From Urban to Rural Uganda

Catching my blog readers up on a Uganda post I never published from January.

Moving from Kampala’s overwhelming urban slums to the serene yet rugged beauty of rural Uganda, you quickly get an idea of the spirit of those who live here. If you were to experience it, one thing would be clear to you: the Ugandan people are deeply creative, kind, hard-working, street-smart, and hospitable. You would see that Uganda’s most valuable resource is her people. If you’re seeing this post, you’re the kind of person who can respect that education gave you a chance to gain knowledge that allowed you to utilize your God-given talents. If you stop and think about it, you can’t help but realize that if given a fair chance, these beautiful people really could change the world to make it a brighter, more hopeful place. And they would arrive on such a world stage already equipped with a clear advantage in leading us toward such hope— because they have learned that success is not defined by excess; success is defined by joy, contentment, and resourcefulness. When you’re here on the ground, you don’t really have much of a choice in the moment but to throw all the theories and charts of how to solve world poverty out the window. Sometimes, it’s as basic as here are hungry children, you’ve got a few dollars, buy beans and rice, make them as tasty as you can and feed them so that they can focus on the teacher and not their hunger. My heart is yet again moved by these rich souls who have so much to offer us who are the “soul-poor” of the West. I’ll be sharing more in the days ahead. It’s my honor to get to be your periscope into this beautiful world of smiles, hope, and gratitude. I know that my posts over the years on this topic probably get redundant to some onlookers, but for those of you who enjoy the perspective, I’m happy and blessed that somehow I have the honor of continuing to provide it.

Rural Uganda: Bugadde, Mayuge District

A day (and life) in photos. There was an essence of life present in their expressions. A sort of oneness with the earth and each other. A grandmother gathered her grandchildren and asked me to take their portrait. (We want to remember our togetherness). A family was grieving the loss of a loved one yet invited me to sit with them. (We find comfort in the simple presence of others during times of loss). A man told me how he had lived in the same thatched hut home for 29 years. (We all want to feel grounded). A woman was eager to tell me of the twins she had just given birth to. (New life brings the joy of hope and a belief that life will be better for them). Both cooks and kids smiled as over 200 were fed for a back to school celebration and prayer time on the Peace Gospel rural campus. (Provision brings joy in the hearts of the grateful).

Rural Uganda: Kafu Village, Lake Victoria

In the small town of Kafu, Uganda, located on the shores of Lake Victoria just a 20-mile boat ride from the Kenyan border, you will find some of the most beautiful smiles in all the world. All you have to do is give yours first. That has seriously been a theme I have noticed on this trip to Uganda. I cannot recall smiling at anyone on this trip who did not smile back. There have been times in these days where it almost felt as if I was on a movie set and all the locals had been paid to play the role of extras cued for “ok here he comes, smile now!” At the Peace Gospel rural boarding high school, we have received several primary school graduates from this town and were visiting some of the families of the students here. Despite their joy and contentment, there are still several challenges the residents of Kafu face. The main water sources here are from open wells and the lakeshore, both of which are at high risk for contamination. 75% of all diseases in Uganda are a direct result of lack of clean water and proper sanitation. The number one cause of death here is from diarrheal diseases. To get to the closest major town with any serious medical treatment options takes about two hours on the bumpiest, muddiest roads I’ve ever traversed. I often talk about the contentment and joy of the poor that comes from their simplicity and communal lifestyle. And that is without doubts very real and inspiring. But there remains the undercurrent of disease and the cycle of poverty and corruption that is crippling this nation. The key is to improve infrastructure even if it means just drilling more closed wells and to focus on affordable, quality education for the next generation. Slowly, I believe Uganda can get there, with a little help from her global good neighbors. Their smiles tell me it must be true.

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.

Click/tap on any photo to start a slideshow.

Rural Uganda: Mayuge District

Deep in southeastern rural Uganda, near the intersection of Lake Victoria and the Kenya border, you will find a humble primary school in a village called Mairinya, usually not listed on any maps. The following photos document the joy these children get from their daily weekday classes and fresh breakfast and lunch that is provided lovingly by the dedicated staff.

Peace Gospel International has three schools in Uganda, one in urban Kampala (blogged about the previous two days), a rural high school (our biggest effort which has taken years to establish), and then, last but not least, our humble rural primary school which, along with its beautiful and gracious neighbors, is the focus of this blog post.

I love this little school as it’s kind of the little school “that could.” Despite a dire lack of resources and underpaid teachers, the school thrives, and the children are ecstatically eager to learn. When I look at their tattered school books, their handwriting and the comprehension of the subjects (based in English) is nothing short of miraculous, given their circumstances. This little oasis of education is proof that where you create an opportunity to learn, fill it with love, and fill stomachs with fresh meals, anything is possible.

We have big plans for the school, including security fences, a water well, new classrooms, more teachers, better latrines, and kitchen facilities. Learn more about the needs and how you can help.

Click/tap on 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.