More Rural Uganda Wanderings

A recap of my final days in the Mayuge District of rural Uganda. A look at the Peace Gospel International high school project, a glimpse into one of our classrooms during Chemistry, a walk through surrounding villages, soccer practice of the high school team, meal time, laundry time, dorm life, our women’s empowerment program during seamstress training, a look at the realities of water collection in the district, and finally, a sunset over Lake Victoria on my final day.

At the high school project, the newest building is almost complete. It will be the main building of the school with new facilities for the official chemistry lab, more classroom space, a library, and more administrative offices. The school has an enrollment of almost 250 students, most of which are boarding students.

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Kampala, Uganda: Katoogo Slum Colony, Children’s Hope Center

My day began late as I was recovering from travel and an intense couple of weeks shooting in the Holy Land. I made my way to the Katoogo slum colony in the southern part of Kampala, Uganda with my Kampala Director, Joseph. I’m here reviewing programs of Peace Gospel International and our human trafficking response program known as She Has Hope. Working in partnership with Joseph, a few years ago we started a “Children’s Hope Center” in one of the rougher slums of Kampala. The colony is plagued by flooding, stagnant sewage, and no trash collection. Plastic waste is strewn about the colony along with what smells like and appears to be toxic waste materials in the standing puddles that the children walk through barefoot without a second thought.

In the midst of these scenes stands the Children’s Hope Center, an education and nutrition outreach of Peace Gospel International. We started the center as an after-school care program but a couple of years ago transformed it into a full-blown primary school with about 200 students enrolled. We have faced several challenges at the school, mostly from damage caused to the humble facility during flash floods. As the colony is at the base of the Gaba hills approaching Lake Victoria, the area is flood prone.

We are in the process of raising the level of the school and adding additional classroom space, but fundraising is always a challenge and so we are just piecing it together as funds are provided. Our goal is to get the school to a level worthy of accreditation and open up seats for families who can afford tuition as a means of sustainability like we have achieved with our rural high school here in Uganda.

I arrived toward the end of the school day, so the younger children had already been dismissed. But I got there in time for lunch, and then enjoyed observing afternoon classes with the older students. I also had the honor of guest-teaching the 5th grade English class! After school dismissed, I took a walk around the colony to capture some scenes of the environment for you to understand what kind of conditions we’re dealing with here.

It is nothing short of gut-wrenching and heart-breaking. I pulled several barefoot children out of the cesspools, trying to warn them that it is not safe for them to play there. As usual, there are endless hazards in the colony like rusty nails in boards, jagged edges of aluminum sheets, glass, and other sharp objects where the children play in the trash piles either barefoot or in flimsy flip-flops. My new friend, the girl in the black and white dress, and I worked to pick up nails and shards to put them in a safe place away from where the children play. It seems futile, but you cannot help but want to try. Needless to say, there are several sick children in the colony. The mothers urge me to take a look inside their shanties to see their ill children, asking me for money to help them. It kills me every time. We can’t save them all, but with education and nutrition being offered to the most at-risk in the colony, we hope to break this vicious cycle of extreme poverty over time.

Uganda is also dealing with a food crisis as last year the country suffered intense drought and as a result, food prices have doubled. Several children were lined up outside our center with bowls, hoping to get leftovers from lunch. Thankfully we had enough to serve most, but we lack the budget to keep the pantry stocked with adequate supplies of rice, cornmeal, and beans, which are all staples of the local diet. Peace Gospel and She Has Hope are small charities funded almost completely by individuals. Any gift you might be able to chip in to help us meet our monthly operating goals would be appreciated and put to immediate use for urgent needs.

Tomorrow, internet willing, I will share with you more about our newest She Has Hope rehabilitation home in Kampala and the craft making classes empowering them to recover from human trafficking. I will also return to the Children’s Hope Center to share with you more about the program there. Thank you for reading and viewing the photos.

Click/Tap any photo to start a slideshow. 

Uganda: Education and village life in Mayuge District

Thanks for stopping by to view my final summary of images from this trip to Uganda. In this set you’ll find more classroom scenes from the Peace Gospel rural high school that serves this part of Muyuge District. Peace Gospel is in the process of upgrading facilities yet again, to reach our final phases in obtaining accreditation for the school. The school includes boarding facilities, a kitchen and canteen, chemistry lab, and several classrooms. In the expansion currently underway, a library and computer lab will be included.

The high school offers the possibility for local rural residents to send their children to a nearby high school versus sending them to boarding schools in faraway towns. The school’s ability to charge a modest tuition to those families who can afford it allows us to offer scholarships to several orphan students who would otherwise never have the chance to go beyond seventh grade. “Primary Seven” (roughly equivalent to a U.S. seventh grade level) is usually the last easily accessible government education level available in the rural areas.

You’ll also find some scenes from our neighbor’s homes we visited near the main campus. For those of you uninitiated to Peace Gospel Uganda, when I refer to the “main campus” I’m referring to the Peace Gospel campus which contains the rural clinic, high school, farmland and women’s craft business development school.

Next in the set you’ll see photos from the Peace Gospel rural primary school. This school, located in a tiny village called Mairinya on the eastern edge of Mayuge District, not far from the Kenya border, offers a primary education from 1st to 7th grade. Before we started the school there was no access to education within a reasonable walking distance of the village. The school averages about 200 students who are all on scholarship to attend free of charge. They receive a fresh cooked breakfast and lunch each school day. The campus there also includes its own farmland, providing more fresh organic ingredients for our students’ meals.

After our visit to the rural primary school, we had the delight of visiting some of the local residents in neighboring villages. We also encountered many smiling faces along the winding dirt road that took us back to Jinja. I love this area dearly. I hope someday I can stay longer to document more of these super-simple villages with their gorgeously handcrafted mud huts and beautiful smiling residents.

Mayuge District, Uganda

[Note: I’ve been trying to upload this for 3 days so ‘today’ is not really ‘today’]

Today we made our way from Jinja to the Mayuge District where Peace Gospel International operates a high school, a rural clinic and a women’s business empowerment program. Mayuge District is located in eastern Uganda on the shores of Lake Victoria near the border of Kenya. The Ugandan school year kicks off in late February but it takes some time for all the students to register, especially in an election year. National elections were held last week and local elections are going on this week. We expect around 200 students to enroll this year once everything settles after the election security implementations.

There is so much activity on our main campus. A new school building, our largest building to be constructed on campus yet, is going up and should be ready soon– a major step needed in reaching our national accreditation. We also have several new latrines either just finished or still under construction, a new kitchen and a canteen from which the students can buy snacks at affordable prices (an effort to reduce the temptation to leave campus during the day). Not to mention the new solar solution provided by a grant from the Total Foundation. Among meeting other electricity needs, this has afforded us the ability to power a water pump from our well, thus providing running water on campus! Around campus, you will also see many children from our women’s business empowerment program playing while their moms practice their craft making skills in classes provided on campus.

Uganda: Kampala Slum Outreach, ‘The Children’s Hope Center’

Peace Gospel International operates a school in the slums of Uganda’s capital city, Kampala. Here are some shots I took at the school and around the slum colony today. The start of the Ugandan school year is this week, however due to the disruption of somewhat tumultuous elections, our enrollment at the school is a little lower than usual; it will be back to normal next week. However, there were plenty of students to interact with today, and you can just tell they’re sharp kids. As you can see in one of the photos, part of our school here has some challenges with flooding but we have some plans to remedy that.

Nepal Earthquake Relief: Sankhu

Today was another emotional roller coaster here in Nepal. The scenes of devastation we saw seemed straight out of a WWII movie. The village of Sakhu appeared to have been bombed in an air raid; residents were sifting through the rubble trying to salvage what little is left of their possessions. But on a much higher note, we were able to bring 125 families here a week’s rations of rice and lentils. Nepal has a very long road to recovery ahead. However, for months to come our local native team will continue to serve these who have lost everything. If you have not already done so, please consider making a contribution of any size to Peace Gospel‘s Nepal Earthquake Relief Fund using this link. It really will make a difference.

We started the day searching for rice and lentils in the city. We had to call dozens of shops before we located one that had stock available. Then we made our way out to the Sakhu area where we distributed rations in two locations.

Here are some shots from the first location. We used a makeshift tent some families have been sleeping in as our distribution point.

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Some of the children who were playing around while their parents waited in the queue for rations…

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Life inside the tent where these will be living for quite some time…

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As we then drove and walked across the village to get to our next distribution point, these were some of the shocking scenes we discovered…

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You can see where this resident is sleeping out on a mattress in front of their home. While the home is still standing, it will need to be torn down because it’s no longer safe to live in…

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We then reached the other side of the village where we found a much-needed calming view…

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When one of the women in the field saw me, she came up to me explaining that her house had fallen down in the quake…

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My friend Cody helping unload the mini-cab into our distribution point, this time, a local church building…

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As we waited for the families in need to gather, I had the chance to take some portraits of those who were arriving…

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These boys made their own swing set using some cord they had found in the rubble…

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Now the families had arrived and we began to distribute the rations…

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On the walk back to our truck, we assisted in whatever ways we could as the residents tried to salvage what they could out of their homes. This family was fortunate in that, although condemned as a tear-down, their home was still standing, making it easier to rescue their belongings. Cody was able to help them get some furniture out…

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I’ll leave you with more scenes of the catastrophic devastation we witnessed as we departed. This is our Nepal director Bimal surveying the aftermath…

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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.

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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.

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After breakfast classes begin!

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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?!

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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).

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

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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.

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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.

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The ever-jovial support staff…

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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…

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And for my Canadian friends…

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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.

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