The heavens finally opened, bringing thunderous rain tumbling from the sky and everyone is rejoicing. Since morning, the school has been a hive of activity with children and adults alike running around positioning strategic tubs, buckets and jerry cans to savour every magical drop. A river of muddy water is running through the school, bringing justification to the bridge that otherwise does nothing but span the dusty earth that takes me from my room to Dominic and Rose’s house.
The week since I last wrote has been a roller coaster of emotions, of highs of lows, of heartbreak and happiness. And above all, I have never felt so humbled in all my life. One of the main reasons I wanted to come back this year (other than the fact that these visits have turned into annual pilgrimages) was to visit all of the sponsor children as the first wave finished up their fourth year of secondary school and it’s time to start thinking about their futures. Many children leave secondary school after their fourth year to pursue more vocational courses which helps to speed up their education and get them out in the workforce earning money sooner so that they can support themselves or their families or both. The amazing thing about this year’s visits has been that because the school term has ended, I am visiting each of them at their homes in their villages, meeting their families, and consequentially feeling the full weight of their gratitude for the first time.
My first visit was with David, a boy whom we met in his final year of primary school in 2009. I’ve visited David several times at his secondary school and he is one of those boys who is always smiling, always upbeat and positive. I had no idea what to expect from meeting his family when Rose and I jumped on the back of a boda, the motorcycle taxis used for transport here. We rode over dirt roads for about half an hour before pulling up outside the crumbling mud hut that housed David and what remained of his family.
Another scorching day in the town of Kyotera where children still run down the street chasing us with cries of muzungu! I don’t think I will ever again feel so famous as I do in Uganda. It’s funny that after almost a month here we feel as if we are beginning to blend in, yet every time we venture outside the grounds of KAASO we are reminded of how much we stick out, the colour of our skin blinding white in contrast to these faces that live under the scorching African sun.
The last few days have been yet another whirlwind adventure – the story of my life currently. Dominic took us to the government school that he runs down near the Tanzanian border. It was an eye-opener to say the least. All the time we have been here we have been taking our perception of ‘norms’ from KAASO, overwhelming though they may be. Kamuganja School was another story. Located in the middle of nowhere, it serves a community that largely consists of Rwanda cattle herders that fled their homes during the genocide of 1994. The people carry the scars of unspeakable tragedy and the children are understandably affected. The families are scattered far and wide around the surrounding area and to get to school, some children must walk over two hours and be ferried across a river, an offshoot of Lake Victoria, by boat if they can find one. There were less than 100 students here when Dominic took over as headmaster two years ago; now the school roll is over 300. The community is extremely poor and although being a government school there are no school fees, there is no provision for such things as uniforms, resources or even lunch. Most families cannot afford even to pay for the children’s lunch which consists of one cup of watery porridge to sustain them for the day. For some, this may be the day’s food.
So we arrived at Kamuganja to be met by 300 faces, half thrilled, half terrified who clapped and sang for us as we bumped our way along the dirt road. Dominic stopped the car for us to get out and walk amongst them into the school grounds. The red earth felt like a red carpet. They were so genuinely grateful to simply have us there and it was overwhelming to say the least. Continue reading →