Haverford, Pa. - Haverford College men’s cross country and track and field member Chris Gardner ’15 is working at the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) in Jinja, Uganda for the summer through the Haverford College Center for Peace and Global Citizenship (CPGC) internship program.
The CPGC is an academic center whose mission is to integrate innovative scholarship and responsible civic engagement. Through its myriad programs, the Center serves as a bridge between the classroom and the world at large around issues of peace and social justice.
CPGC’s internship programs have been developed to widen and deepen Haverford's connections with social change organizations and to encourage a collaborative approach to pressing social, cultural and ethical concerns.
Gardner is a medical lab technician for TASO, an organization that was founded in 1987 by Noerine Kaleeba and 15 other people, some of whom have since passed away because of the AIDS virus. Since its creation, TASO has turned into a non-governmental organization with 11 service centers and four regional offices that covers a large portion of Uganda.
“I draw blood for CD4 counts and diagnose a variety of diseases (TB, HIV and malaria),” said Gardner. “Once or twice a week, I travel with a small convoy to a village without ready access to a hospital or clinic, and perform similar tasks. There are also days where I support a counselor who talks with clients about healthy ways to live with HIV and ways to reduce HIV transmission.”
When asked to explain why he was interested in studying abroad, the rising senior said “I was interested in learning about why other parts of the world succumb to AIDS/HIV more than in America. I desired to learn how political, social and economic stresses may contribute to HIV prevalence and felt that Eastern Africa was the best place to observe and detail these findings.”
Gardner, the Warren, N.J. native, discussed how the internship showed him that there is a need to help HIV-positive people in the world. “There are so many people in developed and developing countries that need help for a variety of medical issues,” said the cross country and track and field member. “I’ve learned that the government is really responsible for how healthcare is administered to people, and that allocating inadequate funds or improperly maintaining other facets of life, such as education and police forces can exacerbate healthcare problems.”
Being a student, the rising senior understands that it is difficult for him to make policy changes in Uganda, but that has not prevented him from voicing ways that the government can improve healthcare in the country. This CPGC experience has confirmed that Gardner would like to remain in the medical setting after he graduates and be involved in policy making.
The internship in Uganda has given the rising senior a new perspective. “I appreciate the American healthcare, education and style of parenting,” said Gardner. “Ugandan culture has showed me that families deteriorate much more readily because of poverty; a decaying family results in a lack of affection towards children. Children are left to fend for themselves and more than 70 percent drop out of school to meet basic survival needs, which leads to a growing population of uneducated adults who make poor decisions regarding their health. American families and schools provide much more nurturing and supportive environments for children to grow, which results in a more educated country.”