In 2008, during Genocide Awareness Week, Michelle Pfluger ’12 met Grace Akallo, a young Ugandan woman who had been kidnapped and forced to commit atrocities against her own people.
A senior in high school, Michelle was deeply moved to help the people of Uganda, but Grace encouraged Michelle to obtain her nursing degree before going to Uganda.
Now the time has come. Michelle and her fiancé, Tony Dulak ’11, will be heading to Africa on a study abroad program May 21-June 4 with Dr. Todd Olsen. Five LC students will also be on the trip, and the group has been meeting weekly since mid-March to prepare for the journey.
Michelle, who is a surgical nurse at Lynchburg General, is anxious to put her knowledge to work, teaching about HIV, hygiene, and safety. She also wants to see the children. “I can’t wait just to hug them,” she said.
Dr. Olsen, a health promotions professor and women’s soccer coach, will be making his seventh trip to Africa, where he has worked with Lynchburg-based Sports Outreach to use soccer as a way to connect with young people, while teaching them about basic health. He spent a sabbatical creating a program for Ugandans to be health promotion trainers themselves.
Tony, who is a graduate student in education and assistant coach for the women’s soccer team, said Dr. Olsen likes to take credit for their pending nuptials. “Coach Olsen has had a huge impact,” he said. “He’s made me more aware of many things. He’s such a great person. He’s changed me in a multitude of ways.”
Michelle also credits her older sister, Beverly Pfluger ’06, ’09 MEd, who heads the College’s Bonner Leader Program, for inspiring her to do good works. “Bev lights that passion for so many students,” she said.
For Michelle and Tony, the trip to Uganda will be a different sort of pre-honeymoon (their wedding is June 22), and it includes some trepidation. “I’ve never been out of the country,” Michelle said. “I’m really scared, but it’s a lot safer in Uganda than it was.”
Tony is not as concerned, he said, having traveled to India with Dr. Sabita Manian as an undergraduate. The couple says their mutual passion for service will continue after their wedding day.