When Chris and I first accepted the call to serve in Africa, we were named Directors of the Secondary School. Our main goal was to help oversee and organize programs at the newly purchased school. With our experience and expertise in education, we were excited about this challenge!
In preparing for the trip, we continued to clarify our goals and projects with Simone. We quickly realized our work would not only focus on the Secondary School, but also involve a collection of projects in and around both the Primary and Secondary Schools. Changing our “official” title to Volunteers was better fitting and allowed us the flexibility to minister in a variety of areas. Simone has many big dreams for the students and staff at both schools, and we were thrilled about being a small part of those projects!
Simone has many big dreams for the students and staff at both schools, and we were thrilled about being a small part of those projects!
July-October | Student-Sponsor Letters
Since arriving here in July, we’ve had a multitude of opportunities to minister and serve the community of Nakaseke. Most of the summer team left right before our arrival. However, a few team members extended their stay, so they could spend more time serving the people and organization. Before they left at the end of July, we joined their work in collecting letters from students to their sponsors. During the letter-collection process, it became evident our student records needed some serious organization. Some students were no longer attending the school. Others were in different grades. Name-spellings varied from one document to the next. So, we quickly began updating class rosters and brainstorming attendance policies with the staff.
August-November | Attendance Policies
Attendance is a challenge for many of the students in the community. I was shocked when only a few children showed up for school after the break. Term three begins during one of the two rainy seasons in Uganda, and families need their children to help dig in the garden. Garden produce equals income and food for a family. In addition, families/guardians struggle in paying for term fees, so they may not send their students until the third week of school! During a holiday, some families move to new villages and cannot travel the far distances to school. Attendance is always low after a good rain and on every Thursday—the town’s local market day. Amidst other barriers to good attendance, we have implemented some guidelines to help combat this struggle rooted deep in the culture. We are keeping better records, building incentive programs, educating the parents, and establishing policies. The school staff and organization’s sponsors believe in the importance of strong attendance and its link to success in school.
August-November | Photography of staff, students, & schools
In addition to our work on student records and attendance policies, we have continued our annual project of photographing portraits of the students. Every year, our sponsors in the US receive a new photo of the child/children they support. With well over 500 sponsored children, this task takes a few weeks. (Especially when we have to track down all those absent students!) I also get the pleasure of documenting the happenings both in and around the school. Simone’s Kids receives thousands of marketing photographs capturing school assemblies, science experiments, completed fundraising projects, and those we are planning for the future. Each staff member received a professional portrait this year, too! I love following the students, staff, and construction workers around with my Nikon knowing the images will inspire others to get involved with the great work happening here.
I love following the students, staff, and construction workers around with my Nikon knowing the images will inspire others to get involved with the great work happening here.
August-September | Workshops on Effective Teaching
After most of the portraits were complete, Chris helped me design a six-session workshop for the teachers and staff at our schools. (I think this has been one of my favorite projects so far because it so closely relates to the work I’ve been doing in America over the past two years.) Chris led the first session on the importance of building quality student-teacher relationships (the heart of his doctoral thesis). Then, I led sessions on classroom management, student engagement, higher-order questioning, formative assessments, and differentiation. I know my accent interfered with some of the delivery, but I believe many seeds were planted. The staff was so appreciative and grateful for the new information and learning activities.
September-October | Christmas Cards
While waiting for term 3’s attendance to improve, I began organizing a project to collect 2,000 Christmas from our students. Each Christmas season, Simone’s Kids mails these cards to sponsors, donors, and schools across the US. Wahab, our child-sponsorship correspondent, and I traveled to the capital in search for materials. The taxi van drove us most of the journey, but we had to catch a boda for the final few kilometers. Riding these motorcycle taxis in Kampala is an adventure in itself. On our return trip, we encountered a small ‘boda bump’ with another motorcycle. There are only a handful of traffic lights in the city, so most people drive at their own risk speedily crossing intersections and lanes of traffic with no fear. (I would have taken a selfie or video if I had not been holding on with my dear life most of the ride.) One hand squeezed the driver. One hand held a giant box of materials. My eyes shut, tight. Thank goodness Wahab was sitting right behind me. I felt more secure and slightly distracted since he was laughing at all my noisy reactions!
One hand squeezed the driver. One hand held a giant box of materials. My eyes shut, tight.
October-November | Teacher Supervisions
Another part of my career over the last two years has involved observing teachers and giving them feedback about their teaching practices in literacy. Almost six weeks had passed since the teachers attended our workshops. It was time to see at what level they were implementing the ideas. To my surprise, many of our teachers were attempting the strategies. We still have a lot of room for growth, but there are many reasons to celebrate. With almost forty supervisions to conduct, I was able to enjoy a variety of lessons from letter sounds to Ugandan government, from Rhine Rift valley to Abraham’s call, from syllables to diseases and vectors, from Swahili to the enthalpy of combustion, and even entrepreneurship! I’d be lying if I said I did not miss being a student or a classroom teacher just a little bit.
I’d be lying if I said I did not miss being a student or a classroom teacher just a little bit.
As our time in Uganda this year approaches its end, we are still working hard to prepare both campuses for the first day of school in January. The Lord has given me so many dreams for God’s Hope and Simone’s Kids, but those will have to wait until 2017!
To all the people who helped us get here, we are so grateful. Please continue to pray for our family, the organization, both schools, and this community. God is doing great things, and you have had an impact on His work!
God is doing great things, and you have made an impact on His work!