Senior Chris Harlow Researches in Uganda as Community-Based Fellow

Senior Chris Harlow Researches in Uganda as Community-Based Fellow

As a Community-Based Research Fellow through the Buffett Institute, senior Chris Harlow traveled to Uganda over the summer to assess past Global Engagement Studies Institute (GESI) projects. During this academic year, Harlow also received an Undergraduate Research Grant for his study on "Impact of International Service Learning."

The community-based research fellowship allows former participants of the GESI study abroad program to return to project sites and work with in-country partners. Through this research opportunity, undergraduates familiar with asset-based community development build upon their previous international experience. They connect with community partners as they research past student projects.

Harlow worked with community members in Uganda to get in-depth feedback on several GESI teams’ past work. He followed up on several projects completed from 2009 to 2014 in partnership with local organizations such as St. Francis Health Services.

St. Francis, a clinic outside of Jinja, helps HIV/AIDS patients and those affected by the disease through programs such as the Source of the Nile Jjajas (Grandmothers) and Orphans Support Group. Due to the high incidence of HIV/AIDS, many working-age Ugandans have died of the disease, leaving orphans who often are cared for by their grandmothers. Because these Jjajas have a significant economic burden, the Source of the Nile Support Group encourages them to pursue income-generating projects and teaches the importance of saving.

Harlow followed up on a mushroom growing project at St. Francis completed by GESI interns in 2009. The interns worked with St. Francis to revive the stalled project as a means for Jjajas to grow and sell mushrooms for a profit. The mushrooms could also be consumed to add variety and nutrients to their diets. The interns gave five families the tools and information needed to start their own mushroom gardens, brought a local mushroom expert for a seminar, created a mushroom growing guide in English and Luganda, and worked with one Jjaja in particular to continue the program going after the interns left Uganda.

“While the families and individuals who participated in the Mushroom Project are no longer working collectively, the influence of the program has spread significantly,” Harlow reported. He found that two to three Jjajas in each community or village now grow mushrooms, and that “some collective action occurs.” For example, one Jjaja sells mushrooms on behalf of several older Jjajas in her village. In addition, Harlow reported on how new individuals have been trained in mushroom growing.

“This past summer has shaped my international perspective and shifted my life-long career aspirations. So often undergraduate students feel like they cannot make a difference, but I came away from my summer as a CBR Fellow feeling just the opposite,” Harlow said.

By Buffett Institute and Marilyn Sherman
Last Modified: 7/13/16