Dispatches from Uganda: Home Sweet Home

Dispatches from Uganda: Home Sweet Home

Editor's Note: A water quality and public health research project in Uganda has the full attention of an interdisciplinary group — including USD faculty members, students, President James T. Harris and his wife, Mary — all of whom are excited to show what it means to make a difference in the world. Ryan T. Blystone, editor of the USD News Center, is in Uganda to document the trip.

"Mooooo. Bark! Bark! Bark! Weeee. Weeee. Weeee. Chirp. Chirp. Chirp. Tweet. Tweet. Hah, Hah, Hah!"

These are just some of the sounds that come at all hours of the day and night in this corner of the world: a plethora of birds singing, cows in a nearby field, dogs barking and others howling, and various other creatures squeaking provide a constant soundtrack acknowledgement of life happening at Montfort House.

USD Uganda Trip: January 2020

There's room for everybody — human, animal and bugs — at the wonderful Montfort Missionaries' six-acre property. Filled with verdant vegetation everywhere you can see and part of a larger Catholic diocese community, Montfort House is located a little bit off the beaten path.

There's some 20 rooms in two separate buildings with bedroom quarters, including the main area with multiple bedrooms surrounding a big tree, hedges, flowers and a lawn with two tables for sitting and relaxing.

There's a sitting room that, during the first weeks of January, serves as a daily night reflection space for University of San Diego faculty and students. The staff room offers a meeting space with a mini-fridge filled with cold drinks by the bottle, accompanying snacks and places to sit and charge cellphones. A library filled with spiritual and religious offerings await visitors. It has already been, with its sturdy table, a perfect place for one USD nursing student to create a PowerPoint presentation for Holy Innocents Children’s Hospital.

The dining room area has two long tables for family-style breakfast, lunch and dinner with condiments such as Nutella, a big jar of peanut butter, and, depending on the mealtime, all kinds of teas, instant coffee, creamers, butter and, of course, loaves of bread for toast and egg sandwiches.

The back tables serve up multiple pots of creations from the fine kitchen staff. Always potatoes, sometimes served as wedges, sometimes larger and wider, rice, maybe a tomato-avocado salad, always fish or chicken or other meat dish, a stew, beans or green beans, a g-nut sauce and plenty of fresh fruit options, lately pineapple, mango and watermelon are the norm.

There has been a USD contingent staying at Montfort House ever since former USD nursing professor and international nursing director Anita Hunter consulted on Holy Innocents in 2007. Annually now when doing a study abroad trip or, in the even years, a research-focused trip, the Montfort House is a perfect venue for USD Chemistry Professor Jim Bolender, fellow faculty members and students. This year, the Montfort House welcomed USD President Jim and Mary Harris and myself to the fold.

Those who run the venue, led by the always smiling and helpful Father Ernest and a cast of guest drop-ins such as Father Hans, Father B, and multiple locals who keep the grounds looking inviting, provide a valuable service. Father Oscar is also here, both to help with any issue guests may have — from shopping for specific items to pumping a volleyball to be used by community members. He also delivers the daily morning mass in the small corner chapel that had President Harris, myself and a late-arriving local as the lone attendees. President Harris delivered the first reading at the 25-minute mass.

As for the contribution to the USD water-quality project led by Dr. Bolender, Monfort House's conference room is currently serving as a make-shift lab. Biology lecturer and Shiley Center for Science and Technology Building Manager Keith MacDonald and four students are running experiments on the water test collections gathered from a lake source within the Nakivale Refugee Settlement and from two wells in Kyabirukwa, which were near the site of a successful pop-up health clinic run by Holy Innocents for more than 200 local children.

We're all here at Montfort House for another week — the Harrises have left, enabling me to move from a room separate from the main venue to one that gives me a new view of the grounds and, most importantly this weekend, near the small laundry room washer and clothesline dryer!

— Ryan T. Blystone

The road leading to the entrance of the Montfort House; the USD contingent's basecamp in Uganda.The road leading to the entrance of the Montfort House; the USD contingent's basecamp in Uganda.

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