West Point cadet immersed in volunteer work during holiday break
February 4, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. (Feb. 4, 2011) -- After the last semester came to an end, the majority of the West Point Corps of Cadets was busy making travel plans for the holidays. For one cadet, the comforts and familiarity of home were not something he was looking for. What he really wanted turned out to be quite the opposite.
Cadet Dan Thueneman (Class of 2011) was looking for something more-an opportunity not only to experience something that most would never know, but also to volunteer his time to others who were in need.
Thueneman traveled to the rural community of Mukono district of Uganda for 11 days to volunteer with the non-governmental organization called A Broader View.
"I wanted to do something more before I graduated," Thueneman said. "When I began researching non-governmental organizations, I thought this was the best fit for what I wanted to do when I finish my career in the Army."
Once arriving in the Eastern province of Africa, Thueneman was completely immersed in Uganda's culture.
During his time there, he was the only American in the area.
Every morning, Thueneman would wake up and prepare for his day, eating breakfast with his host family, the Busingyes.
Then he walked more than a mile on a dirt road to the site of the school where he worked side-by-side with the local populace on various projects.
"When I would get to the school, I would change into my work clothes and begin making bricks that would be used to build their school," Thueneman said.
Thueneman and three children from the area would pack mud into molds which were baked in the sun before they were used.
"We worked for about eight hours a day-yet even while we were working, the kids were very inquisitive," Thueneman said. "There were two girls that volunteered from Scotland who acted as their teachers during the school year, so when I was there, they always wanted to know more about everything."
At the end of the day, Thueneman would walk back to his host family's home while chatting with local community members.
"Everyone there dressed in slacks and a collared shirt. It did not matter what economic class they were," Thueneman said.
Each night, Thueneman would sit down with the head of the household and talk on a variety of different topics.
"(He) was a very intelligent man ... we would talk for hours about local and international subjects," Thueneman said.
While one of the most taboo subjects in the community years ago was HIV/AIDS, Thueneman said the Mukono district community now talks openly about the epidemic that once crippled the area.
The elders also educate the younger members of the community about prevention.
"It was a great experience, and it is one that I would encourage others to take part in if they have the opportunity," Thueneman said.
For more information about Mukono district of Uganda or other A Broader View volunteer opportunities, visit www.abroaderview.org.