Rural Uganda: Mairinya Primary School, Local Village Life

In a remote part of southeastern Uganda in a town called Mairinya, Peace Gospel International’s local team operates a K-7 primary school serving about 200 children in the area. These children have no other access to education within a reasonable walking distance.

The school provides a warm porridge breakfast and a fresh-cooked lunch for the children each school day. The facility consists of 3 buildings and 4 pit latrines. The two main school buildings are seen in the first photo. Our first building is the temporary wooden one with dirt floors seen to the left, and the newer, permanent one is seen at right. The other nearby building across the road serves as office, storage and kitchen space.

I was deeply impressed with the children’s understanding of the material they were studying and their command of the English language. The staff are warm and very fun-loving toward the children, led by the gregarious example of Mr. Moses, their dedicated and hard-working headmaster who takes the bus two hours each way to reach the village. Dedication! Four other women work as support staff, preparing and serving meals and providing other assistive duties on campus. Their joy is contagious as you’ll see in the photos.

In the second portion of this post I’ll introduce you to the villagers and village scenes around the school, to give you a better idea of the local lifestyle and dwellings.


Breakfast is served! Fresh-cooked porridge, which they either drink straight from the cup or with a leaf spoon like this little guy has here.


After breakfast classes begin!


We were able to purchase some new uniforms last week, and the children were excited to try them on. But we still have several we need to purchase. At about $10 per child and 200 children, it’s not a small expense. Don’t they look great?!


The rest of the children were measured for uniforms. While they were waiting in line for their measurements, I took a few photos (surprising, I know).


Then it was back to class, with me making plenty of interruptions, of course.


By then we were hungry again and broke for lunch which consisted of rice and beans. During harvest times we are able to prepare the meals using organically grown ingredients from our farmland and garden project.


The water source in Mairinya is not very safe and many of the children are complaining of common water-borne illnesses. We are in the process of getting funding together for a new safe water bore well which will be located on campus and made available to the entire village. You can see in this photo the water being served to the children is quite murky.


The ever-jovial support staff…


After lunch I spent more time around the classrooms and got a few more shots of these beautiful children who are all so happy to be in school. The girls of the K-4th classes send you their love…


And for my Canadian friends…


Now to take you around two or three of the local villages in this area… the people are so welcoming and the children always excited to see a foreign face. I’m sure they must think I’m a bit crazy, taking interest in what they see as simple everyday life. You’ll see the ubiquitous yellow jerry-cans which the children will carry for miles to reach local wells, some safe, some not very safe, to fill up with the day’s water needs.


Rural Uganda: Clinic, High School, Farmland, Children’s Outreach

Some miscellaneous shots from around Peace Gospel‘s main campus in rural Uganda.

Some fun news in this post. But first a little update about our clinic. Our hospital is not yet fully operational, so I’ve decided to still just call it a clinic for now. Once we can gain more profits from our farmland & garden enterprise, and/or raise more monthly sponsors to cover the staff needs at the clinic, then we can call it a hospital. Almost everything else is in place for it to be a true hospital.

Here are a couple of shots from around the clinic which offers medical aid to local residents and their children. We do have one full time nurse seen in the photos, who is licensed to administer first aid and medicines from our small-scale pharmacy. We hold seasonal medical camps at the clinic; in October we treated over 1,000 local residents in a 3 day period.


Our high school is home to several children who would otherwise have no access to education past “Primary 7” which is the American equivalent of “7th Grade.” To serve the 460,000 residents of the Mayuge district, there is only one government high school with adequate facilities. There is simply no room at the high school, and even so, if there were, most the Mayuge children would have no way of reaching the school. Thus we have started our own high school to offer an affordable alternative for the rural children to continue their education past Primary 7. Many are on scholarship, and for those who do pay, it is very minimal, avg. $20/month. A total of 153 young scholars attend the school. We also have a boarding facility at the high school, home to 45 of our scholars during the school year. Here are a few scenes from the high school. This first shot is from lunch time.


The big news is that our orphan home on campus is getting several finishing touches, including painting, fixtures, an full indoor kitchen and a security wall, all being completed this week. Here are a few scenes I captured from the new home which is situated right beside the high school. Our directors Frank & Susan are so happy to finally be able to live on campus with the orphans they’ve adopted as well as their biological children. The new facility is a vast improvement over the previous rented home which was just a rudimentary shelter with an outdoor kitchen.


Our native team has a 6-acre farmland to help supplement their funding and provide nutritious ingredients for the meals served to the students and local children they reach with nutritional support. Frank surprised me with news of their effort to raise turkeys! So you’ll see a shot from the– what do we call it? “turkey house?”– here, as well as from our piggery and potato crop. The farmland employs several locals who are proud to be a part of the project. (The boy pictured in the potato field is not working the field, he is just playing, by the way– I’ll get emails if I don’t clarify this!) The vegetable garden is being replanted for the coming rainy season at the moment, so you will not see that.


Our nutrition & hygiene outreach program serves several children from the community whom we have identified as at-risk. Here are a few photos from one of the meal times when we served over 80 children a fresh-cooked meal. These children also receive hygiene supplies when needed, as well as clothing and school supplies.


Rural Uganda: Children at the Well

A few years ago Peace Gospel International was able to raise funds for a new clean water well at our main campus in rural southeastern Uganda. The well freely serves a local population of around 10,000, so it’s almost always active throughout the day. Several children are usually gathered at the well to fetch water for their families or to just get a refreshing drink on a hot day. These are a few shots I got around the well over the course of the day. Since the well was installed, common water-borne diseases have vastly decreased in the area. These children also benefit from our free clinic located on campus.


Uganda: Kampala “Children’s Hope Center”

In the midst of the Kampala slum colony known as “Katoogo” (see my previous post for context) lies the Children’s Hope Center, an education outreach of Peace Gospel International. The program is operated by locally empowered leadership in Uganda. In its humble facility the center offers a Kindergarten through 7th primary education for about 100 children who would otherwise have no access to education. Several of the children are orphans and stay with our program leader and his family in a make-shift orphan home located in the colony. The program provides the students with school supplies, second-hand shoes and uniforms, and nutritional support including daily breakfast, lunch and clean water. Thanks to a recently successful fundraiser, the past three weeks the facility has been undergoing renovations and improvements to prevent flooding and provide adequate shelter for the students during the rainy season. The improvements include upgrading from dirt to concrete floors, a new roof, permanent chalkboards and other repairs and upgrades to the perimeter of the facility that will prevent flooding and keep the children safe. I was so happy to get to see some of the upgrades already complete or underway. The children, teachers and administrators are so thankful for your support, as they had been awaiting the critically needed improvements for quite some time.


Uganda: Kampala Slums

Before I show you the Children’s Hope Center, I want to take you on a little walk through the slum colony where it’s located. I’d like to give you an idea of the conditions they live in, and to allow you to virtually meet some of the amazingly warm and wonderful souls who dwell here. The colony is situated at the bottom of a hill near the shores of Lake Victoria. Thus, sadly, much of the sewage and rainwater drainage of neighborhoods in higher elevations collects in stagnant pools here and flooding problems are pervasive in the rainy season. My visit was on Ash Wednesday; you will see some of the children of Christian families with the ashen crosses marked on their foreheads. 


Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Jerusalem Old City, Garden of Gethsemane, Holocaust Museum, Bethlehem

Today was my 6th and final day of shooting for Ecclesia Houston on our Holy Land tour with Breaking Bread Journeys. Our day began with a visit to the Church of St. Anne in the Muslim Quarter of the Old City and the adjacent ruins of the Pool of Bethesda and an ancient Byzantine Church. We then made our way just east of the Old City to the Garden of Gethsemane and the church beside it, The Church of All Nations. Next we arrived at the Holocaust History Museum for a profoundly moving experience. After that we crossed back into the West Bank for a visit to Bethlehem. There we enjoyed shopping for handcrafted olive wood products made by local Palestinians. Also in Bethlehem we feasted on an unforgettable lunch of local cuisine and then made a quick visit to the Church of the Nativity. Not pictured: we concluded our amazing week with a traditional Shabbat dinner in the home of a local Jewish family who were very gracious hosts. This concludes my blog series for the Ecclesia Holy Land tour. It’s been a very enriching experience for all on the journey. Thanks for following along!


Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Jerusalem Old City, Garden Tomb, Jerusalem Wine Expo

Today on the fifth day of Ecclesia Houston’s tour with Breaking Bread Journeys, we were up early to beat the crowds in the Old City. We enjoyed eerily empty passageways in the Muslim Quarter as we made pilgrimage through the Stations of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa. Our journey on “The Way of Sorrows” ended at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We then made our way to the Armenian Quarter where we learned that the quarter traces its history back to the Armenian pilgrims who moved to Jerusalem in the fourth century. Next on our schedule was a tour of the Garden Tomb, a rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem which was unearthed in 1867 and has subsequently been considered by many Christians to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus. We ended the evening by enjoying wine tasting at the Jerusalem Wine Expo featuring 40 of Israel’s best wineries. Here’s some of what I captured along the way.


Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Jericho, Mount of Temptation, Qumran, Jerusalem

I’m shooting for Ecclesia Houston on our tour with Breaking Bread Journeys. Today’s expedition took us to the ruins of the world’s oldest city, Jericho, where we saw excavations of its ancient walls and towers. We then rode the cable cars up to Qarantal to wander the narrow passages of the Greek Orthodox monastery nestled in the mountain’s cliffs. Pastor Chris Seay read to the group Luke’s account of Jesus’ temptation on the mountain where we stood. Next we learned more about the Dead Sea Scrolls at the location of their discovery in Qumran and walked through the archaeological site where evidence of the Jewish Essene community is presented. The afternoon brought us to Jerusalem where we took a walk into the Old City through the New Gate just after sunset. While in the Old City we had a chance to wander in the labyrinthine Church of the Holy Sepulcher. To conclude the evening’s itinerary we made our way southeast across the winding alleyways of the Old City to the Jewish Quarter. There we came upon the Western Wall, the only surviving part of Solomon’s Temple. High winds that stirred up dust and sand made for interesting atmospheric conditions throughout the day.


Ecclesia with Breaking Bread Journeys: Mount of Beatitudes, Sea of Galilee

Continuing our tour with Breaking Bread Journeys, we left Nazareth and headed to Cana (see previous post for this morning’s wedding). Next we went to the Mount of Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee; this was the site where Jesus delivered his famous Sermon on the Mount. Pastor Chris Seay read us the sermon in its entirety while the group meditated in silent reflection. We learned that the Sea of Galilee is actually a lake— in fact, the world’s lowest fresh water lake, well below sea level. We then enjoyed a lakeside lunch where many of the group tried the locally famous St. Peter’s Fish, followed by a walk at water’s edge. Afterward, we embarked upon a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. A highlight for the group: the captain cut the engines and we floated quietly on the windswept waters for a few minutes as we prayed in silent meditation.