It Takes a Team

Students reach out to help a small island in east Africa.

Thanks to UW students, isolated Lingira Island now has a joyous girls’ soccer team. Photo: The Edge Project

A group of UW-Madison students working on isolated Lingira Island in Uganda’s Lake Victoria knew they were making a difference when a member of the country’s parliament came to check out the fledgling girls’ soccer team they had helped organize.

Government officials in the east African nation often ignore the isolated island’s residents. But after the high-ranking visitor’s stop, one soccer player won a coveted scholarship that previously would have been out of reach.

“It’s a huge deal that this member of parliament came to the island,” says Marissa Mommaerts ’09, MIPAx’10. “There’s been attention drawn to the island and the living conditions there.”

The students traveled to the island through EDGE (Empowerment through Development and Gender Equality), a student-run international development program launched by Mommaerts, Michelle Mazzeo ’09, and Farha Tahir ’09, MIPAx’10.

About fifty students in Madison — 7,800 miles from the island — researched potential projects for a smaller group that traveled to Lingira last summer. Once there, the students built a grain mill, set up a women’s craft cooperative, and organized the girls’ soccer team, among other projects.

Sustainability and education are essential to ensuring that Lingira residents will benefit from EDGE’s work between the students’ trips there, says Mommaerts. Under the watch of a young Ugandan woman hired to monitor the projects until the students’ next trip, a farmers’ association continues to meet, and Lingira’s girls’ soccer team is expanding to two squads.

Published in the Spring 2010 issue


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