Friday, June 5, 2015

David Sabatini Joins OU Team in Uganda and Rwanda

OU Team and Hosts
CEES Professor and WaTER Center Director David Sabatini joined an interdisciplinary team of OU colleagues on an exploratory trip to Gulu, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda in April.  The team consisted of representatives from the colleges of Architecture, Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, International Studies and Medicine and the Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth. Sabatini represented CEES, the WaTER Center and the College of Engineering

The first objective of the trip was to explore options for interdisciplinary service learning projects at St. Monica’s Vocational School in Gulu while also connecting with the local university, local water companies and area NGO’s.  The second objective, while in Kigali, was to explore similar project opportunities with representatives of the local university, NGO’s and government organizations.

The group was hosted by 2014 TIME 100 Most Influential and 2007 CNN Hero Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe and the Saint Monica’s Vocational School in Gulu, which is a six hour van ride north of the capital of Kampala.  Potential projects identified while at St Monica’s include a master plan for the school that would include water and sanitation facilities with a water/sanitation/health kiosk built into an exterior wall that would also serve the community, as well as solar and biofuel potential.  The team also visited Atiak, about an hour north of Gulu, to explore potential water and sanitation projects where Sister Rosemary is establishing a new school. 
Sabatini and Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe

After five days in Gulu, four team members traveled on to Kigali where they visited with representatives from Bridge2Rwanda, a training program to assist high school graduates that want to attend college in the US; several University of Rwanda faculty members from engineering, architecture and business; native Rwandan graduates of Oklahoma Christian College that have returned to their homeland to pursue their careers; a sanitation/biofuel startup installation initiated by a UC-Berkley graduate; an architecture firm designing learning/health centers in rural villages; the Minister of Infrastructure; and the Water/Sanitation Corporation.  Many needs and opportunities for water and sanitation initiatives were identified.  Certain elements look more advanced such as roads and businesses but others show that great needs still exist in such basic areas as wastewater treatment and availability of drinking water. 
David Sabatini
While in Kigali, the team also took the opportunity to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and ate dinner at Hotel Des Mille Collines, the hotel featured in the movie Hotel Rwanda.

"The trip was very illuminating", said Sabatini. "Representatives in both countries expressed great interest in collaborating with OU, and the team identified many opportunities to engage our students in service learning opportunities while also meeting needs and advancing development in these countries through capacity building, student/faculty exchanges and training courses among others."  The OU team is in the process of evaluating the range of opportunities and developing a plan for next steps.   
Stay tuned!