“If God had a bedroom, it would certainly be the skies in Africa,” Callie King remembers thinking while she was in Uganda. “They are luxurious and seductive at the same time.”
Callie King takes a photograph in Uganda.
The intense beauty of the landscape, the abundance of wildlife and the kindness and dignity of the people belied the poverty and trauma of the small East African nation, which is still reeling from years of civil war against the terrorism of Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony. “The people still have a deep fear that he is coming back,” said King, a senior from Elyria who has a double major in telecommunications and visual communication technology and is also pursuing a minor in cultural studies.
King and her business partner, Tristan Rader of Kent State University, documented the Ugandan way of life during a month-long trip in November. “The Human Story: The Ugandan Film Project” was funded in part by the $6,000 Givens Fellowship King received from BGSU—a huge boost, she says gratefully, that enabled her to embark on what she and Rader plan as the first of a “series of other projects in different parts of the world that will help people relate to others.”
Established by BGSU’s Dr. Christopher and Ellen Dalton, the fellowship provides undergraduates the means to pursue a self-designed experience that will enrich their lives and which is not possible in a traditional classroom or study-abroad setting.
King and Rader also got support from the Church on the North Coast in Lorain, which provided them accommodations, a driver and van as part of a mission trip to dig wells and build an orphanage. Two church members are also on the production crew. After flying into Entebbe in the far south, they traveled from Lake Victoria up to the capital of Kampala, and to Gulu in the northeast.
They visited interdisplaced persons’ camps run by the United Nations. “The 20 years of civil war ravished everything,” King said. “Many people were born and raised in the IDP camps. The U.N. is withdrawing funding from the camps and the ones left are those who can’t leave, either because they have HIV and need medical care or are elderly or are caring for many children.”
Although there are no laws restricting religion, “Christianity plays a huge part in everyday life,” King said. “In Gulu, for example, every day the whole town shuts down from 12 to 2 and everyone gathers in the center of town for praise and worship. People also are extremely respectful. If you bring a glass of water to an elder, for example, you kneel on one knee to present it and stay kneeling until they have taken it.”
The people the group encountered were eager to hear about the U.S. “They were much better versed in the political and social issues of the United States than we are about Africa,” she said. “Everywhere we went, people asked us about Obama and if we had voted for him.”
King and the rest of the crew participated in a panel discussion with local people about their lives and culture. “They questioned us about why our country allows divorce and abortion, about the struggles of black people and about having a black president. I wasn’t expecting that,” she said, but tried to represent the differing viewpoints of Americans.