When Andria Enns discovered a special topics class at Park University about peace journalism, she thought it was a good chance to combine her love of other countries with her chosen profession, journalism.
Andria Enns has always been curious about the world.
And when she discovered a special topics class at Park University about peace journalism, she thought it was a good chance to combine her love of other countries with her chosen profession, journalism.
Studying a field where reporters and editors make choices that begin discussions of peace rather than promoting conflict and hate, Enns started becoming interested in traveling to other countries and helping others promote the idea of peace.
“During the 16-week course, my classmates and I worked on materials for presenting these ideas (of peace) to broadcasters in Uganda,” said the graduate of Lee’s Summit North High School. “It was about a year before their democratic elections, which had historically been violent and the media there often incited these acts.”
After learning about the situation in Uganda, Enns entered into a competition held by one of her professors. Two students would have the opportunity to travel to Uganda to teach broadcasters about peace journalism. Enns was one of those students and spent time in Uganda in 2010.
“My experience in Uganda was, in a few words, incredibly fun, heart-wrenching and heartbreaking, confusing, terrifying and educational,” she said. “It’s hard to explain my experience concisely. I was in country for just under a month, and it was my first time abroad. My friends laughed at me before I went. Most people visit England or Mexico the first time they travel, but I went to sub-Saharan Africa. I guess I’ve always been different.”
Enns said while in the African country, she had the opportunity to go on a safari and see wild animals in their natural habitat. She also, however, experience some “heart-wrenching” moments when she saw the living conditions of the villagers and when she interviewed a mother of three.
Enns said the whole family was “very skinny” and the mother worked all day to harvest vegetables that she sold for about $1. That $1, she said, had to be used to buy a gallon of water because there was no well in the village.
“She asked us to help her, and her children,” Enns said. “I squatted down to say hello to the oldest son, still very young. In my experience, language barriers don’t matter to kids. His tummy extended far beyond his toes, but all his limbs were tiny. I got dizzy. I realized that whenever anyone told me to eat my vegetables because kids are starving in Africa, they meant this boy.
“That day, I was a woman on a mission. We went to the local politician’s office, and the representative of the district said her children face the same problems – she didn’t have money, either. So we went to talk to the local nonprofit coalition leader. He said if we had $10,000, about 30 years of the villager’s income, we could build a well. If we didn’t have the money, there was nothing he could do.
“I was devastated. I felt like I let those villagers down. I wondered what I could sell to raise $10,000 that day – my laptop? My jeans? My makeup? I didn’t have enough stuff. So I did the only thing I could – I produced a radio story.”
When she returned to Parkville, the radio story about the village’s plight was aired on the Walt Bodine Show on KCUR. There also was an essay about her experiences published in the Parkville Luminary newspaper. That was enough to get people interested.
“When people heard it, they wanted to help too,” said the junior majoring in communication arts/public relations and communication arts/broadcasting. “So students at Park have been fundraising to get the money for the village. That is pretty great.”
Enns did not stop working with others after her trip to Uganda, however. She has been planning a trip to Amman, Jordan, for the last several months through the United Planet program. United Planet is an international organization that builds cross-cultural understanding through volunteer programs and community partners.
The trip, Enns said, is something that has been in the works since she was 7. She said during an international fair in Girl Scouts, her troop had to represent Jordan. That is when her love for the country began.
“We wore makeshift costumes that resembled national dress and served pistachio ice cream. We learned all about Jordan in preparation for the fair, and I thought it sounded like a fascinating place. I knew I wanted to go someday,” she said. “The Middle East is just full of culture and history, which I’m looking forward to experiencing. Jordan is a fairly stable country without a dress code, so it seems like a good place to dip my toes into the water.”
Enns will be working for Friends of the Global Fund, a non-profit organization that works to end malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, for three weeks. Not only will she be writing grant proposals, but she will also be creating marketing materials and doing video journalism.
“What’s fantastic about my nonprofit placement is my honors project is about sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS, and effective communication to reduce transmissions,” she said. “I will be working in the real world on a topic I’m really passionate about.”
Earlier this year, Enns received a $1,000 Mosaic Scholarship through America’s Unofficial Ambassadors to go toward the expenses of the trip, which she plans to take over the Park University winter break. She also used her trip to Uganda to enter the 2011 United Planet Day Contest. She wrote an essay about the trip and received an additional $2,000 as the grand prize winner.
“I had already started planning my trip to Amman when I heard of the essay. They posted about their annual contest, and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to get funding for my trip. So I entered an essay. I wrote about my experiences in Uganda, and won by popular vote,” she said. “To say I was thrilled would be an understatement.”
Enns said she is looking forward to meeting her host family in Jordan and being a part of their home for about three weeks. She said being able to travel abroad allows her to experience another part of the world and culture.
“I love Middle Eastern food, so I’m really excited about eating authentic meals, too. I’m excited about the chance to make a real difference in the lives of Middle Easterners with work at Friends of the Global Fund,” she said. “When I was a kid, I would borrow books from the library to learn about faraway lands. I’m insatiably curious about other people’s lives and cultures, and travel is a really great way to learn about that.”