My name is Stacey and I’m one of this summer’s Educate! interns. After an incredible month in Uganda I returned home inspired by Educate!’s progress and sad to leave the country behind. Quickly, I’m going to try to bring you up to speed on the goings-on in Uganda through the day I left four weeks ago. Here goes…
Julia and Helaina left off with our exciting adventure down the Nile. During the next week we continued to run from school to school making connections and building relationships with administrators, teachers and students. The following weekend, Eric, Nate and I traveled to Mbale, a city 4 hours east of Kampala at the base of the beautiful Mt. Elgon. The crazy weekend started when our bus hit a woman and was impounded. We all piled into a second already-full bus; Eric ended up sitting beneath a rather large woman and Nate and I sat on the floor next to the driver about a foot from the windshield. Luckily, we arrived safely, and over the next day and a half met with each of the five schools we are working with in and around Mbale. The following day we held the first cluster meeting attended by representatives from each of the schools.
Back in Kampala it was business as usual. We continued to identify potential partner schools and to solidify our relationships with the schools already on board.
Near the end of the week, four interns (Julia, Helaina, Nate, and I) headed to Hoima to meet with our partner schools there and conduct a cluster meeting as we had in Mbale. The cluster meeting was a huge success; the representatives from the Hoima schools were extremely talkative and offered many valuable suggestions for the implementation of the programs in their region. The highlight of the trip, however, was arriving at Kitara Secondary School to find the COBURWAS members huddled up singing their club anthem. COBURWAS (standing for Congolese, Burundese, Ugandan, Rwandese, and Sudanese) is the club started by several Educate! students in Kyangwali Refugee Settlement, and they had spent the day cleaning up Kitara. Agnes, a teacher at Kitara, spoke about how inspiring the club was; when she was first told that there’d be a group of students volunteering at the school, she was skeptical – what type of students would do something so wonderful for the school without asking anything in return? She was overwhelmed when students showed up from all over Hoima to pitch in. It is these students and the wonderful work they are doing that give her and us confidence in the new Educate! programs. We hope that, with a little encouragement, students all over Uganda can be inspired to give back to their communities in the way COBURWAS has. Many of the Educate! students are model socially responsible leaders, and our new programs are designed to give more students the tools and confidence to follow in their footsteps and realize their visions for their own lives.
After our Hoima cluster meeting, Julia and Nate returned to Kampala while Helaina and I endured the bumpy taxi ride to Kyangwali. During our two days in the settlement we attended church with Joseph Munyambanza; visited the homes of many Educate! students, COBURWAS members, and other friends in the camp; walked the 14 km to and from the medical center right outside the settlement; played volleyball with primary school students; and uprooted potatoes at the COBURWAS orphanage, making us both the first white people to dig in the camp and the first volunteers at the orphanage. We returned to Kampala exhausted but content.
After a few more days of visiting schools around the capital, it was time for me to leave. I was sad to leave the work and the people, but inspired by everything I had seen. Educate! has found some amazing partner schools to work with – ones that understand and value socially responsible leadership but haven’t yet found a way to encourage it in their students. That’s where our programs come in! With the full support of our partner schools and the vision provided by the current Educate! students and COBURWAS, I am confident in the success of the programs.
I apologize for the length of this post, but there is really so much to tell! I’ll wrap it up now by sharing with you a letter written by Joseph Munyambanza to Educate! supporters. For me, ending with Joseph’s words is fitting. I started corresponding with Joseph three years ago, and the friendship he’s offered has been amazing. He is incredibly inspiring in both his personal relationships and vision for his life and contribution to his continent. Joseph will be beginning school at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa in September, and I want to wish him the best of luck. And, with that, here are his words:
Special thanks to my caring parents/guardians in Educate!
Surely, I cannot precisely express how much you mean to us, our community, country, our motherland Africa, and the world at large! I am very sorry my words cannot give the appreciation you deserve. They can at most give 1% of it.
The best gift a parent can give to the beloved child is nothing rather than education. The exact gift you have provided to us when we and the world around us greatly need it.
Man’s needs are said to be endless and most especially at the youth stage. It is always difficult for a parent who loves his child to satisfy his/her needs. All Educate! students are in this youth stage and this means that Educate! parents could find it hard to meet their children’s needs. In Educate!, our parents loving us sincerely and wisely, they have not provided whatever we need, but have provided what is fit for us and the world around us. The education you are giving to us is so precious that it will help us to satisfy our needs and the community’s needs.
I thank you for everything you have done for us in Educate!. you have changed our behaviors. You have built our hope for the future. You have shown us the key to the future. You have given our vision a good base. And now we dream big day and night. Our dear caring guardians/parents, a list of what you do is so big and kept on the flashes of our hearts and our future will give the details of your good concern.
We feel supported all the time. No matter how far you are from us, you hear us when we cry for help. Thank you for your kindness, humility, strong and unique love you have for Africa. You have loved us without knowing us. We are so grateful, delighted and excited of your wonderful love.
You have decided to reduce your meals because of us. You have sacrificed your sleep in search of our school fees and other scholastic materials. You struggle here and there so as to keep us at school. You have done much in favor of our community’s future. You have inspired us through what you do. Now the question we have is “what will our community be like in 15-20 years to come?”
Personally, I am living like a runner in a race. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training so as to get a crown. I therefore focus to my vision. I do try all I can to maintain discipline, carefully following the footsteps of my role models and making it simple for those who will consider me their role model.
May Almighty God bless Wolford’s family abundantly for considering me part of their family, Stacey Frumm for being my close friend, Mom Beth for the spiritual food and other good things she does in the refugees’ camp in Kyangwali. And may God bless all Educate! donors because their contribution to our community and Africa at large is so excellent.
Thanks very much (100%).