Students Bring Uganda Stories to Calvin

Two Ugandan development workers taught at Calvin College in January in what is believed to be the college’s first-ever interim class planned by students.

The class “Hope Amidst an Unjust War” was created by Calvin seniors Kincso Borgyos and Jeannine Keller. It brought Michael Oruni and Harriet Acen to Calvin to share their stories of doing development work in Uganda. They serve in the devastating wake of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), which has waged a 20-year civil war in Uganda and become infamous for kidnapping Ugandan children and forcing them to become soldiers and sex slaves.

Borgyos, who majors in religion and international development, and Keller, a civil engineering major, got the idea when they met Oruni and Acen on a previous interim in Uganda taught by economics professor George Monsma and communication arts and sciences professor Mark Fackler.

Oruni works with World Vision to rehabilitate abducted children. Acen, who escaped the LRA a week after she was abducted, deals with financial and abuse issues among Ugandan women.

After returning to Calvin, the two students brainstormed an interim that would bring the Ugandans and their stories to Calvin and approached Fackler with their idea.

“We thought we’d sort of hand it off to him, and he’d plan the course,” Keller said. “Then he looked at us and said, ‘That’s great, girls. What’s your next step?’”

The pair pulled together a group of students to plan the interim and persuaded Monsma, who retired last year, to teach the course.

“It’s really great when students are interested enough in a topic to plan a course about it,” Monsma said.

The students pulled together money from various sources, including Calvin’s Nagel Institute for the Study of World Christianity; the college’s sociology, gender studies, and student life departments; the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee; and Classis Grand Rapids East.

The class was filled to capacity, which surprised neither girl. “I think I knew all along that this would be a big hit,” Borgyos said.

“International development is big right now at Calvin,” Keller added. “There’s been a lot of interest in Uganda too.”

By introducing Oruni and Acen to Calvin, they hoped to augment that interest—and to do something else as well.

“The reason we wanted to bring them here was also because when we met them in Uganda, they looked at us and they asked us how we were going to bless them and how they could bless us,” Borgyos said.

“I think the best way to bless them is to share their stories and tell people what’s going on in Uganda.”

About the Author

Myrna Anderson is a senior writer in Calvin College’s communications and marketing department.
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