UAB Gospel Choir member shares her experience as a volunteer in Uganda

Halli Williamson of Oneonta, a business and music student, is working with children in need and their families as an intern with Sozo Children this summer.

halli williamson2Rising University of Alabama at Birmingham senior Halli Williamson of Oneonta says it would be impossible to put into words what she has experienced in Kampala, Uganda, during a nine-week internship this summer.

The UAB Gospel Choir member, 22, is volunteering with Sozo Children, a nongovernmental organization with an office in nearby Avondale. She applied for the program and was accepted, and she and 12 other interns raised $5,000 each to take the trip. Sozo has four children’s homes in Kampala, and Williamson is assisting in the group’s work toward The Village Project, which will be a full village with homes, a school, a church and a medical clinic.

She is experiencing the culture, learning the language, helping with cooking and cleaning, spending time with children and their families in the local village, and assisting them with chores, homework and religious study. They have also built a home for a woman in the village.

“This internship has been the most incredible experience, one that I hope to never forget as long as I live,” Williamson wrote from Uganda. “I have learned so much about humility, about hard work, about loving others and living in daily, authentic community, and my faith has been strengthened. I have been so encouraged to bring all that I have learned back to Birmingham, and I am excited for what is next in my journey.”

The internship can be compared to a mission trip, but is so much more, she says.

“Once I found out about this internship, I really felt that this was what I was supposed to spend my summer doing,” she said. “It was an opportunity to leave the familiar comfort of my home in the States, and to allow my faith to grow and be challenged in a place I had never experienced before. Before even considering this trip, I had a heart for Africa, for its culture and specifically for the people, so to have been given the opportunity to be here feels like the greatest blessing.”

Williamson will return to Birmingham on Aug. 5.

halli williamson3Her major is Information Systems in the UAB Collat School of Business, with a minor in Music Technology in the College of Arts and SciencesDepartment of Music.

“I have had such a unique and wonderful experience during my time at UAB,” Williamson said. “Although it took a few semesters to discover where my passions and interests lie, I finally found my place. I decided to take something I love, music, and pair it with something challenging that I am also passionate about, that being the business world.”

Her path at UAB has been challenging, but it pushes her to grow and to seek to be better each day, she says.

Williamson is a Business Student Leader and this year will be vice president for the Association of Information Systems. She has spent the past four semesters at UAB singing as a member of the Gospel Choir and says that, of all the things she has been involved with at UAB, Gospel Choir has been one of her absolute favorites.

“I’m so thankful how being in Gospel Choir has grown my love for music, and for gospel music specifically,” she said. “Performing with the Gospel Choir has increased my confidence and has allowed me to develop and grow in friendship with some truly incredible and talented individuals.”

Gospel Choir Director Kevin P. Turner has earned high praise from Williamson.

“He leads his students with passion and wisdom, and he cares, not only about the growth of his students inside the classroom, but about their growth in all aspects of life,” Williamson said. “He has also been a great source of encouragement for me in my journey this summer.” 

Williamson plans to graduate in April and hopes to utilize her business and music education in her career.

“I would love to work in the business world; I’m interested in nonprofits and small businesses, and I hope to learn more about that in these coming months,” she said. “I do not know that I will ever have a full-time career in music, but I hope to use the skills I have learned in my personal life or perhaps in a part-time way.”