I am homebound today with the snow that just keeps coming. I thought it was about time I sent an update on the HELP Uganda Primary School in Masese. Some of you may have heard a bit already and some of you I haven't been in contact with at all yet. My apologies to those of you I have taken so long to communicate with.
On the 29th of October a small team left for Uganda. There were 5 women and my husband, Bruce. Jean Kaye has been to Africa many times and Uganda 5 times I think. I was on my 3rd trip. Sandy has recently been to Zambia, and this was her second time in Africa. Trissa has previously spent time in Kampala (the capitol of Uganda), and Stephanie was a first timer along with Bruce. We found wonderful Humanitarian Aid tickets
so were able to take 3 fifty pound bags each along with our carry on’s. We stuffed as much school supplies, clothes, first aid, meds, toothpaste and toothbrushes, books, VBS materials, Bibles, etc. as we could get into those 18 bags!
I wish you could have been there to see our arrival at the school. My heart burst with joy as I laid eyes on the kids in their school. I will attach pictures but they can't really tell the feelings we experienced. As we cried the kids sang and clapped and welcomed us as only African children can. I was so proud to be a part of what God is doing in this village. Bruce got some video footage we hope to get onto YouTube soon so you can see and hear a bit of what we did.
One of our objectives to accomplish while we were there was to hold a Vacation Bible School. What we didn't know was that the students from other schools were out of school due to testing. This made our VBS rather daunting as children came in droves to see the Mzungus (white people). We did our best to teach them a few songs, tell some Bible stories letting them know God loves them and has promises for their life, and do a craft. The craft was what almost put us over the top. Not only were we short interpreters but there were only a few of us and hundreds of eager children. By God's grace we persevered and felt like our message got across, at least the message that we were loving them because of God's love for them. At least I hope so!
We also went to a nearby village for the Karamajong to spend a morning doing VBS and handing out some bread. The poverty in this village even exceeds the poverty in Masese. They are a transient people, IDP's (Internally Displaced People), and are shunned by the locals. Think of a leper colony without leprosy. It was hard for some of our team to even leave our van as the poverty was just overwhelming. There were an estimated 800 children listening to us and doing our craft. We dipped their hand in tempra paint, stamped it on a paper plate or paper that had Jesus loves me written on it. They were thrilled! We were tired! As we were about to leave our guys started handing out the bread we brought. The hunger and desperation were so severe that the sight of something as simple as bread caused a riot. We had to beat a speedy retreat! We all would like to have had more to give. Next time.
Unexpected needs became clear at the school. We found out there was no water nearby. The kids were thirsty all day and without the ability to wash their hands. Even worse, there was no latrine. They were being sent home (or where ever) to relieve themselves. The electricity in the office had been out for a couple of months. The computers we sent for vocational training and the sewing machines for tailoring classes are in the office until we can get a building built to house them. Jean Kaye and Bruce set about meeting with the powers that be to get the permissions and blessings needed. We could not be an accredited school without a latrine and water.
As of today the water is flowing and the latrine is dug and nearly complete! Praise God who supplied the approval and the funding.
More insidious yet, there was a small faction in the community unhappy with us for not following some protocol around permission to use the building and land where we are holding the school (even though their children attend our school). According to the documents we had we were not in any kind of error but that didn’t ease the tension. It took three attempts to have a meeting with all the persons in power in the village until resolution was accomplished. With God’s leading all parties are on the same page now. The attention we brought to this village through our meetings with the mayor of Jinja, a local councilman, a social worker, and various others should help put this village in a better position to come up out of their hopelessness and get the support they have been sorely missing.
We fed the children each school day. We didn’t have a kitchen so we bought fruit, carrots, peanuts (that a Ben’s wife roasted for us), and bread. Ben says the kids come to school hungry and can’t concentrate well. We desperately need to get a school breakfast program going! Soon a couple of cows will be bought as will chickens, but first we need to prepare a shelter for the cows and a coop for the chickens. A garden will also be dug and planted for the kids. Until then we need to buy ingredients and hire a cook. Did I mention that a kitchen needs to be built! Fortunately the students are on break now until February so we have some time to prepare and fundraise. Feeding over 150 kids and teachers is no easy task. Bringing nutrition and easing the hunger is heavy on my heart.
I enjoyed meeting Ben and Lydia and watching them work with the kids. They are gentle and patient. They do amazingly well with very little to work with. I am very proud of them. Can you imagine having around 100 children in Kindergarten and younger in one small space!
The Primary 1 class has around 50 and is much more manageable. Still, as a teacher myself, that is way lots of kids for one class. Further imagine no sound barrier! There are some planks of wood about shoulder high that separate the two class rooms. They have a dirt floor and no walls to the outside. We were really happy for the roof though as it rained buckets one day. The kids laughed at my umbrella. They just run and play in the rain.
Billy was a nice surprise. He is a young man that has been volunteering at the school every since it began. I didn’t even know he existed! Thank God for Billy! He takes some of the load off Ben and Lydia and the kids love him. A generous woman in Windsor will be paying for Billy to finish his schooling and get a teaching certificate so we can hire him. He will continue to volunteer and take classes in the evening. We also need to hire another teacher as Ben and Lydia have done such a good job that around 30 kids will be starting Primary 2 when they return from break. I am hoping to divide the younger class into Kindergarten and preschool so we will have 4 classes. Still too many kids in each class but better than the current situation! I am praying for the building to be completed sooner rather than later so teaching conditions can improve dramatically.
We were also able to get the electricity back on. Another God provision as there were back bills incurred by a previous group we were being asked to pay. God intervened and most of those old bills were waived. Quite miraculous! I was thrilled to see young faces in total amazement as they sat before a computer for the first time! I can hardly tell about it without tears coming. I took learning games for different ages so some older boys were learning keyboarding at the same time I was introducing the computer to a few kids from the primary school. They were having so much fun learning you would have thought I had brought them a video game. I love this part of teaching. Seeing kids awake to what the world has out there for them to learn and having them be such eager learners is a joy. They are excited to come to class each day. Before they had to just watch their friends take off to school in their nice uniforms while they stayed at home working in their rags. No hope of ever having anything better. Now they are proud to get a chance to learn (we will have uniforms for them all soon) and are grateful for each opportunity.
I know this letter is long but I can’t close without telling you just a little about the man that makes all this happen. His name is Frank. He is our in country director. He travels from his home in Kampala to oversee the school. Without him none of this would be possible. He is our guide through the culture differences, our interpreter, our way in to groups we need to meet with. He is our friend and brother. He cares for us and for the school and for the community of Masese. He holds influence and respect wherever he is. He is a man of integrity and we value him more than he can know.
I hope you have a feel for our trip. There are MANY more stories I would like to tell you but this letter is too long already. I also look forward to sharing the pictures with you. I know, I know, watching someone else’s trip pictures is never the same as if you were there. OK, let’s go. We are planning a trip early September. There is also a medical trip in July for those interested. That trip is through IMR. You can contact Jean Kaye if you are interested in that trip. There may be another trip in late March with Peter Vogel. I am sure God’s plans are still to be revealed but these are what we have so far.
If you are interested in helping out in any way please let me know. There is much to be done. I appreciate those who have already made so much happen with their generosity. A little bit goes a long way in Africa. However, all the dreams and well wishes in the world can’t happen without money. I will let you know about future fundraising events and projects in case you would like to participate. I am starting to offer sponsorships for the students at $30 a month. It is a good way to get to be involved on a personal level. There will be no overhead withdrawn from sponsorship money.
In His Name,