Every weekday morning, Jessica Haring takes a motorcycle taxi to work through the streets in Kampala, Uganda, dodging what she says is “the most insane traffic” she has ever seen. She walks into the Kampala Diplomatic School where she teaches literature, history, and fine arts to a diverse group of Ugandan schoolchildren in years four through six in the British curriculum. These students come from all different backgrounds; some who attended the top schools in Africa and the United Kingdom, and others who could not attend school until they were teenagers.
“They all come from different economic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. It’s a wonderful environment,” she says.
Haring had no intention of working internationally upon graduating from Loyola in 2011 with a degree in anthropology and minors in English and studio art. After an internship in Uganda took her abroad for a year, Haring decided to stay in Africa when offered a teaching position.
Originally Haring wanted to work on human trafficking issues in Chicago. While looking for domestic work, she came across a non-profit called the Kwagala Project which offers services and resources to survivors of human trafficking and exploited minors, including counseling, mentoring, and education. Haring accepted an internship position and made the move across the Atlantic.
“I love to travel, and when the opportunity presented itself, I felt like it was what I had been looking for all along,” she says.
As an intern, Haring assisted the organization with social media and helped some of the girls in Kwagala’s vocational school establish a micro-credit-based community salon.
“The best part about the job, though, was hanging out with the girls,” says Haring. “We worked on art projects, helped with homework, had sleepovers, played games.”
At first, Haring says she was hesitant about going to Africa to do humanitarian work.
“I was afraid of having a white-western-savior complex. I didn’t want to impose my culture and my belief system on another culture,” she says. “Uganda is an incredibly diverse place, let alone the rest of Africa, and it’s silly to think that people here need people from the West to come and save them.”
Haring says the majority of the staff at Kwagala were Ugandan, which helped keep that element in perspective.
After her year with Kwagala, Haring was planning on moving back to the United States. However, she was offered the teaching position at Kampala Diplomatic School and decided to stay, partly so she could stay involved with the Kwagala Project.
Haring says Loyola has helped her navigate this chapter of her life.
“Loyola taught me a lot about diversity. It stretched me into a new person. I became much more open minded as my studies and connections diversified over my four years of undergrad,” she says. “I don’t think that I came out of my anthropology degree with a comprehensive understanding of the world, but with the right tools to begin.”