully operate overseas projects because I believe this information could be crucial for me in my efforts to contribute to communities around the world, and at home, in Uganda.

Though skeptical in the beginning, this activity turned out to be one of my pivotal experiences during my first year at UBC. I have learnt and intend to diversify my skill set and involvements in the future because,as it turns out, career development is not linear. Overall,being involved with an international organization aimed at creating change for the underprivileged will forever be an experience that I am proud to have been a part of.

January 25th: The multicultural day.

With Amaitum Eddie(left) at the multicultural day.

On behalf of Uganda,with Amaitum Eddie(left), at the multicultural day.

Perhaps one of the unique features of this involvement was the community’s response to people of different cultural background. Most of the staff were always interested in learning about experiences of people from different parts of the world, which I found very exhilarating because I had an opportunity to share stories of my heritage and nation. This was a platform to paint a picture of a country and continent so often misconceived. I also got the chance to learn about other cultures.

 

More importantly, I was invited to organize a cultural representation for my country, Uganda, on the multicultural day event held on 25th January. This was the first time the event was being held and people from different cultures were tasked to design posters, art, and food sample for guests. With the aid of the Ugandan colleague, I designed the poster for Uganda, prepared food samples and gave guests insights into Ugandan culture and society.

Representing Uganda in Vancouver.

Representing Uganda in Vancouver.

There was a lot to learn from the various cultures and generally, how to live as a global citizen in a world with such a large diversity of cultures. Personally, I had always had the belief that “every person from a different culture is a window into a uniquely different way of life”, and as such, had always held interactions within multicultural societies in high regard. This mostly explains why this will always be a memorable contribution for me.

It is from this experience that I derived the reflection: “Being an ambassador even for the smallest cause goes a long way in building a momentous image.”

05/17/15

Impact: a trails of dreams.

Impact then…

Initially, as I applied for the MasterCard foundation scholarship, the two major ways I foresaw myself making a contribution to my home community using this newfound opportunity was by developing the “HYDRA 256 artificially intelligent purification dam” robotic concept that I had invented in 2013, and developing my creative writing skills to better poise myself as an article writer to promote public policies and health awareness. In relation to the latter, I hoped to improve on my proficiency in writing prose fiction, which I had been passionate about for most of my early life, and through this, I’d share ideas for community development in a more creative sense. My inspiration for the aforementioned robotics project came from witnessing the deprivation of clean water that most of Northern Uganda (region of my ancestral origin) suffered. I noted that the region had resources, and was potentially productive, but had seasonal droughts, and floods: conditions that could be alleviated by methods of purifying and utilizing excess water in wet seasons for use in the dryer seasons, meanwhile also supplying “clean” solar/wind electricity that could thrive in the sunny climate of the region.

I intended to use the support of robotics clubs at UBC to get professional assessment, insight and advice on the feasibility and development of the robotics concept. As for my creative writing, that was something I was considering having as a minor, with the hope that that would be sufficient. However, in coming to UBC, I soon discovered some unforeseen considerations. In my inquiries about the robotics clubs here, I learned that there were no clubs with objectives to develop free-lance projects for any purpose. To the best of my knowledge now, there is no way to develop this project through a club, and the only possible way is through the faculty of engineering. I always knew that the project assessment, development and implementation required the intervention engineering professionals, but I never had any personal interests in pursuing a degree in engineering, so I had to put the idea on hold. Any support, however to revitalize the idea, is much appreciated.

Impact now…

Consequently, my interests have reverted to a passion I have had for as long as I have been in education: to make a contribution to the health sector of my country. Much of my inspiration came from witnessing the life and work of my mother, who has been a nurse for as long as I have known. Spending a lot of time at the hospital, and contributing subtly to her work exposed me to the perils of health sector in Uganda. I resolved that as much as I could not contribute directly to public health policies (as a bigger, and perhaps, more political picture), I could use voluntary and professional service to extend medical treatment to hospitals. Also hopefully, I could inspire other health professionals to do the same. The most plausible way to achieve this has always been through attending medical school, and pursuing a career as a medical doctor.

Coming to UBC has in two ways modified this objective: medical school has become by far more far-fetched now than it has ever been, but however, I have been introduced to other disciplines that could possibly also serve to create revolutionary change to the health sector. This is the primary explanation for my inspiration to pursue a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology and Immunology. I intend to use this profession to contribute to medical and public health research in my country: focussing on vaccine and drug development, and epidemiological techniques. This would be through participating/ creating research projects at facilities like the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), and more subtly, vaccination programs in hospitals country-wide. These are sectors that have suffered lack of funds and technology in Uganda, yet could change health care forever. I also intend to use my exposure to facilities and organizations out of the continent to garner support for these sectors.

 

This is an objective best served by graduate school standing but working with what I currently have, I will strive to attain an honours undergraduate degree while at UBC. Though this might mean that I cannot have creative writing as a minor without risking an overload, I believe it will better serve my revised objectives. To further explore this idea, I currently consider two approaches; acquiring mentorship from professionals within this discipline and taking on laboratory/research positions to build my practical experience. I have so far sought mentorship and participated in the Undergraduate Research Experience REX program, and made an application off campus for a role in a clinic. I intend to scout for and apply for such similar opportunities, and any help in this endeavour is much appreciated.

 

Most of the questions I currently have about my objectives include, but not limited to the following: Is there a way to pursue a robotics project without being a student in the faculty of engineering? Could I have any assistance in scouting for laboratory/research opportunities considering my limited experience thus far? Do I have any hope for mentorship, or links to organizations with in the Microbiology/immunology industry?

05/11/15

Multidisciplinary Undergraduate research conference 2015

Date : November 2014 – 21st March 2015 

The first undergraduate research experience.

A few months after my application for mentor-ship under the Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO), a REX program, I was selected by Jennifer Guthrie, a PhD student in the faculty of health sciences and also a researcher at British Columbia Center for disease Research (BCCDC). The objective of the research experience was to conduct and present research under professional supervision, in order to develop and refine research skills.

I was tasked to conduct literature research on Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) techniques, contact tracing and surveillance, and how all these could be integrated to improve public health in Canada. I worked with two other mentees, with my individual focus being contact tracing, surveillance, and the implications of our review-type presentation on the public health system here in Canada.

Prior to my involvement in this research, I had conducted literature reviews for two of my courses for the first term and thus had some experience on research. However, doing research on techniques and content I had never been exposed to back in Africa, so much that I could present this information at a conference with a strong state of knowledge, was an initial challenge. In all honesty, I was afraid of cases where I had to answer questions on the details of the process of whole genome sequencing. Having a good mentor went along way in alleviating these feelings of inadequacy. With continued support and guidance from Jennifer Guthrie through out research and poster design, I was able to compile all my research and inculcate it into a poster that I would co-present with two other students from the faculty of science. Being able to do this well was tremendously inspiring – I was involved in research in something I had personal interest in, and my research could contribute, or at least serve to reinforce a greater cause.

The conference.

This experience was as much about the process of research as it was about poster design and presentation. A week Prior to the conference, I co-presented the research to Dr. Jennifer Gardy at the BCCDC, Dr. Gardy’s feedback was instrumental to polishing our work since she is one of the most prominent figures in public health in British Columbia. On 21st March 2015, we presented the poster to guests at the Multidisciplinary Undergraduate Research Conference (MURC).

With Julio Lailano and  Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC

With Julio Lailano and Jennifer Guthrie at the MURC.

This experience has been particularly rewarding in terms of my career development. Working with a professional researcher enabled me develop better research methodology, review skills, critical thinking, poster design and professional presentation. More importantly, this gave me insight into the public health sector here in Canada; the disease control techniques, grant applications, shortcomings and potential areas of improvement for more effective disease control. Overall, I found this experience very rewarding.

The knowledge accrued thereby is vital to my development as an aspiring research scientist and hopefully, medical doctor in the future. The methodology of the research process is a set of skills I intend to use through out my career and the details on public health techniques I learnt could go a long way to improve disease control in my own community in Africa.

 

05/11/15

Global Lounge Impact lab.

Date : 15th November.

I actively participated in discussions on project implementation and intercultural alliances. Investigated the implementation of a clean-water project under the supervision of the “Engineers with out borders” ; identifying the shortcomings and successes of the project. Discussed with club leaders on how to create a culturally inclusive society and how to deal with salient differences in values.

Investigating the clean water project.

Investigating the clean water project.

As the inventor of the HYDRA 256 artificially intelligent dam concept, I was particularly intrigued by the work of the engineers with out borders in Africa, and the implementation of clean water projects in Africa. The robotics prototype I invented in 2013 was closely related to the project we investigated; they both had the intention of delivering clean water to remote communities and studying this project during the impact lab exposed various unforeseen challenges and resolutions that could be useful if I can garner support to further develop the concept I invented. I was triggered to think more critically before and during project implementation.

I also found the intercultural relations workshop useful in reinforcing the idea I have always had whenever I meet people who are culturally different from me – that every person/ culture has a story behind it that you could yield new important ideas and customs that I could in turn inculcate into my personal set of values.

Sharing during the intercultural relations work shop

Sharing during the intercultural relations work shop

Needless to say, this work shop gave me momentous insights on how to relate to people of different cultures, (and global citizenship) and details on the process of project implementation. These are both vital for my future intentions to live and work both in and out of my country, and implement community projects.

05/11/15

MasterCard Foundation Action day.

Date : 8th November 2014

I participated in the MasterCard Foundation (MCF) Action day where all MCF scholars from the University of British Columbia volunteered in replenishing the gardens of the Strathcona community center. Activities included raking dry leaves and forming compost heaps, mulching gardens and replenishing path ways.

Raking dry leaves.

Raking dry leaves.

In addition to recalling familiar experiences of garden work back home, being involved in an activity that was going to benefit the community made me particularly nostalgic. And this being my first community involvement in Vancouver, I relished the feeling of contributing to the Vancouver community, beyond my campus community – thereby reinforcing the feelings of being part of a larger whole.

My biggest reward from this day came from speaking to the staff of the community center. They were my first contact with the life and experiences of being living in the downtown east side of Vancouver. I was exposed to the challenges of the underprivileged, and was inspired by the contribution of community centers in alleviating some of these challenges. My eyes were opened to the fact that the concept of community centers is not largely explored in Africa, but could serve to improve the quality of life of the underprivileged. Also, this instigated constructive conversation with my fellow scholars on the matter, and what facts surround the implementation of such ideas in Africa.

With Patrice and Eddie (scholars)

With Patrice and Eddie (scholars)

Much as the forms of contributions that I personally intend for my community back home are not exactly aligned to this experience, there were very many crucial transferable ideas. And therefore, I believe that I’m better poised to advise similar projects back home and execute community support projects.

There is a lot to learn from the implementation of the Strathcona community center projects.

There is a lot to learn from the implementation of the Strathcona community center projects.

05/11/15

Kwakiutl house council : Starting out close to home.

Date : September 2014 – April 2015

On my first night at the University of British Columbia, I had a momentous meeting with my floor residence adviser, a moment that would change my entire experience as a member of this community. It was the night I was inspired to join the Kwakiutl house council!

In my first week, I applied and was elected as a floor representative for Kwakiutl floor 5; a position i held for my entire first year. Being a member of a house council under the Totem Park Residents Association (TPRA), I actively participated in planning, advertising and organizing of house-wide events, and sometimes, Totem Park-wide events. in addition, I was to convey information and feedback between the residents of Kwakiutl house and the TPRA.

Much as being a new member with minimal orientation posed a lingering challenge for me as a leader in residence, the Kwakitutl house members were a very supportive community. This inspired me to work hard and effectively so that I could in turn, make their experience in first-year residence worth while. It goes with out saying that this experience had several minor but significant successes : winning the Totem Park colour wars, successfully holding house-wide events, and being runners up for the Totem Park residence cup.

Winning Totem Park Colour wars with Kwakiutl house

Winning Totem Park Colour wars with Kwakiutl house

Having not had extensive experience in community leadership before, I was surprised by how much being a leader in such an exuberant community could improve my own personal motivation to take on previously unfamiliar tasks. I realized that I did not have to have to be a very vocal icon in order to have a positive impact in my community. I learnt that leadership was more about being engaged with in the community, than trying to coordinate activities from a distance – that being a leader who was immersed with his members, so much that the role ceased to have a significant tag, and instead worked in unison with the interests of every one was far more rewarding.

Needless to say, this experience was especially socially rewarding. Being part of events meant that I had to interact with members of my community more often than I would have ordinarily. Though my interactions might have initially been regarding my responsibilities, many of the people I interacted with became friends that would hold further significance in the rest of my life here at UBC.

The Kwakiutl house council at the winter formal event.

The Kwakiutl house council 2014- 2015 at the winter formal event.

Put succinctly; I acquired skills in events organizations, community development, interpersonal relations and networking. These are skills that should enable me take on roles in the community, advertise, advocate, etc more effectively. I feel better poised to take up leadership in the community, residence, orientations and clubs – all of which are part of my future goals.

It was a life-changing realization that leadership and service tend to add more value to an individual, than what they take away in terms of time-commitments or challenges. Thumbs up to an experience I will hold dearly for the rest of my life.

Members of Kwakiutl house, fifth floor: end of year.

Members of Kwakiutl house, fifth floor: end of year.