In late April 2013, Alexis “Biz” Deeb, 2012-13 Minerva Fellow, departed Ddegeya. Biz had arrived nine months earlier, in July 2012, and during her stay she made a lasting impact on the clinical staff and surrounding children and families of Ddegeya and Nakateete. No matter where Biz was, she made friends, inspired laughter, and shared in the life of the village.
While in Uganda, Biz worked with the students at St. Gertrude and Sydney Paul Primary Schools, where she taught classes, facilitated reading groups, and held after-school tutoring sessions. She also traveled with P7 students on their field trip to Kampala and Entebbe. Additionally, Biz helped create a craft co-op, where young women enter into apprenticeships with older women in the village to learn sewing and other craft-making skills. She is passionate about advocating for empowerment programs at Engeye, and, although she has returned home, knows she will frequently return to Engeye.
To thank Biz for her good work, friendship, and dedication to the villagers, it is only fitting that John Kalule, Engeye’s clinic manager and Minerva volunteer coordinator, reflects on the hearts Biz impacted.
A Special Goodbye by John Kalule:
At first we were all strangers, wondering how bonding would happen. But before long, the marriage proposals and love letters addressed to Biz started piling up. This nine-month journey is not easy for the Union Minerva Fellows. Some give up at the start of the journey, while others keep strong and their heads up. They know challenge is part of life, that challenge is a lesson never to be forgotten.
Over the course of the last nine months, a strong bond developed through the work, friendship and commitment [Biz gave to the community and clinic]. We learned how to love, how to care and how to share. The stranger became the known, not only known by her new Engeye family, but by the children, mothers, fathers and babies of the village.
Every morning we would wake looking to someone who had become part of the team, who had become family. Some [village kids] would sit at the doorstep to make sure they had a chance to play with one of those modern gadgets she brought from home; others would simply wait for her “Hellooooooooo!”
This makes us reflect on those – select few, lucky few – who get the chance to go to school and college, where we learn to speak in a foreign language, learn new norms and behavior, and yet still remain ourselves. We go through hardship and decide not to surrender – that is the strength of Biz.
Goodbye, the way I don’t want to say it, is the same way I don’t want to write it here. I wanted to throw away your passport so you couldn’t go! Everybody cried, you cried. The children, staff and women in the community came to say goodbye when you were leaving. Some couldn’t face holding the tears while saying goodbye, so ran off and sent a goodbye text instead. Shameful! And yet, we understood. Sometimes, saying goodbye is just too hard.
A stranger in the beginning became a friend, family.
We love you, we miss you and we know you, Biz. You are part of us; we talk about you every day. Thank you for being YOU! We know you will be back here and a part of us again.