Saturday, July 23, 2016

The People You Meet

This trip was about connections:

Joffrey - a young student I met on the flight from Amsterdam to Entebbe, via Kigali.  He just finished his engineering degree in the US and was heading home.  A great conversation about the transformation of Rwanda.

Victoria - Biomass Briquettes - Uganda - looking to start a business with her.

Edie - Slow Food International, Slow Food Uganda, 10,000 Gardens in Africa - school garden & community gardens are just around the corner for us.

Fred - J.E.E.P. - fuel efficient institutional sized stoves - will be installing one in the school within the next month or so.

Todd - he visited us from Kigali, Rwanda, a friend of David's originally from Portland.  Interesting to hear how Rwanda is developing.

Students from BYU - can't remember their names at the moment, both working on creating science experiments that can be used in rural Uganda without a huge science lab.  They may be visiting Victoria in August!

Henry - Nelson's friend from Katwe, so knowledgeable and willing to share information about the environment with the teachers.

Kevin - from Huntington Beach, CA - working a documentary about Malaria - the forgotten epidemic.  He had amazing videos on wildlife that he shot - it was like going to the movies every night.

James & Michael - brothers from near Mount Elgin. James, a young doctor, is working with Kevin and others to build a medical clinic in his small town.  Michael is a long haul driver.  We had two amazing dinners & conversations with Kevin, James, Michael, Ali, Linda & myself.  At one point they were telling us about the things that happen in Uganda, they were all laughing and both Linda and I had jaws that were dropping and faces of disbelief.

Kate - working on her Masters in Africa but also volunteering at Unite for the Environment -Uganda.  It is a program that brings conservation education to schools.

Ali - our driver, no scrap that, our friend.  He has taught us so much about Uganda.

...and I still have the flight home!

The Teachers

There are nine teachers at the school.  We were able to meet and get know eight of them as one is away right now as she is quite ill.  We had individual meetings with each of the teachers and also group meetings to talk about salaries, responsibilities and general discussions around what is working and what is not.

Linda did professional development with the teachers. The students were writing mid-terms during the week so this gave teachers a bit of free time to take part.  As well there was a full day workshop on a Saturday.

Moris - History & Commerce
Rocklace - Kiswahili, Fine Art & Music
Isaac - Biology & Computer
Geofry - Math & Physics
Constance - Biology & English
Sabiti - Biology & Chemistry
Johnstone - Geography & C.R.E.
Ellen - Head Teacher (Principal) & Agriculture

The Sun - the M.L.S.S. Newsletter

When I visited last year the students had asked about doing a school newsletter.  It was one of those things we did not get to so I definitely wanted to make it happen this year.  Aaron met with all the students in the first week and brainstormed with those groups about what a newsletter is and what they might want to include in a newsletter.  At the beginning of the second week  I met with eight students and started the process of creating the newsletter.

Students reading the first newsletter.

We talked about the content, the layout and of course the name.  They chose the name 'The Sun' as it represented the statement 'Our school enables us to shine and grow'.  After a few meetings we had nailed down the layout and everyone had their assignments and the amount of space for their information.  This first newsletter is 8 1/2 x 11 and one sided.

Students reading the school newsletter
At the beginning of the last week we had edited the content and had a draft.  They made a few adjustments and were happy with the final copy.  I was able to do the layout on Publisher and then had it printed.  The teachers and students received a copy and there were additional copies for distribution in the community.  The students chose to write about how much they love their school and what it means to be a student at M.L.S.S.

I have a date with them for the third week of September - they will send me their content and I will put together the second newsletter for them from Canada.

Water catchment & Composting - almost done!

Water catchment is finished.  The tap is on the other side and there is a trench that flows away from the tank and it is lined with gravel to avoid a mess in the rainy season or just from regular spills.  A jerry can is able to easily fit under the tap and does not have to be lifted at all.  As well a hose at the top of the tank is being affixed so when there is overflow (a certainty in the rainy season), it can flow into the garden area and hopefully into another tank when we have the budget for it.

There were left over bricks from a few projects so a new composting/garbage area has been created.  The composting area will come in handy when the 10,000 Gardens in Africa project starts in August.  Unfortunately too much plastic has crept into the lives of those in Bwera.  One of these bins will be used to store this and in the meantime we need to find a way to use less plastic and/or recycle it.  There are no local alternatives so it will be a research project for my 2017 visit!

Post - a - Rama

Well we have arrived in Entebbe and have solid internet.  This is going to cause a flurry of posts before I leave at 9:30 tonight for the airport.  I want to thank the people who took time to find us cameras and a printer to use in the photography lessons.  Yes, the students really just wanted to take photos of themselves but Aaron was able to show them how a straight-on photo could be made better by thinking about a few things before hitting the shutter button.  Here are a few examples:

Catch the Wave

We are spending some time looking at the big picture and how the plan for the school grounds is evolving.  Obtaining good water is always an issue and also a cost.  We have decided to move the water tank, as well as elevating it.  There will be room for another tank if that fits the budget in the future.  As well we are adding gutters to the other school building, the latrine and the kitchen.  All these buildings have metal roofs so they will be able to help with water catchment.

We have four water barrels that can be used on the latrine and the kitchen.  This water can be used for hand washing and cleaning dishes.  We would also like to install an outdoor sink so the students have a better place to wash dishes and clothes….if this is a success we will post pictures next week!

The tippy taps that we introduced last year are still being used.  Nelson indicated that many of the neighbours and members of the community have also installed these at their homes.

We have found that all the planning we do ahead of time is required and useful but when we get here we must be extremely flexible.  You must let go of the desire to push ahead with the things ‘we’ thought were important and go with what is really addresses the immediate needs of the school, with an eye to the long term vision.

At the end of the day we pile everyone that needs a ride into the van and head off, dropping people along the way.  Nelson, Bosco and Robert getting a ride into Bwera!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Linda and I have been back at the school for a couple of days and it has been a whirlwind.  Before I tell you all those stories I wanted to share the kindness that has come our way.

Our driver Ali has been beyond amazing. He is always taking care of us by letting us know the customs, the reasons things are happening a certain way and by checking on how everyone is doing. Besides being an excellent driver, he is shown himself to be a natural teacher. His time at the school has been spent working with the students as well as sitting in on discussions.  His input has been valuable. After our friend Todd left to go back to Kigali, he followed up with him without us even thinking about it, to make sure he had a safe journey. His wife Zubedah came and stayed with us on Saturday & Sunday. On our way to airport on the trip home we will stop at their home to meet their son Abraham!

At Simba Safara Camp the staff is outstanding. The kitchen staff takes care of us each day with great food and also adjusting meals so they are smaller or have certain things we like. Breakfast is now fresh fruit, toast (homemade bread) and coffee. Dinner is always a surprise. They have been making delicious soup each night with dinner. The beet soup was our favorite - we have asked for a repeat. The cook is a young women who always has a smile! They love to hear about our day and they let us know what new guests have arrived.

Rita (cook - 2nd from left) & her Fab kitchen staff

Charles & Vincent

The manager James has been a treat to work with. Nothing is impossible.  If he is going to Kasese, he is happy to pick something up. When I needed a lesson on using a voltage meter, he got his staff member who works with the solar to show me. If we need information on a local place, he knows it and can help us make a connection.  His staff is so good because he does such a great job.

James & Linda

Simba to Queen Elizabeth Park

We had our final dinner at Simba together and of course our high and low for the day.  What a great way to capture the day and also learn about each other.  We were off at the usual time to head to Mweya Lodge for one night.  Internet has been a challenge but in the whole scheme of things a good lesson in patience.

The first stop in the morning is at the Equator sign to take photos.

Aaron & Mark

Laura & Mark

As we drove to the official gates of Queen Elizabeth Park, there was a chance we would see some animals.  Well we were not disappointed – elephants.  I was also able to catch a shot of a baby elephant, a little hazy on this hot day but cute none the less.

Up close & personal

We settled in and after lunch we had a boat trip on the Kazinga Channel.  This is the channel that connects Lake George and Lake Edward. Lake George is totally within Uganda and Lake Edward is 80% in the Congo and 20% in Uganda. 

Here's looking at you


Teenage Hippos
Heading out for night fishing

We watched a lion and a buffalo have a stand off.  The lion would sit down and buffalo would move forward.  The lion would stand up and move on a bit, sit down.  They would just look at each other for a while.  This continued until finally the lion just moved on.  The guide said they were both old and neither wanted to fight!  Dark photos ---sorry.

Trying to co-exist
I am out of here.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Goodbyes - Stories - Memories

It is hard to summarize the impact of the last few days.  The students wrote down their stories - they were very revealing and heartbreaking.  They loved the photography sessions and learning about depth of field, leading lines, pattern & addition to taking photos of their friends.  The high energy interactive classes that taught them about critical thinking, the water cycle and perspective were a challenge well received.

Today was the last day at the school for the whole group.  Linda and I will be back for two more weeks.  It was hard for everyone to say goodbye as they are just starting to get to know the students.  It has been the beginning of a friendship that will be hard to continue because of distance but also due to poor or complete absence of the internet.

Members of the sewing class
The sewing class is open to women and also girls who may not have completed their studies at school.  We will be discussing a project with them next week that will have them sewing uniforms for all the students in the school.  Monies have been donated to purchase all of the fabric to make this happen - thank you to the Ideba team!

A beautiful child of one of the women in the sewing class
We said our final goodbye to the students and they were so disappointed that people were leaving.  One of the students piped up and said 'Since this is your last day, could you stay overnight at the school?'.  In light of how much fun we had at the end of the day yesterday, we created another 'sports afternoon' from about 3:00 - 4:30.  There were groups playing soccer, volleyball, frisbee and lacrosse.  Others were watching, sitting under the trees and there was lots of smiles & laughter.  This relaxed atmosphere encouraged great conversations and allowed us to see personalities show through.

The lacrosse stars!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Sports time at the Community field

We headed up to the community field with all of the students in the late afternoon.  It was a great walk because we could just hang out with the students in a non-classroom setting.  They become very talkative and asked all the questions they have been storing up. James traded one of the Nike soccer balls for a Ugandan made soccer ball.  I am not sure if this little guys really wants to give it up!

As expected the students took to lacrosse with fun and enthusiasm.  Their eye/ball coordination is great and they are very athletic.

We always had an entourage, which was fun for them but also for us.  Today was a national holiday so they were ready to be part of our fun.

Tie Dye

Another evening with the group sharing our stories from the day.  We had a hard time narrowing down our highs and our collective low was that David wasn’t feeling great.  We started the day back in the classrooms with students whose personalities were beginning to show through their shyness.  The school has guards and they too have become part of our experience at the school.

School guards

The school kitchen is always a bit of miracle for me.  This is where we will be making improvements with the stove we showed you in the last blog as well as improving the structure of the building.

School kitchen

Around 3:00 in the afternoon we gathered together again to distribute t-shirts that the students from West Union Elementary made for the students in Uganda.  These were done by Mark's class.  I could try to explain how they reacted but these pictures really show it!

Mark and the students with their new t-shirts

Wednesday, July 6, 2016


Early to rise - off to school.  We arrived around 9:00 am today and our first task was to meet our new goat.  We have named the goat Obomaisy (sp) which means 'to give life' in Swahili.  The amazing part was that it was determined after she was purchased that she was pregnant.
Our friend Obomaisy
Linda, Laura, Mark & Aaron were working with the students all morning.  This first day the students were pretty shy as they were just getting to know us.  James, Nelson, David & I went over to Bwera Secondary School that has one of the stoves we are considering purchasing for the school.  It is on a much larger scale as this school feeds about 1800 students per day.  It was good to see them using it and we were able to ask questions of the cooks about how they liked it.

This pot is about 3 feet across

The end of the day brought us back in the van heading to the hills around Bwera to deliver a goat.  Nelson lead the way with Obobmaisy on a poda poda (motorcycle.)

Obomaisy going to her new home
When we arrived at the village, we presented the goat to the family.  There were extremely grateful and gave us some ground nuts as a gift.  We have had the ground nuts roasted in the kitchen where we are staying so we can enjoy them together.

The family that received the goat today.