Thursday, May 27, 2010

Spelling Means Yelling

The schools of Mukono are finally back in session and the Muzungus are ready to get to work. We began our work with a local primary school, Crane Preparatory, on Wednesday and it was quite the experience. Crane invited our team to sit through an orientation of sorts and observe the classrooms to see where we would be most effective. I sat in on a P.2 class, which is about the equivalent of a second grade class in the U.S. The next day, we began our actual programs with the school, and to say it was a busy day is a huge understatement. In the mornings we work in the actual classrooms, and then in the afternoon we return to conduct the extracurricular activities. I will do my best to express what I have learned at Crane the past few days:
-When the P.2 practices spelling, they actually just yell the words as loud as they possibly can. It was awesome.
-When someone answers a question correctly the rest of the students “shower with flowers,” or in other words, they wiggle their fingers at the star student.
-P.7 classes are huge. One class contained 75 students.
-Despite the limited access to learning materials and teaching staff, the students are excited to learn.
-I can’t believe that I have ever complained about my schools in the United States. The classrooms that we work in are dilapidated brick buildings with dirt floors with a single chalkboard painted on the wall. The walls are covered with old charcoal stains and doodles from past students. It is so eye opening to see how these amazing children receive their education.
-Even though we are all speaking English, there have been some communication issues with the administration of the school. When we wanted to implement a tutoring program within the school, the teachers thought that we wanted to teach the actual curriculum so they left us in the classrooms with all of the students waiting to learn. It was a bit overwhelming. Hopefully we work out all of bumps by next week.
Despite the craziness that naturally occurs with a new program, it is such a privilege to work with these happy and loving students. We are working to organize the program to maximize effectiveness, but I believe that we will be able to create a lasting relationship with these schools in Mukono. I can’t wait to learn more from these students, even if it means shouting at spelling words with them all day long.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Uganda vs Kenya

Saturday some of us had the opportunity to go to a Uganda soccer game. It was a wonderful experience.

We started the excursion by getting in a taxi and heading for Mandela Stadium. Upon arriving we decided that we would get the expensive tickets instead of the cheap tickets because we wanted to sit in the shade. It was a decision well worth it (we only spent $10).

To get to our seats we had to enter into a considerably nice room that had an enclosed staircase and a wet bar. Our seats were perfect, they had back rest and were directly in front of middle field.

For the pre-game show we got to watch a group of cultural percussionist who even danced while playing the drums on their heads.

Right as the game was about to start, a gentleman came and asked if he could sit next to me, I agreed and ended up being grateful that he did. As the game progressed he explained what was happening. About half way through the first half I asked him who all the men were in suits that were in the rows below us. He informed me that one was the Secretary of Education, another was Secretary General... the list goes on. I later found out that the gentleman next to me was the president of FIFA. During the 2nd half of the game, all the men in suits came and sat right next to us.

The soccer game was great, Uganda won 1 to o. It was an experience worth living.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oli Otya!

Greetings from Mukono, Uganda! Our whole team has arrived safely, without too much complication (except an unexpected overnight delay in Heathrow for many of us), and we are all finally accustomed to the almost half-day time change. Ryan and Angie have done a great job setting up many meetings with potential partner organizations, and we are busy preparing for projects by drafting proposals and forming committees.

Already we have immersed ourselves in this unique culture. We have made adobe with our feet, collected water from the Nile, taken bucket showers, learned Luganda (the native language of most Ugandans) and eveneaten grasshoppers!

Some projects that we have already helped with include: making an adobe stove, building a community clinic, and planting crops at a community field. We have also met with community leaders on health, education, business training, and orphanage projects.

This week has been invaluable preparation and training for our future adventures! I feel as though we are gradually understanding the people and discovering the best application for our time and resources. There will definitely be amazing things to write of in the days and weeks to come! As we better understand Ugandan culture and way of life, we hope that both the natives and us muzungus will be edified and empowered.

- Scott and Rachel

Forgive the poor formatting, computers in third world countries behave... differently than in the USA!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

A more complete update

Hello friends and faithful blog followers,

We've finally made time for a longer stint at the internet cafe--it feels like every time we come here, we have so much business to take care of that the time passes too quickly. That should be some indication of how things are going. We are busy, running around town, house hunting, meeting with people, and acclimating to a very new and beautiful place. Our real mission this week is to be learners--we have come in with an intense desire to understand how things work here, from transportation to governance to local community action organizations.

Just this morning, we met with the Deputy Mayor and his wife who is a school teacher. They both had excellent ideas for how we can get involved in the community, and make a meaningful impact that lasts far longer than our short four months here. They were very passionate about serving the community, and like many others here, have a clear understanding of what is being done already and what is lacking.

I think it is this culture of thoughtful analysis and action that I have most appreciated since arriving here. Every person we have talked to has had enlightening insight on what Uganda needs, and on why things are as they are in this community. They have so much to teach us. In learning we come to a better understanding of our role within the community--We can facilitate action only so long as we listen to their needs and synthesize the lessons they are teaching us. Every time I have thought I knew what was needed or what we can do, I have found that, while they would have accepted my ideas, theirs were better and will be more effective. HELP is lucky to be in contact with some very bright and passionate people who understand what we are capable of as well as what their community needs--I am convinced that through these partnerships, we will be able to have a very positive impact.

Logistics are coming along nicely. We have found a suitable house not too far from town, and we are going to negotiate the price and contract this afternoon. Wish us luck! It is a very comfortable place with indoor plumbing and electricity, and plenty of space for a group of our size. We also have a courtyard with a little bit of grass, and there is a boda boda waiting point just a few meters from the driveway. the only drawback is that it is close to a main road, so we can hear the traffic. We've also found someone willing to cook for us, and a guard--we are trying as much as possible to use connections from past years. They've had good experiences working with us in the past and are very excited that we are in Mukono again.

On a personal note, this place is truly amazing. The people are kind, generous, friendly, open, and genuine, which is a real breath of fresh air. I feel welcome and safe, in part because I know that people in this community value our presence and are looking out for us. We can't wait for the volunteers to arrive. We've already started setting up some good projects for the first few days, so that everybody can get a taste of what is available, along with meetings with some partners.

I think it is going to be a great summer!