Holy Innocents Children's Hospital Uganda

USD Grads Return from 8-Month Internship in Mbarara


HI Interns Brian Cervenka and Annie O’Brien with children from Mbarara. Together with Connor Johnson, Brian and Annie spent eight months working on Holy Innocents Children’s Hospital and supporting the children of Mbarara.

USD grads Annie O’Brien, Brian Cervenka and Connor Johnson returned in May from a life-changing eight-month internship in Mbarara, Uganda. Annie, Brian and Connor gave their time, energy and compassion to the Mbarara community – and the children of Mbarara are immeasurably better for it.

The three USD grads rolled up their sleeves and jumped right in from day one, facilitating communication between San Diego-based Holy Innocents and the Catholic Archdiocese of Mbarara, identifying and sourcing required supplies, helping to procure equipment and furniture, clearing brush and creating a 5,000 sq. ft. vegetable garden on hospital property, and participating in fundraising activities for the hospital.

In their “spare time,” they participated in immunization outreaches to children in rural villages, assisted Ugandan Red Cross during a cholera outbreak, participated in mosquito net distributions and trainings to protect children from malaria, played with children at the local orphanage, comforted children affected by AIDS, and made friends with scores of children who in many cases had never seen a white-skinned “muzungo” before.

It has been a humbling and unforgettable experience for all three. Connor and Annie have been inspired to pursue careers in health services. Brian, who will attend medical school this fall, says he expects to have a life-long connection with Uganda.

The reception featured jazz music, African drum music, wine tasting, models in traditional Ugandan dress, authentic Ugandan crafts, and a silent and live auction. Proceeds from the reception will fund the remaining Phase 1 hospital construction costs and initial start-up expenses. University of San Diego’s Dr. Anita Hunter, who has led four medical and training missions to Mbarara since 2007, also spoke at the reception. In addition, USD graduates Connor Johnson, Annie O’Brien and Brian Cervenka spoke about their eight-month internship in Mbarara, where they played a critical role in the development of the hospital and became a beloved part of the community (see Three USD Grads Return…).

Initially expecting their internship to be “hard but worthwhile,” Annie, Brian and Connor found themselves inspired by the beauty of this sub-Saharan region, the friendliness of the community, the affection of the children and the genuine appreciation shown to them by so many. Though they were involved with community and hospital activities from early morning until late at night, they were constantly energized by the difference they were making in so many lives.

HI board member Msgr. Dennis Mikulanis expresses our entire organization’s appreciation and respect for Annie, Brian and Connor when he declares, “We’ve got some new heroes….”

Note: This article was originally posted on May 2009.

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