Meet Mary Bulega
Whitworth Cadre Two
'08 Graduate (B.S. Nursing)
Bellarmine Preparatory School '04
A child of immigration
People become immigrants for a variety of reasons. Some emigrate to escape political, religious, or ethnic persecution; while others migrate for economic reasons. Some immigrants are motivated by the opportunity for social mobility, while others migrate in the spirit of adventure. Mary Bulega, a child of immigration, may not have understood fully why moving to America from Uganda was such a great opportunity but, joining her mother in the United States during her sophomore year in high school, her response has been clear. "Coming to America was an opportunity, I couldn't mess it up – I had to do what I had to do," she says.
At Bellarmine Preparatory School in Tacoma, Washington, Mary worked hard through language and cultural barriers to survive and succeed. "I knew mom was spending a lot of money. I became responsible and appreciated life," she reflects. Even in the midst of questions like, "Do you guys eat monkeys?" Mary did her best to stay focused in school and make a difference in the lives of those around her. "I realized that people do not know. I had to become humble and teach people…that Africa is not what the media presents it as," she says. Mary's love for people is what she believes has been a huge reason why transitioning into life in the U.S. has not been as difficult for her as for most immigrants.
Getting help and giving back
Mary Bulega has always seen her immigration experience as a blessing that must be eventually be repaid. "Our first couple of years here a lot of people helped us in so many ways. Looking back I just want to be able to do the same thing for someone else in the future," she says. As an Act Six scholar, Mary says that she has been influenced to see the world differently. She feels that helping people is not just about giving them opportunities, it's about sacrifice. "[Being in the program] made me humble and realize that I have to sacrifice for people." As a nursing student, Mary has found ways to connect the lessons she has learned in Act Six with her own gifts passions. "The main reason I am in the nursing field is because of the gift that God has given me...the gift to love and be able to work with people."
Helping Back Home
Now that Mary knows what her gifts are and how she plans to use them, the next question is, "where?" The city of Tacoma is Mary's only experience of an American city and from her perspective, "they need teachers, nurses, business, etc.," but ultimately she affirms her desire to return to Uganda. Reflecting on images in her memory of kids in the city eating out of garbage cans, sleeping on the ground, walking around naked, she says "I see myself helping more back there."
Even with her memories pulling her back to Uganda, where she hopes to eventually open a Children's Hospital, Mary is looking to first spend a couple of years in Tacoma. "I'm going to work Tacoma General for three years," she says. Also, "One of my plans is to donate back to Act Six and help other kids," she adds. Most importantly, Mary plans to use her experience in Tacoma, in Act Six, and at Whitworth, to help, not only through nursing, but [by being] whatever God calls her to be.