Rieck is MFL MarMac’s first Borlaug Scholar

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MFL MarMac senior Kira Rieck is the school’s first Borlaug Scholar. She received the honor, and was invited to virtually attend The World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University in late April, based on a paper she wrote about arising conflict within the heart of Uganda.

By Audrey Posten, Times-Register

MFL MarMac senior Kira Rieck is the school’s first Borlaug Scholar. She received the honor, and was invited to virtually attend The World Food Prize Iowa Youth Institute at Iowa State University (ISU) in late April, based on a paper she wrote about arising conflict within the heart of Uganda.

Rieck heard about the opportunity through an ISU newsletter and was encouraged to apply by two of her teachers, including agriculture teacher Sarah Wille.

“I’ve wanted students to do it” since joining the district several years ago, Wille said, “but it’s a hard sell.”

Each student must submit an extensive research paper, with sources, exploring a specific problem in a foreign country, then provide a solution. Topics could range from political unrest and conflict, like Rieck selected, to water and food insecurity, disease or climate volatility.

“I was immediately interested,” Rieck said.

In December, the McGregor native went on a mission trip to Uganda, where she saw political conflict first hand.

“The government is corrupt—it’s a dictatorship,” Rieck shared. “People can’t speak their minds, and the president will send out spies. He’ll kill people for talking bad about him.”

Although unsettling, Rieck found hope in the situation through the Ugandan people.

“Civilians radiated abundant amounts of positivity even while sharing hardy and impactful stories,” she wrote in her paper. “The children never complain because they appreciate all they possess. Respect, traditions and perseverance should be the stereotypes spreading across nations, not poverty, danger and sickness. Although disastrous situations occur, the citizens never dwell on them, they instead focus on humanitarian acts to help improve relationships and their communities. Hatred is not active between civilians but originates from the president. Americans need not shy away from this beautiful continent enriched with humanity; they should prioritize the visiting of such a traditional and impactful region of the world.”

Rieck believes her heartfelt anecdotes from the trip set her paper apart.

“A lot of people just looked up information,” she said, “but I was actually in the country, learning that information. I had first-hand experience.”

Wille said the student’s story of traveling across the globe—and her motivation to make a difference—was inspiring to others. 

“She chose a difficult problem, and the solution will take years,” Wille remarked. “[The Iowa Youth Institute] only accepts a couple hundred students each year, so it’s an honor to participate.”

During the 5.5-hour virtual Iowa Youth Institute event, Rieck spoke about Uganda and defended her solution during a student roundtable discussion. She also attended an immersion discussion hosted by ISU Associate Dean Dr. David Acker.

In addition, Rieck learned more about the Global Resource System program she’ll be part of when she attends ISU this fall, as well as her career plan of becoming a hunger fighter. Her Ugandan experience cemented that decision, and the Borlaug Scholar distinction even earned her a $500 scholarship to ISU’s College of Agriculture.

“I knew my future goal was to help people in need. I’ve always been passionate about that,” Rieck shared, “but this made me realize what I want to do at ISU. There are a lot of options out there.”


 

The Arising Conflict Within the Heart of Uganda

Kira Rieck

 

Across the globe lies an entirely diverse body of land. Americans perceive the continent as a threat to the sickness and war that arises within the northern compass. HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus), AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), malaria, typhoid all commonly exist throughout the continent of Africa, ceasing individuals from travelling outside of their comfort zones to gain insight into Africa’s culture. Such dismissiveness to acquire knowledge first-hand by travelling instead of through stereotypes not only identifies as absurd, but as disrespectful to the millions of individuals living a current nightmare. 

 

One seven-year-old boy named Aleper Moses resides in a small community called Obowobowo, located in the heart of Uganda. With mud dried to his callused feet from weeks of not showering, to a ten-mile walk to the carepoint where non-profit teachers educate him, to his parents dying from AIDS, the community views this boy as “lucky with opportunity.” 

 

While personally attending the carepoint, this child relinquished his grasp on my hand and never let go as if a new source of hope originated within him. Tears flowed from my eyes when a small amount of compassion presented from the child demonstrated in the most innocent way possible…  painting my nails. The small boy observed me applying fresh coats of polish to the other children’s toes and fingers to teach a lesson that God washed his disciples’ feet to prove he was no better than them. 

 

While pointing to my hand Aleper saw my plain nails and simply asked, “Kira, why none for you?”

 

 I responded with a smile, “I don’t need any; I am okay!” 

 

A few moments later he was tugging my hand and painting my nails. I contemplated deeply on how these children maintained such positivity when in reality they endured hell; while back home, Americans complained about school without a two-hour delay. 

 

Although such comparison exists between the two continents, the country of Uganda endures a conflict the U.S. cannot top. The current residents lower their voices around unfamiliar community members. The results of “talking politics” concludes with death. The dictator, Yoweri Museveni, dispatches governmental spies into the whole country, particularly by listening to personal conversations between citizens( History, 2009). If individuals “talk bad” of the president by not supporting him; dire consequential ends occur. The examiners inform the president and he then orders death to the unsupporters and their families. Mock accidents, such as car crashes, food or drink poisonings, or premeditated murders transpire on the victim’s family to warn the next target. 

 

Since the president continually wrongs countless community members and their families, avengers swarm populated areas in hopes to assassinate the unlawful dictator (Adebayo, 2019). In response to this tactic, Museveni eliminates power when he travels from town to town. This restricts civilians from reaching out to inform others of the president’s location, thereby reducing the chance of murder. 

 

Along with punishment for people with contrasting political views, while staying at the Ebenezer guesthouse in Katakwi early on in the week, around the time of 9:00 P.M., a group of us sat outside our bedroom doors communicating with our HopeChest leader, Simon. In that moment, all of the electricity suddenly lost power. Housemaids continued working as if nothing happened and Simon continued to talk. One of us girls asked our director why we lost electricity. With some hesitation as if to trust us or not, he informed us the president shuts off the power at random moments during the day and night as a punishment for those who do not support him, and keeps the electricity on for the areas who continue to encourage him (Burnett, 2012). 

 

Even so with these unexpected occurrences, the citizens keep their composure and strive to continue daily tasks while refraining from any disruptive behavior, such as panic. 

 

Comparatively, in the United States a source of a power outage usually interpretes to dangerous weather, whereas everyone halts their actions and complains about the “expected” precipitation, since newscasts foretelling the forecast air hours or even days beforehand. 

 

Although power outages differ from place to place depending on reason, Museveni focuses his tactics based on his own emotions rather than law. One requirement Museveni originated not only contradicts the bible, but also encourages single parenting within the country. The president strictly orders any man who engages in intercourse with a girl under the age of eighteen to prison for three to fifteen years. Oftentimes, other men who commit such acts flee the area so officials cannot find them. They run from city to city or some settle with their families and rarely leave the home. The girls receive no type of punishment since they more than likely need to drop out of school to learn skills for motherhood (Leave, 2018). 

 

A fifteen-year-old girl from the carepoint by the name of Mary delivered her first child, Charles, in the year of 2019. The carepoint expelled her so she discourages the acceptability of underage intercourse. The institution instead taught her maturity of becoming a mother even though she discontinued attending the carepoint. They accomplished this by presenting themselves in home visits. She no longer received the education she was capable of acquiring, but now learned about parenthood as a punishment. Mary’s boyfriend vanished from the area when he learned of her pregnancy. Mary believes he is close by with family members and still secretly observes the growth of their child. This law not only demands fear from underage parents but contradicts religious teachings for a man and a wife to marry and raise a child together. 

 

Even with such strict laws, crimes occur daily in the country of Uganda which allows individuals to help others in the most extravagant ways possible. The first leading causes of death identified as the following in this order: malaria, HIV/AIDS, diarrhea, and vehicle accidents. Unfortunately, when 911 dispatchers receive urgent calls for medical help, they fail to take the situation as serious emergencies. These workers experience numerous calls on a daily basis and consider them as regular. To ease their workload, they drink while on the job. The “life-savers” take longer than usual to arrive at the crime scene. Some take hours to respond to the sites located all throughout the continent of Africa. This leaves no choice but for nearby civilians to urgently lend a “helping hand.”

 

On our last day, we travelled by bus to our hotel. On the way, a white vehicle sped past us going over 100 mph (miles per hour). A few miles up the road, a man sprawled dead in the center on the highway. The vehicle hit him. I remember seeing the corpse with a trail of blood left behind him. While attending our destination, the same driver sped past our hotel. If he would have been caught, he would have gone to prison. If he stayed to wait for the police, he had more than likely been dead before the police arrived due to street justice. Community members seize the right to kill him since he hit and killed someone. Unfortunately, people dying from “getting hit” is the fourth leading cause in the entire continent of Africa (Balikuddembe, 2017). 

 

Since death occurs so commonly, families along with other community members technically do not need to inform anyone of someone’s death. They either bury them on their own or they stack bricks on the person if they cannot afford this. 

 

While attending Aleper’s home visit, I set my gaze on a stack of bricks. I asked Aleper’s grandma about the bricks. She quickly responded that Aleper’s father was under them. I silence and my stomach turns. Later on in the day I asked my leader, Simon, about the situation and he explained to me the wealth and poverty disparity when burying loved ones. 

 

Since saddening situations constantly occur it’s important to remember the positivity presented within the country. Throughout all of these dire circumstances, all of the community members greet foreigners in the most welcoming way. When staying places, community members approach and gift their most valuable possessions as a way of saying “thank you for travelling all this way to show concern for this country.'' They wave/swarm every time they see white people or they kneel to grab the visitor’s hand and place these upon their foreheads to show appreciation. 

 

While attending Uganda, Africa, civilians radiated abundant amounts of positivity even while sharing hardy and impactful stories. The children never complain because they appreciate all they possess. Respect, traditions, and perseverance should be the stereotypes spreading across nations not poverty, danger, and sickness. Although disastrous situations occur, the citizens never dwell on them, they instead focus on humanitarian acts to help improve relationships and their communities. Hatred is not active between civilians but originates from the president. Americans need not shy away from this beautiful continent enriched with humanity; they prioritize the visiting of such a traditional and impactful region of the world. 

 

Everyday should be viewed as a learning experience. Countless conflicts take place all around the world in each country, it’s just how we humans view them. We can either shy away and never travel to new and exciting countries or we can step up and travel to make a difference. Conflict shouldn’t scare people away from change, but instead encourage them to make an impact in every way possible. I’m lucky to have had this experience of traveling to share my knowledge with you. Thank you. 

Works Cited

Adebayo, B. (2019, September 12). Ugandan President Museveni wants 'eye for eye' justice after 

nephew's slaying. Retrieved February 21, 2020, from https://www.cnn.com/2019/09/11

/africa/president-museveni-calls-for-death-sentences/index.html

Balikuddembe, J. K., Ardalan, A., Khorasani-Zavareh, D., Nejati, A., & Munanura, K. S. (2017, 

January). Road traffic incidents in Uganda: a systematic review study of a five-year trend. 

Retrieved February 21, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PM

C5279989/

Burnett, J. (2012, October 8). Uganda's Leader: 26 Years In Power, No Plans To Quit. Retrieved 

February 21, 2020, from https://www.npr.org/2012/10/08/161542159/ugandas-leader

-26-years-in-power-no-plans-to-quit

Leave No Girl Behind in Africa: Discrimination in Education against Pregnant Girls and 

Adolescent Mothers. (2018, August 17). Retrieved February 21, 2020, from 

https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/06/14/leave-no-girl-behind-africa/discrimination-educat

ion-against-pregnant-girls-and

History.com Editors. (2009, December 16). Idi Amin. Retrieved February 21, 2020, from 

https://www.history.com/topics/africa/idi-am

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