2015 MCN Conference Delegate | Undergraduate University: North Carolina State University
Going into the 2015 Millennium Campus Conference (MCC15), Supriya Sadagopan had nothing but a swirl of emotions running through her head. She felt excitement for the wonderful people she knew she would meet; curiosity to learn more about the amazing work youth leaders were doing in their respective areas; and amazement over the opportunity to spend a week discussing issues of global relevance at the UN. However, she felt fear as well.
As a young student, Supriya had an interest in many different topics; they included public health, women’s empowerment, and community outreach. Though passionate about these issues, she struggled to find a way to integrate her passions into tangible, meaningful, and impactful work for the greater community.
MCC gave her the opportunity to make her dreams of being a change-maker into a reality. She went to various sessions at MCC in the hopes to meet likeminded peers; and one afternoon, she walked into a crowded workshop- and in entered Katrina Boratko and Amy Vaninetti from Mama Hope. They were wearing "Stop the Pity" advocacy shirts and spoke about their travels and work in East Africa. The two social impact leaders were eloquent and inspiring. Supriya said, "[the workshop] wasn’t just one of those sessions where you sit and idly listen." Instead, the session was interactive and engaging; the content was all together funny, moving, and passionate.
In the session, Katrina and Amy introduced the idea of “Poverty Porn," which is the use of reductive and harmful African stereotypes by nonprofits, charities, and the media. The notion of "poverty porn" resonated with Supriya- she often noticed the problems that Katrina and Amy were pointing out in the media. Too often, non-profits and the media reduced the strength and character of the communities they are helping by painting themselves as the “heroes that save the day.” Mama Hope tried to avoid such paternalistic tendencies and instead aimed to impact through uplifting communities via grassroots leadership, promoting intercultural relationships, and changing the way the public views the continent.
Ten minutes into the workshop and listening to Mama Hope’s mission, Supriya was hooked; she wanted to be involved with Mama Hope. As she researched their projects, she learned that projects of theirs were entirely community-driven and led by the community leaders. Projects included the construction of orphanages and schools in Tanzania and Ghana; a sustainable farm in Kenya; and a health clinic in Uganda. The individual projects aimed to be as multifaceted as possible; for instance, the health clinic wasn’t just solely providing services, but was also doing health outreach and constructing a cultural center and fruit farm.
Supriya spoke to Katrina and Amy after the workshop. She told them about her passion for social impact work and her struggle with making her ideas a reality. She asked if there were any opportunities to further connect herself with Mama Hope; and to her delight, they suggested their Global Advocate Program. The program connected young professionals with partner communities through a hands-on, immersive experience. Not only would Supriya get an amazing opportunity to work with influential communities, but she would also have the privilege to experience the community's vibrant culture.
Soon after connecting with Katrina and Amy, Supriya teamed up with Mama Hope to do work with them at the Suubi Health Center in Budondo, Uganda.
Bernard Mukisa founded the Suubi Health Center after he saw a lack of accessible healthcare in his local community. The nearest hospital was 24 km away, and it was very difficult to obtain quality care for people living in Budondo and surrounding villages. In addition, at-home pregnancies coupled with little or no healthy education and malaria treatment led to a high mortality rate. Subsequently, the Suubi Health Center was constructed through a partnership with Mama Hope. In just two years, Suubi has served a community of more than 26,000 people. The facility provided HIV/AIDS testing, malaria treatment, prenatal care, as well as hosted community outreach days in nearby villages to raise awareness about health and provide vaccinations free of charge.
Currently, Suubi is in the process of building a maternity ward as well as working on sustainability projects for the future. Initiatives include the Budondo Intercultural Center -the only building of its type in the whole region. The Intercultural Center would provide a location for discussing pressing local issues, a safe space to organize health education workshops for women and girls, and could be rented as an event space. The profits from the Cultural Center would then be used towards Suubi.
Another sustainability project in the works is “the Passion Fruit Farm,” which Mukisa’s son Charles is leading. The farm would grow nutritious and delicious passion fruit for the area as well as employ community women, and in the end, all profits would go towards Suubi. In a few years time, the success of these projects would allow Suubi to be financially independent as well as serve an even larger population. Supriya couldn’t wait to work on such impactful projects with the Mama Hope team and Budondo community.
As a Mama Hope fellow, Supriya worked with the Suubi Health Center team to complete building the Budondo Intercultural Center and expand the development of the passion fruit farms. For three months, Supriya lived with the Budondo community and did incredible work alongside them. She experienced “Mama Hope Magic” on her fellowship.
Supriya learned the term “Mama Hope Magic” while working with Mama Hope. The term describes the serendipitous nature of how the partner communities can come together for a greater cause; and the results are “magic.” Mama Hope Magic was definitely present at MCC. Supriya was very grateful for MCN; if it weren’t for attending that workshop at MCN, she would have never discovered the fellowship of her dreams and became a part of a new community. In her own words, “Without MCC, nothing I would be doing [now] would be possible- I’m so grateful to them for providing me with this opportunity to ‘not be a hero, but to be a sidekick’.” Communities have the power to make a better future for themselves with the right resources and partners. Supriya is proud to have supported a cause that she cares about through partnerships with MCN and Mama Hope.