Thursday, August 1, 2013

Things keep happening

An additional cook - Margaret
It is now a month since we arrived back. The pace of life is a bit different with lots of the work not being physical which can make it not feel like as much is being achieved. However, the physical work has been progressing very well with the next four classrooms well underway. We have employed Margaret, a widow with three children who has come a number of times in extreme need. With Lucy our cook due to have a baby in a reasonably short time, she is able to help her and cook for the workers. So much nicer to pay her than give her a handout.

We have had some interesting times, with the need to ask a teacher to move on as he really didn't fit with what we are trying to do. Significantly for the poor man he did not understand us when we spoke with our good Australian accents. This of course was extremely difficult only made easier by knowing he doesn't have a family that he is supporting. The teacher is continuing until the end of term and has already been to Kampala for a couple of job interviews. Fortunately we have been able to employ someone else (not so much for this role) who is very experienced and yet very keen on learning more. We are still working on getting another teacher, had a funny time today when trying to contact someone's referee (thinking it was a pastor) and it was a Sheik!

The next four classrooms - doors and windows ready and brickwork started
It has been good to see some progress in the teaching of the children. We are asking for big changes in style for teachers (interestingly not that far from what the new Ugandan curriculum wants) and this is hard. Hard for local people to understand and to implement. Consequently I am often in the classroom working with the teachers and pupils. We hadn't managed to buy paddle pop sticks prior to coming and since I hadn't been able to find anything similar was wracking my brain for an option. Suddenly, I thought (well probably God popped the idea in) what about drinking straws. So, our bundling sticks are drinking straws cut up and they seem to be working well and are cheap and accessible. There is a lot of work to be done with maths. Most teachers don't understand the principles behind why you want to do things differently and in this area the curriculum doesn't help. Anyway, suffice to say I am putting lots of work into developing curriculum and working with the teachers. 

Learning maths with aids - exciting times!
Together we have been working with children from the Village of Hope on their mathematics (though this will extend to other subjects). We have found that many of them are needing additional help and we want to make sure that those capable of doing well academically get the chance. Some of their enthusiasm is fantastic.
Ron has been doing some practical work - a fantastic new wall in the bathroom means not getting water everywhere. Pipes in ready for the rainwater coming off the roof of the new building. Helping the workers and encouraging them. A bookcase for each classroom is the next project started today. He is also working on some database and financial stuff for the administration of the school. School record keeping in schools is not renowned for being good. Often in order to find if something is paid,  numerous receipt books are searched through. Ron also is being given opportunities at our church with leading a Bible study next week and preaching in a few weeks.

The next rainwater tank - at the moment a hole 12foot deep!
 (Please beware children)
We are seeing what we are doing now for school can be transferrable. We are also getting insights into many opportunities for that transferability, though we are not actively pursuing any of these at this time, of course.

Life continues to be fun here. We love the fresh mango/pineapple/banana smoothie that is usually partaken of each evening. We are so thankful for God's provision and His guidance. We love it when He shows us the Stop sign and the Go sign. We are thankful for the wonderful Ugandan friends we have, they give us advice, help us and genuinely love us. We are amazed at the interest of others in our work and continue to know that He will provide for all our needs. Less fun is the lack of water at times. Not nice having been in the dust all day and then there is no water. However frustrating, we are aware that we are so fortunate to normally have water on tap, to have been able to put in water tanks (though they did run out) and to have a lovely house to live in. The simple things can be lost in our other world but here we have learnt to appreciate them so much. Fun things (to us) happen, like waking this morning to an infestation of flying ants and seeing people desperately collecting them. One man's delicacy is another one's rubbish!

The laptops get used by teachers and other local people. Sometimes we are called on to assist people as well, the man in the picture is a local pastor getting help from Ron. The lady in the picture is a neighbour studying for a degree and is able to type up assignments without expense on our computer. We love being able to help the whole community.

When there is no water - this is how we get it! From a local stream in jerry cans. The building work must go on! So thankful for the tanks and the water came back on, so it was only one trip.

Friday, July 12, 2013

A new season

Fun in the yard
The time has come for us to be back in Uganda. The week preceding the next adventure is always difficult. It is hard to say goodbye and the reality of what you are going to is interspersed with uncertainty and doubt of what the time will bring. However, we had a good week preparing and looked like being quite organised, though with a house construction to leave and not enough curriculum development completed it was definitely busy.
Just to keep us on our toes a 2.5 m snake just outside our house
Friday, was a wonderful full day, starting with breakfast with friends, days at work, visit to our granddaughter (and her parents) to wish her a happy first birthday and then home to have dinner provided by our great friends whose home we live in. All went well and we had a lovely time. However, late that evening my leg started to hurt a little. Next morning saw me very unwell and unable to go to do the educational and other shopping and visit my parents prior to taking them to the party. Instead I arose in time to be taken to the party and to be a participant in the party but very much from a sedentary position on the couch! And, all those people I wanted to have conversations with. It was concluded it must be malaria and so going to Uganda would help with treatment.  I missed church in the morning and managed to put the things into the suitcases, shared time with family though not very actively and off to the airport.
To cut a long story short, the flight went well despite a three hour delay on the tarmac at Dubai. My leg was hurting a lot but I managed. Car trip home wasn't great for the leg and when I arrived, I felt average and my leg hurt but we were warmly welcomed with a lovely meal. Next day to the doctor, no malaria, no typhoid just severe infection so antibiotics, operated on and now recovering. Details include horrible things like 1 litre of pus removed, night in a Ugandan hospital and dressings being changed daily with continuous improvement.

The foundations for classrooms 5 - 7
Now, for important things. The school of course survived well without us. The grounds are definitely looking much better and we look forward to having the ability to put in some playground and sports equipment. The staff have done well holding the fort. Of course there are things that it is necessary to come and add to but it is doing well.
We have been inundated with visitors (including nearly 20 to the hospital) and it has been lovely to catch up with people. Even going to church there is a change in attitude of people, we are their friends, not just ring-ins for a time. We love it.
Waiswa Emma teaching dancing and singing
Just so that this does not go on for too long but does update people here are some of the highlights so far. The foundation for the next four classrooms is happening as shown in the picture. The children are happy and learning well. We are seeing opportunities for the things that we want to happen, to happen. We are not as flat out and so able to make sure that we are on top of things. We get to host the Hopebuilders team here this afternoon.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Leaving, coming and going

High schoolers from Nakaseeta at Hope Community
What a strange life the pair of us, now enjoy. We live here in a beautiful house with a great view, eating the delights of the land, the avocadoes, the guava, the mangoes and the bananas to name just a few. We have many friends in the best sense of the word and plenty of worthwhile activities to fill each day. Then, we up and leave and go back to our other home, one many thousands of miles from here where we too enjoy friendship and family and plenty to fill our days and our stomachs are filled less from the land and more from the store! This in between time is difficult, there is great excitement at seeing friends and family.
Laboratory at Hope Community - great facilities helping the community
Looking forward to seeing our little grandchildren and how much they have grown up in the time apart. Anticipation at feeling cold again, joy at the thought of not being bitten by mosquitoes and other insects constantly in the evening particularly. Yet, there is sadness too! Each day here holds so much value. Interactions seem to have a bigger impact, the work somehow seems more worthwhile and the reliance on the one we serve seems even closer. I know it is only a few short months and we will be back. However, then I think about how I will again be leaving our family and friends! This morning I think I realized though that there are two unchanging states, one is that I am with Ron and that makes an incredible difference. The other that the God we serve and love is there in both places. He is here when I am not and He is here when I am. He is there when I am not and He is there when I am. This is the true assurance. I am not the one who does the work and so as I trust Him in both situations, He is there to meet the needs, not only of me but more significantly of those I love in both places.

We are now with our heads looking towards a flight back to Australia, but in our bodies trying to make sure that all the ends are tied up. Tomorrow there is a visit from Global Development Group (the ones that make tax deductibility of Hope Builders possible) and so they will mainly be interested in Village of Hope but there is responsibilities there especially Ron as a director of Hopebuilders here in Uganda. We too have been beneficiaries so there will be a bit of a check up on us as well.Tonight we shared devotions with the children for the last time for a while. This morning it was a great church service with praise raising the roof - it will be strange to be back in a more sedate atmosphere! Visits to friends and catching a drink yesterday with one couple. A parent day visit to Hope Community High School and catch up with the children there. Fortunately, we have now placed and paid for all the children in the different places with a quick trip to the primary school up at Nakaseeta on Friday. Sometimes seems a long time from morning to night as so many different experiences are fitted into each day.

Just so you can see why Ron didn't wear the suit jacket! Nest I think!
The school continues to grow with a couple of enrolments this week. We have not yet got anyone definite to fill the post of 'fill-in' person to give teacher's a break in the day, to take out groups for extra help and to be available when a teacher is absent. Though, we are working on it and not worried. A whole morning at the bank but no school bank account as yet. Teachers have been allocated responsibilities for our absence. Most of the teacher reviews are successfully completed, just one to go. The house has nearly been gone through to make sure it is ready for a teacher and bursar to move in. Now, it is a matter of making sure that at least one person can do each of the things we need to have done and the appropriate people can access what they require to do their jobs. I think we have worked it out but it certainly is easier for people like the cook when we are around to buy the supplies! We are very pleased that there will be email access and that the bursar will be able to check it and make good contact with us. We are desperately trying to make sure that people that are already too busy are not given extra responsibilities. I have told our bursar she can take as many photos as she likes - we want to see how things are going.

We have yet to cross some 't's and dot some 'i's but largely we are doing well. We will miss here so much but will also love being there!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

The school is officially opened

It is official - the school is open!
We have just had a great day of rejoicing, thanksgiving and celebration as the school was officially opened. It was a big day but went really well. Almost full attendance of pupils, lots of parents and people
have been involved in the process, about 160 people in all.

The day started early with Ron needing to pick up the caterers about 20 minutes away. It was then a matter of getting things ready - all the chairs from the classrooms moved to the tents, a bit of decorating and making sure everything was in place. Ron also had to go and collect the chickens (live of course) and the meat (fortunately already dead).

Tent is ready but nothing else!
Some children of course arrived early, or should I say very early, before 7.30 am. A lady I have come to known
Nearly ready - chairs in place, table decorated
came to help set up, and did a great job. Unfortunately, she had to go home, I don't think she had any food for the family until I gave her some. So hard to really comprehend. Of course there were other little interruptions to the preparations - a few visitors including an unexpected job interview, just to keep us on our toes! Rachel and Robert as usual were a great help.

The proceedings were meant to start at 11.00 and we even had the bus arrive early with parents and children, so we were off to a good start. The children then showed their parents the school.
Happy arrival!
Then, time for speeches and presentations. The P1s (or Preps as we know them) did a great job and were so fun of course, the P2s did a great job
P1s performing - nearly in order
Robert all dressed ready to go
with a poem and songs and the P3s also showed their talents. It was a great chance for telling the story of the school, thanking so many involved, thanking our family for their sacrifices and talking about how the education will be done. The main local authorities were there to celebrate. The Kakira town council is in full support of the work, for which we are thankful, and it was again expressed today.
Now that is one BIG pot of rice
Our pastor was able to pray for the school, another
Teacher Sarah showing off her lovely classroom
special thing. Robert Kafeero spoke well as the Special Guest Speaker, which of course you have to have. All in all, the formalities went really well, despite being desperately hot in the tent and blazing sunshine outside the tent.

The benches around the trees were made good use of as well!
Parents and friends lining up for food

The caterers were fantastic!
Happy children, showing off to parents
What a feat, they came with pots, plates, forks, we provided the food and firewood. Then, a wonderful meal. It really was nice, the meat was tender, the chicken cooked to perfection, fancy rice, irish (potatoes) cooked two ways and the obligatory soda made the meal complete.
Children all lined up, first wash hands, then food

It was also great to be able to interact with parents and so many of whom are becoming friends. We needed to elect a parent representative for our School Board of Management and this was achieved with three candidates. There were four but one of them doesn't yet have a child at the school!

Hope Builders team including us
Teacher Aidha with one of her students
We come away, continuing to be grateful to God for all He has done, His guidance, the strength He has provided and the provision of our needs. We are also
Our pastor praying a blessing on the school
so grateful as we really feel the backing of the families as well. This is really important and the support was real. A couple of parents spoke and it was great to hear them echo the importance of their role in the lives of their children. Here in Uganda the school and the parents can be very separate but we feel confident of the involvement of our parents. So, we are truly thankful and feel so blessed.
Ron giving a great speech

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Moving along...too busy but happy

A few of the children enjoying their lunch under the tree
Two weeks since I wrote but not a minute to spare, well not many anyway. I will try to be brief as it is now getting late in the evening, the mosquitoes are biting, desperately need of a shower (the dust is horrific) and sleep is calling. Despite the best efforts for a rest we are not managing it so well. Today we had definitely planned to be quiet - well suffice to say after five hours of church (Ron preached both services), a brief lunch in town, we had three different groups of visitors and a trip to Hope Community before tea and devotions at the village.

Just a few (???) avocados on one of our many avocado trees
Our house with new paint - pity about mess on the verandah!
It is so good though to be doing what we are called to. There is variety in each day, opportunities that we cannot predict and movement towards what we believe God has called this place to be. We see God moving in the lives of people we are around but also the funny little things that happen. Like, going to a cafe and 'happening' to have my ipad (truth was we had no internet and I thought I might get a chance to catch emails) which I normally never take into town. At the counter there was another Aussie who works with United Nations and he wanted to pay in US $, the waiter (who I know a little) said at a particular rate. However, I had checked the day before and seen a big change (for its good) in the Ugandan shilling.

The good old Currency converter to the fore and the cafe was not undersold. Not that the guy wanted to, but had no idea of the exchange rate. Result, thankful to be in the right place, at the right time to look after in a small way Ugandan friends.

Or, the family who we have been able to give a sponsorship to their son. They also have a son who is very disabled and unable to walk, talk and thumps his head a lot. You know that this is making a difference to them, having someone who can help a little. Acting as God's hands. They appreciate so much and yet it is so hard. The father gains as much work as he can find. The mother has to care for the child and the other children! Have they made bad choices - no! Yet, by giving them something they want God to bless us. We are so thankful for the blessings of God, but so much want the people to know it is not us - we are only obedient to the call. 

Another group under a different tree with the P1 teacher
The school environment is moving along. There are beautiful benches around three of the bigger trees and are thoroughly enjoyed during the hot sunny days that we are experiencing at the moment. The pupil population has remained at 66, which is good. A wonderful time each day is when the bus arrives, the children run to be the first to greet me. I then shake each hand and say good morning. It truly is great fun and also very important in so many ways, not least teaching the children to greet in English.  I have had opportunities to teach different classes and that has been interesting and good too. It certainly
Removing stumps - hard work by a man who comes to help in exchange for sponsored children
helps in seeing that the ideas will work (even if they don't understand me!) and that things can change. Just tonight I was reminded of the need for change. A girl from the Village of Hope who is not at our school, was showing me her work. She is trying so, so hard but cannot read and has trouble with English. Yet, when there was a pattern to follow she would get the correct answer but obviously had not idea as she had bananas playing football!! So much to do.

The process of registration is moving along. We have overcome attempts for bribes and are well on the
A new inground water tank with Alex. Ron has guttered the kitchen ready for this 
way to having the required documents. A trip is planned first thing tomorrow to pick up some letters and then to go to the Ministry.

Hoping for a great day next Saturday (in case I don't post again until after that) for the official opening of the school. Only 50 kg of rice needed! Again, an opportunity to share God's love with the people of the community and to explain more about being a Christian school. The LCIII (who I think is called the Mayor) is very keen to come. Children are excited and items are being prepared.
The official entry - it now has pillars on either side, name coming
Sorry for the bits and pieces but wanted to make sure an update happened.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Time flies and things are progressing

Two weeks of Jinja Christian School operation and the numbers have now climbed to 65. Not bad for
Assembly Week 2
only three classes. Students (though primary should be called pupils here) are learning, teachers are learning and teaching and Ron and I are working to make it happen as smoothly as possible. A rat and a snake have been killed. We have survived outages of both power and water. So thankful for the tank when there was literally no water for 36 hours, it kept the toilets clean and main needs met.

P1 classroom
Ron has worked hard and completed the kitchen roof in addition to the toilet. He has also made shelves for storage in a number of places, installed security solar lights and even planted some garden beds. On the other hand I have mainly been seeing naughty children, continuing enrolling pupils, giving advice to teachers and making teaching resources. We now even have a photocopier that works most of the time,
P2 classroom - few less in here! The floor got a lot worse than this!
sometimes it for an unknown reason will manage to change the direction of the page, mid stream!

We have had little time for much more than the school but did host some visitors briefly during the week. They unfortunately timed their visit for when the rain came (which obviously implies mud) and there was no water! However, they managed and hopefully gained a bit of an insight into the different projects in the area.

What the toilet looked like a week ago

The toilet and kitchen now!
Close up of the building with the gardens

The classrooms from a little distance

The snake minus its head

The rat on the bedroom floor
And still another view of the classroom and offices are the left end part

Ron building shelves for the resource room

I am not going to write much as it is late and without power my computer does not go so well. Consequently I am perched with it near the solar power point! We are incredibly thankful for the way things are going. Aware that God is looking after us and that this is His work.  

Monday, February 4, 2013

A few thoughts from the first day

 This post is mainly so that I remember the first day that Jinja Christian School opened! We started well, alarm set in time, breakfast nearly eaten and the first children arrive, only an hour early. Obviously excited children from the Village of Hope, dropped off by older students on their way to High School. It started from there, coffee not even finished and it was go go go. The blackboards needed to have a dusting, there hadn't been time yesterday. Ron needed to attach a few more toilet roll holders and fill the water supplying barrels for the toilets. Then, parents came in droves. Assembly started at 8 but one teacher couldn't be present because a parent needed help registering their child (just happened to be the man who sells us mattresses in town!). It was not chaos but definitely chaotic. People jumping queues, people wanting uniforms, people registering...

Assembly - not all there but a lovely start
Assembly was a highlight of the day for me, though we certainly started with less then than we had later in the day! It was lovely to hear the children led by a fellow pupil in the national anthem and then the Lusoga anthem, though after that I was called away to Headmistress duties!
Fortunately, the teachers knew what to do
and they finished off the assembly and started their classes which seemed to go well. The latest addition, Sarah, seems so ideal as she relates with the little ones, firmly but lovingly. The puzzles were a big hit for the afternoon with the younger ones who stayed. Lucy managed well, though I suspect she might be a bit tired, with making porridge for break and rice and gnut sauce for lunch. I enjoyed the lunch but Ron opted for the left over zucchini fritters.

Other than interviewing parents and children, trying endless uniforms on children (home made uniforms have no size tags!), I also became the first aid officer. We had a young boy who the teacher brought to me who was decidedly unwell, probably malaria. So, he went to the office for his father to be called. It was difficult to make contact with the father and so I went searching for a cool washer and cold water for him and a Panadol. I return to find that he is not there. I ask and no one knows, fortunately I am becoming adept and knowing the children and so knew who I was looking for and went in search of him. I came back to the office after an unsuccessful search and no one else knowing where he was. Then a boda turned up to pick up the pupil. We(note not just me) thought, incorrectly as it turned out, that the people that had been contacted must have sent a boda! So, I sent the male teacher to the only other place I knew of, the toilets. Yes, he was there, so after a drink and a pat down with cold cloth and a Panadol, onto the boda he went. Only to discover, when the same boda came back, that we had sent the wrong one on the boda. However, the pupil was safely back at his house. A good lesson to learn on the first day!

P3 class in action at the start of the day - it grew!
At one point today I mused about the differences. There are people coming from a distance to send their children to this school because they believe it will be good educationally, we pray it will. They can catch a boda to come and bring the child, they can pay the fees and will benefit from the school being good. Then, there is a lady I have known since 2011, and she has just had to pick up her child from people because the carer has died. She has no money, is HIV positive, and not particularly well and cannot work even if she could find it. In fact, in registering her child she could not sign properly and asked to make a fingerprint mark with the ink pad. What a joy that this child will get an education, alongside other much better off children, and each day get a good meal. We are so thankful to people who are sponsoring children for the school.

We still had no money so that was a bit of a problem as the sweaters and stockings, as jumpers and socks are called, needed to be picked up. So, Ron had one unsuccessful trip to town and then had to go again and get money the expensive way. Never mind, we just want the money to come through.

I worked with Florence, our bursar plus everything else, to get a route for the bus to take. Then, 3.30
The bus!
arrived, teachers dismissed their  pupils and the bus was meant to be there. Oops, some communication got missed along the way so the bus driver did not know he was meant to be at the school. But, no problem, the 'new' Jinja Christian School bus arrived (don't know anyone who wants to sponsor the school bus do you?) It looks great and after some discussion and
Waiting for the bus to be organised
clarification, not in English, the route was finalized and the children and bus were on their way.

The day however was not done as there were still more parents coming to enrol or check things out. Some fees to be paid, etc. I also met with the teachers briefly. Had to laugh at one teacher. She was taking some work home and said that she would do that instead of sleeping! Not sure what the teachers would think if they knew the workload in Australia! However, really happy about her commitment.

Well, the first day is over, we feel truly blessed to have had such a good start. We now have 47 enrolled students, privilege and responsibility! Not bad for a school of three classes! Thankful because God is at work and making this possible.