It’s incredible what can be achieved

For years there had been talk of a secondary school affiliated with KAASO. People in the local community has asked Dominic and Rose if they would establish another school to help educate those leaving KAASO but resources were too few and time was too short.

However, thanks to the extraordinary dedication of a man named Zaake, this dream became a reality. Zaake, a local businessman dealing in Chinese imports, was passionate about developing the community surrounding Kabira. His children had gone through KAASO but then had had to leave to go to secondary schools far away as there were no reputable schools in the area. If Dominic and Rose would agree to help oversee the educational side of things, Zaake would fully fund and oversee the creation of the school. And thus Zaake Secondary School was born.

In December last year I visited the construction site where the school was being built. Wooden scaffolding clung to the red-earth bricks and I wondered how it would ever be ready in time for the new year.

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However, any doubts were put to rest on 18th January this year when the school was officially opened and its classrooms filled with old students of KAASO and dozens of other children from the surrounding villages. It was a huge accomplishment and since then I have been eagerly following the progress of the school and its students.

Thanks to Lara Briz, a fellow volunteer who returns regularly to KAASO, I am able to share with you photos of Zaake Secondary School today, functioning and completed and a most impressive facility for the people of Rakai.

Looking at these photos makes me beam with pride at how far the KAASO community has come in the past five years since I first fell in love with this remarkable place. It’s incredible what can be achieved when the determination, dedication and passion of a people is ignited.

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‘A chance to change KAASO, Uganda and the World’

Five years ago when I was first in Uganda, the idea of Dominic going to America seemed about as likely as me becoming a pole vaulter. He was born and raised in Uganda and had dedicated his life to helping the children of the area in which he grew up. The only time he ever left Uganda was to cross the border into Tanzania at the start of each school year to pick up the handful of Tanzanian orphans who boarded at KAASO.

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However, last year the National Educator Program (NEP) of the USA heard of Dominic through a past volunteer and invited him to present the story of KAASO at an educational conference in California and then attend a leadership workshop in Florida. Within the USA, his food and accommodation would be covered by NEP but it was up to us to get him there. Kirsty and I launched a fundraiser and thanks to the generous support of family and friends, in particular Judy Johnson and Iain Percy, we raised the money for his flights. Kirsty, Justin and other volunteers helped Dominic through the arduous US visa process and we were happy to learn that Dominic had already obtained a passport a few years earlier in case the chance ever arose to head overseas.

Arriving in the USA on 29th June 2013, Dominic was taken under the wing of Mark Thompson, the inspiring Executive Director of NEP, who guided him through American life and introduced him to people from around the world. Despite being far from Uganda and all those he knew and loved, Dominic tackled life with his usual optimism and exuberance and all who met him were blown away by his charisma – and by the incredible story of KAASO. He made many great connections and formed a sister school partnership with a primary school in Flordia who have since donated 21 laptops to the KAASO computer lab. He learned about new teaching methods and the concept of ‘career academies’ whereby students are encouraged to learn practical skills which will help them in life and not just academic teachings. This has been implemented at KAASO in the form of the self-sustaining poultry project which is largely student-run, helping educate the children about how to generate an income alongside their studies. There are many other exciting projects that KAASO one day hopes to launch such as a bakery and a local coffee processing plant.

Not only did Dominic introduce these ideas to KAASO, he also shared them with Zaake Secondary School, Ssanje Primary School (the government school at which Dominic is also head teacher), presented at various community meetings around the district and was invited to State House to give an account of his trip. In Dominic’s own words:

‘Attending an international conference has changed my thinking, my way of life and even my status in the society. So many people are consulting me.’

All in all, the trip was an incredible success and Dominic, KAASO and the community at large have greatly benefited from his experiences.

So when Dominic was invited to return to the US to complete the second part of the International Leadership Fellows Institute he began last July, I knew he had to take this opportunity. The course is ‘a year-long professional program designed to challenge and strengthen exceptional candidates. The Institute’s goal is to develop principals with the knowledge, skills, and vision to lead progressive, innovative schools where teachers are empowered to be leaders and all students have equal access to success.’

Thanks to the generous support of Nathan Outteridge, Dominic will be flying out next Saturday to Tampa, Florida, to complete the final stage of this two-part course. Mark Thompson will again be mentoring Dominic through the process and helping Dominic to build on the relationships and connections he formed last year.

I am excited to follow his progress and look forward to hearing about all he will learn, experience, see, and ultimately share with the KAASO community.

Dominic wrote to me saying, ‘I feel that if I continue with this course, it will give me a great chance to change KAASO, Uganda and the World.’

If anyone can, Dominic will.

Dominic with the Ugandan flag

An inspiring new initiative from the Kiwi sponsor students

When I was in Uganda last December, Rose came up with the brilliant idea of holding meetings with the sponsored students every school holidays. We would form a committee run by the students themselves who would then organise meetings to discuss the term, to collaborate on ideas and initiatives and to ensure that letters were being regularly written to their sponsors.

I loved the idea and we used the Christmas party we were hosting for the sponsor students (funded by one of our generous sponsors) as an opportunity to introduce the concept to the students and appoint a committee. They voted on the various positions and Henry was appointed Chairperson, Stellah the Vice Chairperson, David the Mobilizer and Juliet the Secretary. Everyone was very excited about the idea and I left in December feeling inspired by this new initiative.

Last Friday, the inaugural meeting was held at Zaake Secondary School. Fifteen of our eighteen sponsor students were in attendance and the meeting was overseen by Rose but run by the student committee. Juliet and Henry complied the minutes from the meeting and a bundle of letters are now winging their way to be distributed to the sponsors of these remarkable teenagers. I couldn’t be prouder – this is an amazing example of what can be achieved when Rose’s wisdom is combined with the energy of motivated young students. A perfect demonstration of how powerful and effective it is when change comes from within.

To all those who are part of the Kiwi Sponsorships – webale nyo for your hard work and I look forward to receiving the minutes from the next meeting!

Minutes from KAASO Sponsorship Meeting 10th May 2014

Attendance of Kiwi Sponsorship Meeting 10th May 2014

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From left to right: Back row – Charles, Henry, David, Stellah, Winnie. Front row – Zakia, Teddy, Stephen, Juliet

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Kibone Winnie, newly sponsored this year by Don & Gendy Macalister after her past sponsor dropped off. She is in her third year of high school and one day hopes to become a doctor.

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Gimbo Jackline & Ssemunywa Henry Rogers. Jackie is in her second year of nursing sponsored by Share Uganda. Henry’s fifth year of high school is being funded this year by the scholarship he won from St Thomas University of Minnesota. My parents and I continue to help with his requirements and extras.

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Kasujja Bruno is in his second year of secondary school at Zaake. He is sponsored by a past volunteer, Justin Vigar and his parents.

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Alinitwe Violah & Estukia Munjera. Violah is Stellah’s elder sister and is in her second year of nursing, sponsored by John Clarke. Munjera is in her first year of veterinary studies, sponsored by Margaret Koski, Judy Blackman, Shelley Duncan & Catherine Smith.

 

 

Zaake Secondary School

On my latest trip to Uganda, I met an incredible man named Zaake. A successful businessman dealing in Chinese imports, he was originally from Rakai District and his children had all gone through KAASO. However, once his children finished KAASO he had been forced to send them further afield for secondary school as there were no local secondary schools with a level of teaching to match KAASO. He asked Dominic and Rose if they would set up a secondary school but they declined, saying they already had their hands full juggling KAASO, Dominic’s job as Director of Kamuganja Primary School, not to mention their own 7 children.

Zaake persisted, asking if he fully funded the project and organised the construction with assistance from his Chinese importing contacts, would Dominic and Rose sit on the board of directors to help offer input in the curriculum and guide the educational decisions. They agreed and construction began at once.

I went to visit the school while it was still under construction in November last year and was amazed at the size, scope and scale of the project.

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Zaake Secondary School – the computer lab and administration block on the left, classrooms on the right

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Dominic and Zaake

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