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Notre Dame de Namur student-athlete gives back to Uganda even after she returns home

By Frank Bonner II

Arianna Cunha spent the summer of 2018 as an intern with Youth Sport Uganda, where she worked alongside co-workers Bonita Komug and Lorna Letasi to teach kids about health and sanitation. NOTRE DAME de NAMUR UNIVERSITY PHOTO

Arianna Cunha spent summer 2018 in Uganda, interning with a program that uses sports to teach children about health. And when Cunha returned to Notre Dame de Namur, where she is a three-sport student-athlete, she found a way to continue to assist the children who helped her discover her passion for helping others.

As chair of the campus Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Cunha suggested raising money to help Youth Sport Uganda sponsor kids to attend school. SAAC set a goal of raising $1,800 for the academic year, enough to pay for four or five children’s education for a year.

“I gained a lot within the relationships and learning the hospitality from them,” Cunha says of her experience in Kampala as an intern for Youth Sport Uganda. “I feel like in some way I’m hoping that they were able to gain some sustainable education where they can move forward and progress.”

Cunha, a kinesiology major who competes in soccer, basketball and track and field and is graduating this spring, hoped to use the experience as an introduction to the public health profession. Much of Cunha’s responsibilities centered around working with children. She traveled to different schools and used physical education games to teach kids about sanitation and other health topics.

Her time in Uganda reassured her that public health is a path she wants to pursue. She plans to complete other internships in hopes of gaining at least two years of public health experience and then apply to graduate programs in the field.

The most impactful experience for Cunha was working with a women’s group in the community. With others, she visited the group three days a week to share health and sanitation knowledge while also teaching members a bit of English.

 “It was just natural and organic in the sense that we were giving them anything that we had, and in return, they were teaching us about their culture,” Cunha says. “It was this healthy relationship between us and having our cultures colliding.”

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