Reach Out Mbuya Parish HIV/AIDS Initiative (ROM), a Community Faith-Based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), was founded in 2001 to provide HIV/AIDS care to the urban poor persons living with HIV/AIDS within the service area of Mbuya Catholic Parish and Kasaala-Luweero district since January 2009.
The overall objective of Reach Out is to offer a unique model of care to people living with HIV/AIDS: a model that takes care of the whole person, including the needs of the body, mind, family, and community.
Number of students placed here:
Partnership was established:
2010 - Present
What did you take away as being the most valuable aspects of having participated in Beyond Borders? What aspects of this experience were most impactful, and why?
“I found that Beyond Borders was very impactful in my life in terms of providing perspective on how a large proportion of the world lives and functions. I found the discussions and classes beforehand were very valuable to the program in preparing you for placement. I thought the length of the placement really allowed for integration into the community and to really see what day to day life is like in another country. My time at Reach Out Mbuya was a major influence on my later decision to pursue medicine as a career.”
“While volunteering in Uganda, I witnessed the stigmatization of HIV-positive individuals. Treated as outcasts, HIV-positive individuals often have low self-worth. However, letting them know they are acknowledged helps to empower them; gestures as simple as leaning in when talking or a warm smile show that they are valued, respected, and, most importantly, cared about. I remember the surprise and joy displayed by clients when I shook their hands and addressed them with “Sir” and “Madam”. Through these actions, it demonstrated to others that HIV-positive individuals do not bring ill luck nor are they contagious through touch, as is often believed in Ugandan rural communities. I see these small actions as a catalyst for driving significant changes in people’s attitudes to and understanding of HIV.”
What would you like to say to a prospective student considering the Beyond Borders program?
“It is more than worth it to have an experience outside your comfort zone and you never know what you might learn!”
“I would highly recommend the Beyond Borders program! Although no two person’s experience will be the same, I know that you will have a truly humbling and wonderful experience, where new friendships will be made, and you will learn more about yourself. My placement has also inspired me to look for other volunteer opportunities where I can apply and share my skills. Currently, I am volunteering with CUSO International as an Education Assistant for Indigenous students in the Northwest Territories.”
Students will collaborate with their community partner upon arrival to outline their roles and responsibilities as a volunteer. Partners will introduce students to their organization and the variety of projects for students to participate in. Likewise, students will share their own skills and passions with the community partner in these first weeks. This process of mutual sharing and learning leads to co-developing projects, self-guided learning, and mentorship, such that all parties get the most out of this new relationship. What students work on at organizations changes year to year and depends on the student’s interests. Placement tasks could fall under any of the following categories:
• Lab work
• Public health
• Education support
• Community outreach
Kampala district - home to three Reach Out Mbuya sites - has a high HIV prevalence rate. Due to Reach Out Mbuya’s values of serving people experiencing poverty and the holistic nature of its services, the number of clients it serves has grown over its 15 years of operation. Reach Out Mbuya uses a community-based, holistic model of care that emphasizes community ownership. Reach Out Mbuya strategically has over 49% of their staff come from its HIV-positive catchment population. Headed by an Executive Director and an eleven-member Board of Directors, Reach Out Mbuya is chaired by the parish priest of Our Lady of Africa Catholic Church, Mbuya.