Exciting News!!!

As of December 15, 2017, ACT Uganda will be the official administrator of Muko High School! This development has been a long time coming and many people, both in Michigan and Uganda, spent untold hours considering the issues from every angle and working out the details. The result is  a Memorandum of Understanding to which all parties have enthusiastically agreed. The new Archdeacon in Muko is very supportive of our efforts.  New staff have been hired: an excellent Head Teacher and Deputy Head Teacher, a competent Bursar, and a well-respected Director of Studies. Generous and Alexander (Guma) have well-defined roles. We will also have an American Intern, Evan Martin, on site beginning in January.

Plans for the school include both physical renovations and academic innovation. Many physical repairs are needed, from repairing floors, roof leaks, and water tanks to supplying new beds — and recycling broken beds and furniture in the construction of a boardwalk over the mud.

Academic innovations will, hopefully, include supplying books for one subject area crossing every level from S1 through S6. (If this doesn’t sound “innovative” to you, consider that in the past, teachers at Muko High School have not been allowed/encouraged to use books in the classroom at all and have presented their lessons as lectures from memory. Students currently learn by rote.)

The new term begins in February. We can hardly wait!

Top row: Muko High Administration Building, Classroom;  Bottom row: Muko High Library, Boys' Dorm & Water Tank

Tuesday, Dec 5th 9am EST

As I write this blog entry, Karen and Dave should be taking off from Kigali airport in Rwanda. They were to leave Kabale this morning with Francis Girakwayo, our recent university graduate, for Kigali, Rwanda so that Francis could visit with his sister. Their flight was to leave at 5pm. 

I have not received a blog to post for them on Monday which is not surprising. They had an incredibly full day planned with lots remaining to accomplish before they left to come back to the US. 

Please keep them in your prayers for a safe and uneventful journey home. They arrive back in Michigan at about 10am Thursday morning. Looking forward to all they have learned!

Sue Waechter

OOPS, I posted this too soon! Karen has sent another blog post:

For the blog-

The MOU is signed! Our Ugandan friends from the Diocese and Act signed the MOU on Monday evening, December 4th. The Bishop hosted us at his beautiful home where we met his lovely wife, Chris. After some tea and obushera ( a special Ugandan drink) we gathered in the dining room and enjoyed an official signing. Generous signed for ACT and the Bishop signed for the Diocese. Three of the Reverends and Dave were witnesses. Everyone is very happy about this partnership, expecting great things to happen. When we return home we will share pictures. 

Our day was spent wrapping up all activities- the training of Grace, our Bursar, on Quickbooks and final MUSIC lessons with Howard and six other young men who stayed behind after the Music camp ended. 

We took another tour of Muko HS making sure the girls dorm has adequate beds. Dave and I feel like the foundation has been laid to build a marvelous school. We will proceed slowly but surely. We welcome your interest and involvement in this exciting project. We met with Generous and Alexander about their evolving roles in ACT as we initiate work at this school. 

I am writing this from the Kigali, Rwanda airport. We find the airport beautiful and well run. There is a coffee shop where Dave ordered me a decaf cappuccino. Heaven! 

We experienced a wonderful day- saying goodbye to our dear friends at the Jopfan Hotel at 8 am. The trip to Rwanda takes about four hours, mostly due to an hour and a half at the border of Uganda and Rwanda and a slow speed limit in Rwanda which Christopher religiously followed. Francis, our sponsored orphan, traveled with us  so he could meet up with his sister. We stopped at the Hilltop Hotel where we hosted a lunch for Francis and his sister, Dafroza, whom he had not seen in about five years. Dafroza’s guardian came as well- I call her Jojo as it is the simplest form of her names! I found Jojo to be delightful. During lunch we named the baby girl she is expecting in January. It is going to be Kenna- after my granddaughter and also my father, Ken. I will never forget this! 

Francis asked us if it would be all right for him to stay behind for a couple of days to enjoy a longer time with his sister. Of course, we agreed. 

Generous, Francis, Dafroza and our wonderful driver, Christopher, said goodbye to us at the doors of the airport entrance at about 3:30 so they could return to Kabale this evening. They should arrive there about 8:30 pm if all goes well. 

So, dear friends and family,  we head for home. Our first flight is in about four hours. See you soon! Love to you all- Karen

Sunday Dec. 3 The first Sunday of Advent! 


Dave and I took the day off today- which was a wise move. We both needed some time to rest and think about all we have worked through and what we must do tomorrow before returning home. 

Dave worked on updating the needs for Muko High school and streamlining Quickbooks for our Bursar’s use. One day of Grace’s training was lost while we were here because the MUSIC students who were staying overnight at the Centre watched TV which used up a lot of solar power! (we were glad they could enjoy that activity) Plus, it has been rainy so the power takes longer to accumulate. Top that off with Dave’s effort to make some coffee and the immediate draw of power blew the system out! So Grace’s computer could not be fired up on Saturday. 

We spoke with Sue Waechter on FaceTime to be certain we are finishing everything she had in mind. One more day to wrap up our visit!

We took a walk to downtown Kabale which means trekking up and down a very steep hill, not bad going down. We visited a pharmacy and a grocery store and hoped to do a little more shopping but we noticed a rain coming in and decided to begin the trudge up the hill. Sure enough, on the way back it started to rain! Luckily it was a medium rain, not a downpour so we were wet, but not soaked.  We detoured through the golf course to avoid some trees with thousands of fruit bats. You would think they would just be sleeping during the day but they were really pretty active so we both chose an alternate route- I am sure this was completely unnecessary! 

I wanted to share some of Generous’ words for Francis last night. She complimented him on his exemplary behavior that allowed him to become our first graduate. Then she advised him to continue his good behavior in order for him to achieve continued success. She mentioned our wonderful driver, Christopher, who is so uncomplaining. Wherever we want to go, he takes us with not one word of complaint. She said,” When Moses led his  people away from Egypt they began to complain. They complained so much that God let them wander for 40 years. 
Nothing is accomplished when everyone is complaining. Let us move forward without complaint”. I was thinking how true this is- how little is done during the time of complaining. I learned from several of our Ugandan friends on this trip how they are able to move on from disputes without pressing every gripe, even letting  go when it keeps the peace. 

Sending love to you all, both in Uganda and in the USA! Our partners, shoulder to shoulder. Love Karen
 

Dec 2 2017 Rehearsals, Library Grand Opening and Graduation!


Hi to all!!We hope everyone is well! We miss you all and are beginning to think of home. 

Our day began at the Centre where I rehearsed with the orchestra and Dave went up to Muko HS to measure rooflines for gutters for saving water to tanks. With the assistance of Guma and Moses, Dave also checked over the water tanks  and assessed repairs necessary on them. They inventoried the furniture and (shockingly) discovered that there are only 12 useable bunk beds in the boys dorms. So Guma  is researching the cost of some heavy duty bunk beds. Dave had a great idea to use the wood from broken bunk beds to make deck style walks over the mud. This will help keep classrooms and feet cleaner.

Maurice called two girls in to the Centre so I could meet with them. We had expected to find students at school during this trip but when we found they had already left for the holidays, I had asked Maurice to invite a couple of girls in who had been having some difficulties. We conducted two conferences and I appreciated the wise advice Maurice gave them and the trust these children seem to have in Maurice. We are so lucky to have such a stellar staff. On this trip, I really appreciated them all so much. 

Together with the staff, we had an official opening of the library at the Muko Empowerment Centre.  A few short speeches were given and the MUSIC students performed while standing in front of the Centre. This made a beautiful closure to the camp we had conducted with them during our visit. As I waved goodbye to those wonderful students, they started playing “God Be With You Till We Meet Again”. This will be a lifetime memory for me. I love those kids and you would too. 

We met the Bishop and Rev Oscar at the Jopfan Hotel around 4 pm to sign the Memo of Understanding for Muko HS. As it turned out, however, Rev Esau had not yet returned from his Travel to Kampala ( he is a major signatory) and the MOU was not ready with logos as we had hoped so we had a lovely tea with the Bishop in the garden and enjoyed each other’s company, agreeing to meet on Monday evening to do the signing.  

We expect to meet with our new Head Teacher and Assistant Head Teacher on Monday. Rev Oscar reported that the ones we chose have both accepted the positions. I will write more about them when I feel confident that everyone has been notified, both successful and unsuccessful candidates. 

Dave, Generous and I quickly went inside the hotel to prepare for Francis Girukwayo’s graduation party. Francis is the first MukoHOPE orphan to graduate from university. We had invited the whole ACT staff and their spouses to attend. We decorated the conference room with crepe paper and balloons! The Jopfan Hotel prepared a marvelous buffet that included a delicious fish, metooke, Irish potatoes, mango, watermelon and pineapple. Josiah livened up the party by serving as a Master of Ceremonies. Generous and Tito entertained us with a song. Many speeches were given including the grand finale by Francis. What a fabulous evening! 

Our days are coming to an end. We are taking a day off tomorrow to rest and recuperate a bit. We hope to regroup , gather our thoughts, and communicate with a few people in the USA. Then on Monday we have one more day at Muko before we head for home on Tuesday. 

Sending love to you all- Karen
 

Friday, Dec. 1st Progress, progress, progress!

Our day began with a meeting with Davis, the former Director of Studies at Muko High School. He was well liked by students and faculty, in fact, everyone speaks of him as “a good man”. We met for three hours and Davis agreed to begin at once to help us plan for the upcoming school year which begins on Feb. 4, 2018. 

The teacher from Muko High School who we implicated in the beating of the student came to the office to tell us his side of the story. He  read our blog and felt upset about the exaggerated story, as he said.  We listened to his side carefully and respected his decision to come and talk to us. In hindsight, we should have checked both sides before telling everyone what our children said had happened to them. Everyone is realizing how violence against another person increases the anger, frustration, and further violence. 

I worked with the MUSIC students for several hours this afternoon. They are improving every time I visit and I am so proud of them. Howard is a good teacher and it is a blessing that he does such a good job with them.

We interviewed three more Head Teachers tonight finishing at 10:00 pm this evening.  We will soon be able to tell you the results. We are meeting with the Bishop tomorrow when we will sign the Memo of Understanding. Our Board of Governors will assume their responsibilities on Monday. 

Off to bed …..sending love- Karen

November 30,2017 Hi from Uganda!!


We hope all is well there in the USA. We are well! 

We slept only a little last night. Some of the events of the previous day kept us up and we found ourselves discussing issues at 2:30 am! Finally at 5 am we got up and called Sue Waechter to debrief. 

The morning at the ACT empowerment Centre began by finding out we had lost our candidate for Head Teacher. This disapppointment took us a few minutes to process but we regrouped and our friend ,Geoffrey, who is one of our new board members scrambled all day to come up with more candidates. He worked so hard and we are very grateful to him. We made appointments with two teachers to meet us in the evening to just chat and decide if we wanted to proceed with them in a final interview. More on this .....

I met with the Head Teacher, Tobias, of one of our primary schools. I had taken four children’s books to give him written by Jackson Kaguri, our friend who runs the Nyaka non profit in Uganda. We had a nice chat about some of the children and his plans for the school. He also gave me some interesting feedback about how he handles children who fail to pay their school fees. 

Dave asked our office professional to train our MukoHigh school bursar, Grace, in opening the computer and working with Excel. Grace and Prudance spent the whole morning together. 

Howard rehearsed all day with the string kids. They have nearly mastered a new piece! Howard described to me the flood they experienced last month. The staff members were all sitting in the office when they heard a huge rush of water. When they looked out, it surged toward them and filled the office up to about a foot. Howard said sheep and goats were floating in the surge. When he went home to check on his wife she was standing on the bed and water was everywhere in their home. Some of you know that Guma supervised the digging of a large trench around the Centre to divert water should this happen again. We could use the construction of two small bridges now and our road is no longer passable by car. 

We awarded the security fence contract and construction begins Dec 15th. We are moving forward with the lightning arresters as recommended by the government emergency coordinator. 

I showed the Cornerstone film about Jackson Kaguri’s mission to sewers who were working in the office and the string students. Everyone enjoyed seeing a film so geographically close and so similar to ACT. 

We drove back to the hotel in the late afternoon and had an hours nap before meeting the two recent Head Teacher candidates. We liked both and hope we can gather everyone for formal interviews tomorrow so we can catch up on the training and face to face contact with our new Head Teacher. Maybe tomorrow, if we are fortunate, we will announce the one!

Sending love to our family and friends! Love Karen
 

Nov. 29, 2017 Catching you all up on the happenings in Uganda!

Dear All:   

All of our previous posts have come from emails since we have had such a busy schedule with long hours every day. Posting the blog is a tricky and frustrating issue with lack of reliable internet connection here at the hotel. In spite of that, we have been really exhilarated on this trip by the affirmations we have received regarding our decision to administer Muko High School.

On Monday, Nov. 27th we met with the teachers at Muko High School. The children had all been sent home early because of the famine in Muko. Torrential rains had washed out the gardens causing a severe lack of food. Many schools were unable to feed their children. Most of the teachers had gone home to correct their papers so they came back especially for the meeting with us. They dressed up in their finest clothing for the meeting. We called forward the teacher of religious studies who had asked for the 100 Bibles and presented the Bibles to him. We will bring pictures home for you to see. Everyone was delighted! We went on to inform them about ACT’s plan to administer the school and they asked many questions. The teachers are concerned about their jobs and hope to be informed if they have a position before they leave on December 7th. Our hope is that we may be able to organize this if we have a Head Teacher to help us with that task and enough time to complete it.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28th we interviewed all day. We were prepared to begin by 10 a.m. with three Bursar interviews (they began about 11:30)  and then again at 2 p.m. (they began about 3:45) with four Head Teacher interviews. With many long delays because of transportation problems and waiting for everyone to arrive we finally finished about 7 p.m. Interviewers were Friday, Reverend Esau, Reverend Oscar, Geoffrey, and Benjamin from our new Board of Governors and also Generous, Guma, Dave and me. The interview team returned to Kabale to meet at our hotel, have dinner together, and then discuss which Head Teacher to choose. We did not finish up until about 10:30 that evening. 

We chose a Bursar from the first interviews who is the current Bursar at Muko High School. We found that her experience there would be an asset. She is very dedicated to the school and seems knowledgable and trainable. Her name is Grace.  ( I am dispensing with last names for now )

For the Head Teacher: We liked one candidate very much. However, it is not yet official as we are checking references and the Board wanted us to spend more time with him. Tomorrow we have called him in to the Act Empowerment Centre to spend a day with us talking and learning more about each other. We are hoping all of this will go well and we can announce his appointment tomorrow. Pray that all works out! 

For First Presbyterian of Battle Creek and First Presbyterian of Traverse City who donated hymnals, let me tell you that Rev. Oscar and Rev. Esau from the Diocese were very, very excited about receiving one each. I showed them how to choose a hymn based on scripture, first lines, or topics. Rev. Esau asked me to sign his as a gift from ACT. They were really happy to have them! The others we will take to Muko High School. We were only able to bring eight
hymnals this time because of their weight, however, each time we will bring more. Rev. Oscar told us that he is the pastor for a chapel, seating 600 people. 

Our driver and dear friend, Christopher, has worked very hard on this trip beginning with the long trip from Kampala to Kabale, then driving to Rwanda to pick us up in Kigali, then returning with us to Kabale. To understand this commitment, he drove from approximately 6 am to 1 am. Then, in addition, we have been spending very long days together. So tonight we made an effort to get back to the hotel by 6 p.m. so he could have some time off tonight. We were sold a tank of gas earlier this week that had been watered down and he had a little trouble with the van. He alleviated the problem by buying a new gas filter, luckily avoiding the trouble of draining a whole tank of gas. We drove over to the gas station that sold him this fuel and he rolled the window down, called over an attendant and said, “I would like to register a sincere complaint”. He said this several times and the attendant refused to accept any responsibility. I so admire Christopher as I watch him deal with people so calmly-a true gentleman who takes care of us so well with never a complaint. You know you are in trouble with Christopher when he says softly, “Wow, wow wow”. For those of you who have traveled here, you understand!!

We had a great meeting with the non-teaching staff at Muko High School this morning. Grace, our new Bursar, came in not knowing that we had chosen her. Some comment was made in the meeting about her and I guessed that in the flurry she had not yet been informed. So I leaned over and whispered, “Grace, do you know that we have selected you for our Bursar?” It was at that time that we announced her appointment to everyone and took some pictures.
She seems very excited. I am guessing that she has been working and persevering with maximum frustration and stress and I am hoping this will be a welcome relief. However, learning Quickbooks will be a challenge. She is so excited about having a computer to use, plus, we told her today that we are empowering her with more authority over the finances of the school. She has been dealing with the most difficult of situations: possible corruption, fear of losing her job if she stands up to authority, unable to finish reports due to lack of cooperation, interruptions in her work when she is expected to be a runner, etc. 

Each of the staff was asked to report ways they could be supported in their jobs. They all spoke briefly and some wrote out lists of equipment they could use. Examples: the man who cleans the pit toilets asked for boots (he was barefoot) and coveralls. Wow, Okay to that. The woman in charge of meals asked for some kitchen utensils. Okay. Easy. This is pretty surprising when we visited her living area and found a room about the size of one of our closets, 7x9 in which she and two other people sleep- two on the bed and one on the cement floor. Chrispus, our electrician (he seems really cool) asked for electrical tape and a piano for their chapel. We have a whole list of things like this.

Then in the afternoon….Howard had asked 30 students to come in for a few days for MUSIC. About 20 or so showed up and we practiced all afternoon on our back porch. When a brief storm blew in, we went inside the Centre to the back room and Big Dad (Dave) brought in sodas. I gathered them around and we talked for over an hour. I started by asking them to pretend they were the Head Teacher and tell me what they would do to improve Muko High School. They asked for the following menu: Mon, Tues., Thurs., Fri. Sat. they agreed to their usual fare which is posho (corn meal mush) with cabbage and beans. On Weds. they asked for ground nuts and rice and on Sunday they asked for meat and rice. One major thing they asked for that should not have surprised me was their top priority for a decent chapel. WOW  I have many notes about all they requested, most of which are “givens” in our high schools, like a school bus, the ability to do competitions and sporting events with other schools, jerseys for their football team (soccer), a soccer field, a good science teacher, a science lab, etc. I learned a few shocking things: Our boys dorm is overcrowded. The boys are sleeping two or three in a bed, some on the floor. The beds are wooden and old and sometimes break in the night, falling on the people below injuring all concerned. The previous DOS (Director of Studies) beat students with an electrical wire. One boy was in the hospital for three days. Our Oscar said he had been beaten by this man with the wire because he was sleeping when he was supposed to be up and around. The man came into the dorm swinging the wire and whipping everyone there. The students and I had a long talk about the RIGHTS OF CHILDREN in Uganda and how this is AGAINST THE LAW. We continued our conversation about what sort of discipline is appropriate and how they would discipline their child or expect their own child to be disciplined at school.

After this, we also talked about school fees and how children are “chased” out of school for lack of money. They told me that children preparing to take exams are accosted in school and sent out on the road, even near the end of a term. Some of the children may live very far away. They are expected to go home and get the money from their parents. I asked them what they thought would be reasonable and our dear Rogers said he felt the parents should be contacted for the money, not the child. We are determined to do better for these kids. After all of this, I called Josiah in and asked him to hear the stories of the students about the beatings. He did not know about the situations of the beatings but knew which teacher had been acting as the DOS so if further investigation proves these stories true we are determined not to include him in our list of employed teachers. 

After spending this time with the children, I more fully realized the immensity of this job of running Muko High School responsibly. I continue to trust God to help us find a way. I know how generous our friends are in the US but it is hard not to wish for a lottery win so that we can just go up there and build dorms for the boys, living facilities for the teachers, showers, and chapel. I heard Dave tell Generous today “I wish I could just win the lottery”. Go slow to go fast we say….Let us work together to make this right.  

We are thinking of home but I am enjoying my continued days in flip flops! It is cool in the morning and at night but is like our most beautiful summer days in the afternoon. More tomorrow!

Love you all!

Karen

A report on the Muko High School Facility

We went up to MHS today and had a good meeting with non-teaching staff.  We discussed what would make their job better, and improve the quality of the school.  It was interesting that they discussed mainly small things, like new pots for cooking, hand tools, spoons for eating with, cups, cleaning supplies,  mainly little things.  Karen and I did a tour of the place, and as we know there is a great need, but small things like identified would do a lot for staff morale. 

 

We toured the staff housing, when we hear about the floods in the housing, in actuality the building were destroyed, literally knocked off their foundations and flattened.    So staff had to move.  We toured a room measuring 7x9 housing 4 persons, two to a bed. 

 

On the bright side there is a lot of area for planting gardens, using HANDS and the agriculture classes to raise foods, to use in student feeding.  

 

Karen and I are meeting with Kambaza Gerald  (the selected Head Master) tomorrow to begin our discussions, we were given permission by the BoG to do this while the Bishop contacts the Chairman about Geralds resignation from his government position.  

 

It has become very clear that this school has been run very poorly for the last three Head Masters, and allowed to go down hill.  We will have much to discuss when we return, and will keep emailing you while we are here. 

A Successful Day and a Strong Partnership

Dear All- sending a long message from Uganda. There is not a strong enough signal to do a blog tonight. (Sue is posting this for Karen)
First, our Travel was smooth. The flight to London Rwanda made sense. Their airport is beautiful. We had a problem with parking and it took almost an hour to straighten out plus the border of Rwanda and Uganda took some time so by the time we arrived at the hotel it was after 1 am. Travel time was a total of 36 hours if you count the parking delay, layovers, etc. I guess we are growing accustomed to the trip because we managed well and did well. I think I watched five movies- so let’s have a conversation sometime about some good ones!
After only five hours sleep we were picked up by Christopher and Generous and went to a church service(Church of Uganda) that lasted four hours. This is a real endurance test because it is not in English. The Bishop was making his yearly visit there. We were invited for lunch afterwards- a lovely traditional African feast. Then another man who was a professor wanted us to see his property which was one of the most beautiful Ugandan homes I have ever seen. He had a unique story of being exiled by Idi Amin and how he was invited back to the country by Museveni. We stayed a few minutes only and the Bishop prayed over the graves of his parents. Interesting experience. 
When we climbed into the van after this Generous said “ The Diocese office is working on the applications for headmaster. They want to be involved. They are waiting for us there- do you want to go over?” Mind you, Dave had just told me he was too tired to take another step. However, he enthusiastically said “absolutely!” So off we went....to an impressive meeting. They had narrowed 72 applicants down to four using a criterion of eight excellent points. We all agreed with their system and then continued by planning the interviews and our time together this week. It was such a good meeting. Rev Esau started the meeting by asking Ilya to cross our arms and hold each other’s hands at the level of our hearts. This was to show our unity. I have pictures of this. Incredible. 
For Dick and Sue- interviews were changed to Tuesday, not Weds, at 6 am your time. I hoe this change will work. You would not believe the difference in attitude from these people as compared to board we met last summer. These guys are serious, intense, cooperative, engaging- great. 
After the meeting we went to the Bishops residence for dinner. We had another delicious African feast. Before dinner the Bishop talked to us at some length- he asked Generous, Dave and me all to speak. It was a lovely touching meeting where we bonded. The Bishop said he felt something special on the road when he met us last summer and had felt good about this partnership ever since. We did not sign the MOU because the Bishop wanted the logos to be ACT on one side and COU in the other side. Otherwise, we agreed on everything. We made an appointment to meet on Saturday to make this change and do the signing. 
We were all walking on cloud nine after the dinner meeting. Generous underlined to me later that she has such respect for the Bishop - he is down to earth and encouraged us to tell him if there is any misunderstanding or problem before it gets into a situation. I asked him for a blessing and he gave us a beautiful prayer. 
Also, the Bishop said he would appoint his two Board members tonight so they could attend our training on Monday.
If you are following our travel itinerary, it has changed quite a bit already. Most of the items are just shuffled around EXCEPT the students were sent home early for holiday breaks because there is famine in Muko Sub County. The huge rains washed away the gardens and there is such a shortage of food that many schools could not feed their kids. The only children at school are the ones testing- I think it is Senior 6 students. This seriously affects our planning with kids and MUSIC. 
Tomorrow we will go out to see the staff in the morning, I may get a chance to have a lesson with Howard and at 2 pm a staff member from the Bishops office is going to help us have a meeting with the Muko HS teachers where the COU will finish their business with the teachers and they will officially hand over the controls to us. They had asked the teachers to apply for a job next year and they wanted to let them know what is happening themselves before we move forward. We will tell the teachers that most of them will be retained- the Head teacher will figure out (with Dave’s help) a schedule of staffing that will help us determine who is needed and not needed, covering all subjects and then the teachers will be evaluated throughout the year for the next year. 
Actually there is more to say. However, enough for now! We will try the blog again tomorrow. Sending love to you all- Karen

Arrived safely!

We are up and refreshed, both feeling good. 
Our trip from Rwanda was not as fast as we had hoped. First a parking issue at the airport that took nearly an hour to settle. Then we got lost because our guide fell asleep in the back seat and we found ourselves on a dirt path and had to turn around. At the border there  was a dispute between Christopher and this young guide he had apparently hired to find the way. The border was not what we expected,but not bad. We had to get out of the van two times with our passports, once on Rwandan side and once in Ugandan side. There were fairly long lines with maybe fifty people each time. Total travel for us this time was 35 hours from home to Jopfan. The advantage was two days, not three to get here. It was lightly raining and it is very fresh and green here. We went to bed at 2 am here, but of course earlier in USA. We had five hours of sleep on Thursday and Saturday nights and about three hours on the plane so we will go to bed early tonight! Generous had a long Day too, all the way from Kampala- they arrived in Kabale by 12:30, leaving from Kampala at 6:00 am. They dropped off the Bibles before coming to Rwanda. 
Generous and Christopher are coming at 9:30 to take us to the Bishops church at a 10:30  service. 
Generous says we have 69 Head teacher applicants so this afternoon we are coming back to sort through and eliminate the ones we can!! The Bishop is hosting us for dinner but we don’t know where yet! 
So that is the news for now. 
Thinking of you all! Love Karen

New Journey!!

This morning at 6:30am, Karen and Dave Viele left for Uganda. Their mission? In partnership with the Diocese of Kigezi and the new Board of Governors of Muko HIgh School, hire the Head Teacher (Principal), the Bursar (Bookkeeper) and the DOS (Director of Studies like our Curriculum folks in the US). In addition, they will be taking the new Board of Governors through a board training to help them start with good tools. This Sunday, they will worship at the same church as the Bishop and then meet with he and his staff to talk more about the school and to witness the official signing of the Memorandum of Understanding ("contract") between ACT Uganda and the Diocese. Starting in February, ACT will become the new administrators of Muko High School. This is a huge step for ACT and we would love prayers for the transition.

As usual, Karen and Dave went loaded with luggage. This time they have 6 violins, one violin and one viola that were repaired, some hymnals donated by the Presbyterian Church, some MEP things and sewing things for the women, music books, crepe paper and balloons to celebrate Francis' graduation from University! He is our first orphan to graduate from University. 

Visit this blog daily in the afternoon for any news they can find the time to upload!

Dave and all the luggage!

Upcoming Art Fairs

November 4, 2017: Dickens Christmas Bazaar, First Congregational Church, Traverse City.                     9:00 am - 3:00 pm

November 5, 2017:  St. John's Episcopal Church, Midland. 11:00 am

November 11 - 12, 2017:  Midland Center for the Arts Art Fair, Midland.                                                                    11/11: 10:00am - 5:00 pm; 11/12: 12:00 - 4:00pm

November 12, 2017:  Blessed Sacrament Alternative Art Fair, Midland. 9:00am - 1:00pm

November 12, 2017:  First Presbyterian Church, Lansing. 11:00am following service

November 12, 2017:  Traverse City Presbyterian Church, Traverse City.  9:00am - 1:00pm

November 19, 2017:  Memorial Presbyterian Church Alternative Art Fair, Midland.                                                  9:30am - 10:30am, 12:00 - 1:30pm

December 3, 2017:  Holt Presbyterian Church, Holt.  10:45am - 11:30am, following service

December 9-10, 2017:  St. Francis Catholic Church, Traverse City.                                                             12/9: 5:00pm - 8:00pm; 12/10: 11:00am - 1:00pm & 6:00pm - 7:00pm

December 10, 2017: Grand Haven Presbyterian Church, Grand Haven.  9:45 - 12:00 noon

Goodbyes are so hard

Our last day in Kabale and the village. We began the day with our final meeting at the Bishop's office. Again, he was absent due to ordered rest from his doctor. However, his second-in-command was there, Obed, and the rest of the staff to have a good discussion with us. We are planning our presentation to our ACT MI and ACT Muko Boards about what we have learned.

Dave, Sue, Dick, Generous, Guma visited the URA (Ugandan Revenue Authority - "IRS") to appeal a tax assessment they have given us. We came to an understanding but, we will have to pay some fine for this tax that was leveled. (More detail at the Board meeting)

After dropping Dave, Sue, Dick, Generous and Guma at the Bishop's office this morning, Christopher drive Karen, Joe and Diana to the village so they could begin music and Diana could provide some budgetary training for Prudance. Then Christopher turned right around and drove back right away to Kabale to pick us up. We then all were in the village.

Sue met with Benson Arimpa, our new HEAL Manager, providing some orientation to the program. Dave finished reconciling all the QuickBooks April through June with Generous. 

At 4pm, EVERYONE, including staff went to Muko High School to be an audience for the ACT Stringed Orchestra Concert. It was absolutely AMAZING! Diana and Sue were in tears at how they sounded. After the concert we said all our goodbyes to the staff since we were going to drive up the road toward the DRC to see the baboons in the roadway. When we ran out of bananas, we drove back to Muko to pick up Generous to bring her to Kabale with us. We are leaving at 8am in the morning to drive to Kampala. 

Male dominant baboon that kept stealing bananas from "the girls"

Male dominant baboon that kept stealing bananas from "the girls"

Howard, Joe and Karen eating posho at Muko High School

Howard, Joe and Karen eating posho at Muko High School

"I bless the rains down in Africa"

The last few days we have realized have been the beginning of the rainy season. Today, in the village, it was deluge for one hour straight. Karen, Joe, Dave and Dick left for the village at about 2:30pm after the team met for about 4 hours discussing our discernment of the Muko High School Administration. We had a good discussion and have our plan to meet with the Bishop and his staff tomorrow. We have created many documents to present to them.

Joe and Karen had planned to teach the orchestra classes from 4-6 p.m. Arriving at Muko High School, there was a delay finding someone to open the main office where the instruments are stored but that was soon solved and we began. The rehearsal ended up being one of the most challenging ever! First, a herd of cows and goats moved into the center courtyard of the school. Karen asked Joe if cows regularly attended his rehearsals. The animals grazed contentedly while the skies darkened, also dimming the classroom. Actually, the classroom was so dark they could hardly see. This went on for probably an hour as Joe and Karen tried desperately to continue the rehearsal. Finally, the rain poured down so hard it was hard to hear- never phasing the livestock outside the room! The students played louder and more enthusiastically and Karen told the students "even the ENTE (Cows) were dancing!)

At the beginning of rehearsal, the room was the normal dimness...

At the beginning of rehearsal, the room was the normal dimness...

The rains came and it was like night in the rehearsal room!

The rains came and it was like night in the rehearsal room!

Sue and Diana walked down the BIG hill today to the market while the rest of the team was gone. Sue spoke some Rukiga (the local language) and surprised some local people. They actually made it up the big hill with some ease since they were stopped occasionally by passers by. Three people they met were Michiganders also doing mission work here. 

The team continued the Farkel tournament- Diana has still not won!

Sending love to you all! 

 

 

 

 

Mushrooms, Music, and Manager

The team divided up today to allow for extra passengers in the van since we wanted to pick up three children at their school in Kabale for the music rehearsals.  Dave and Diana volunteered to stay at the hotel to prepare for the deliberations tomorrow. (The team is planning to meet and discuss everything we have learned to decide on the recommendation for the USA Board. More on that tomorrow...) Dave prepared budgets for each of the ACT managers. Dave and Diana walked down the huge hill to Kabale where Diana was able to find material for MUSIC vests and material for Christmas stockings for the sewers to use. Coming back up the hill, Dave and Diana said it was "long and arduous".

Sue, Dick, Karen, and Joe headed for the village. We stopped at Trinity College (which is a High School in Kabale) to pick up three of our orphans who are attending that school as Senior 4 students in an effort to raise their grades before vocational school. We were quite impressed with this beautiful school and are adding to the high school deliberations the idea that we could move our orphans there. The students hopped in the van and spent the trip giving us the perspective of the school from the student point of view. The curvy roads on the way to Muko made two of the children nauseous and we had to pull over to give them a rest! Several members of the team also struggle with this so it wasn't surprising.

Joe, Karen and Howard went up the hill to begin the music class today. We had arranged a 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. rehearsal between student exams. With about forty students in attendance, and after a slow start, the children were finally ready to play. We started with a review of D Major, G Major and A Major scales followed by sectionals and then a full rehearsal. We brought M&M's and played a game with them to give them a break. Each student was given two candies and instructed not to eat them....YET. Then Karen would hold up one color, like red, and say "Everyone with red stand up and play a D Major scale" This continued until every color was chosen with different tasks for each color.  Afterwards, the children received an additional handful of candy. Not surprising, a few local children who had been watching through the windows wandered in at this point to hold out their hands!

Sue had four interviews with Generous, Josiah, Guma, and Mandela for the HEAL position. So...ANNOUNCING....our new HEAL manager, Benson Arimpa. Benson used to be a nurse at our own Ikamiro Clinic until he worked unpaid for four months. He has since been volunteering at a clinic in order to maintain his skills.

Sue and Dick also worked with Herbert, Edson and Sharron to document the final stages of mushroom garden preparation. She has now captured the process except for the twenty one day incubation which follows.

Filling the plastic bag "gardens" with substrate and mushroom spores (the white stuff)

Filling the plastic bag "gardens" with substrate and mushroom spores (the white stuff)

Boiling the substrate

Boiling the substrate

The team enjoys a nightly Farkel competition. So far, Dave has won three times, Dick has won twice, Joe has won twice, Karen and Sue have won once, and we are rooting for Diana to win next!

Sending love to you all!

 

Remembering Lisa

Dave wanted to cook pancakes for our friends in the village but he needed a flat pan and some propane gas for our stove. It wasn't just the pancakes, he wanted to show off the maple syrup he made this year with John Waechter. So, the team arrived late in the village because of searching in Kabale for a few items that were not to be found except for an ex-hubcap that we used as a fry pan!

The good news is, with some coaching from Josiah, a flat pan with no handle and a charcoal fire, Dave was able to produce some pancakes with maple syrup for staff and team! The Ugandans pronounced it very good, very sweet. Moses and Guma were especially interested in the recipe for pancakes. 

Karen, Diana, Josiah, and Maurice went over to Uganda Martyrs to see 26 of the Act orphans. To their surprise, the entire school was gathered together for an assembly in their honor. There was singing, dancing, a dramatic presentation- even all the adults had to dance while the students rated their dancing. Diana apparently won the competition with her bodacious moves! Karen and Diana were moved to tears by a recitation of our ACT orphans praising the American sponsors for all they had done for them. The entire school observed a moment of silence for Lisa Corso followed by a prayer from the Director, Sister Eunice. Lisa was a board member for ACT US and the Team Leader for the HEAL Program. She died this past year and we miss her terribly.

Sue, Dick, and Generous visited Father John and stayed for lunch. It was very moving for them to see the building named for Lisa Corso and for a second time today we thought of our dear friend. Sue presented the Memorial funds for Lisa Corso to Fr. John. 

Sue met with Guma, Dave and Generous to discuss potential projects for Circle of Blessings. They came up with two ideas. Sue typed all of the documents Dick has prepared for the team to consider on Sunday when we plan to thoroughly discuss all aspects of the Muko High School administrative opportunity. Sue worked with Guma, Josiah and Moses to complete the English lyrics for the ACT video. We will have English subtitles for presentations.

Music classes were rough today because the children were in exams and only about half of the students were available. Nevertheless, classes continued and a schedule was set for the weekend. The videographer we hired to film our work attended classes for the first time, documenting our work. He will be with us for three days and will produce a long and short video for our use in the USA. 

A Reality Check!

Yesterday morning, we met with Muko High School Board of Governors.  We learned about some significant new issues to deal with in our decision-making. This will be an important part of our agenda next Monday morning when we meet again at the Bishop's office. Hopefully, the Bishop will be well and back in the office. 

Muko High School - many of the buildings are behind what you see

Upon returning to the office, Diana began training of Prudance, our new Office Assistant. They went over Work, Excel and how to use Google search. 

Sue, Guma, Dave, Generous and Herbert met about the security issue. We discussed the fencing for which we are receiving final bids, a uniform for Herbert, a bow and arrows for Herbert. We also priced razor wire for the top of the 8 foot fence. With these additions, we will greatly secure our building and equipment and make Herbert safer!

Sue met again with Mandela to discuss the next meeting of the Health Promotion Workers near the end of August. We put together an agenda for that meeting. Those ACT Health Promotion Workers who are also member of government Village Health Teams have some health training that they will share with the other Health Promotion Workers. Some of the Village Health Teams are failing due to lack of support. ACT's HEAL Program seems alive and well! Mandela was one of the first HPW that we trained and he is the Acting HEAL Manager. This Saturday we will be interviewing for the new Manager. 

We worked more on the new ACT Library Room. The generous Circle of Blessings raised the money for this library. With the funds, we have purchased two desktop computers, and a desk. We have created a thorough list of books the staff will purchase for the book shelves. Prudance will be managing the library by allowing village people to come in to read at the Center, or pay a nominal amount to be on the computer. She will also charge a nominal fee for them to have Prudance teach them how to use the computer for information. 

Library improved!

The music classes are going well in spite of the fact that students are in the middle of exams. There are times that classes are held without everyone in attendance. Students learned to store the instruments more efficiently and safely and continue to work on care of the instruments. In the mornings, the students are divided into three classes: beginners, middle level and advanced. In the afternoons, all students work together on two pieces of music, an early level of Pachelbel's Canon and a piece called "Sahara Crossing". Joe and Karen are working to present a concert on Monday.

Serious drought here. We are learning what a complete devastation this is for the whole sub county. Peasant parents cannot afford to pay school fees, families don't have enough food, water is running out - they don't have enough to drink or wash with.

Serious drought here. We are learning what a complete devastation this is for the whole sub county. Peasant parents cannot afford to pay school fees, families don't have enough food, water is running out - they don't have enough to drink or wash with.

Today, Thursday, we have spend much of the day training the staff in meeting etiquette and budgeting. A typical practice in Uganda when you are meeting with someone is for them to answer their phone and talk. We explained that for us that is disrespectful and we want to introduce that concept for our staff to set new standards in Muko. They agreed and turned their phones off. Dave did a great job teaching them about the concept of budgeting, even relating it to their own families. They really appreciated learning about it and it will actually lessen the load for Generous since staff will know whether or not they have money to request for their programs. We also shared how we raise money in the US. 

Dick has spent hours outlining the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) we would use with the school should we decide to move forward. He has done a great deal of work toward this.

This afternoon, Karen and Joe went to Muko HS for another rehearsal. The rest of us were thoroughly entertained by our staff members providing training for us! They covered several topics including courtship, marriage, greetings, men superiority, herbal medicines still used today, social norms, etc. It was just fun, fun, fun to learn more about their culture. Lots of questions and laughter. Tomorrow we plan to share with them some videos we have taken inside a US home showing a kitchen, laundry room and other rooms in the house as well as video of driving by farms in the US. They look forward to learning more about how we live. 

A Day of Discovery

The team started out at Mulore Primary School today where we met the Director, Norman. Norman talked with us about our Muko High School project and promised to advise us as we proceed. He counseled us about a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) should we decide to move forward. He and Sue exchanged phone numbers so that we can continue to be in communication with him. 

The Mulore School looks wonderful and seems well run. Following the meeting with Norman and his assistant, Charles, we met the 65 ACT orphans in their soccer field. The children brought their breakfast mugs of "porridge" which is a white substance made of corn meal. We took pictures and greeted the children. There was a dance and a song and then the team rushed off to other business at the Centre.

Muko HOPE Orphans at Murole

Muko HOPE Orphans at Murole

Karen and Joe headed up to Muko HS where they conducted the first class of musicians. They have been able to do a technique class during the mornings with Karen working with the beginners, Howard working with the medium experienced class, and Joe working with the most experienced students. In the afternoon, the students meet as an orchestra. We have about 40 or so students playing now and we are thrilled with their progress.

Karen attended a music class and a physics class at Muko HS and took notes about how the teachers manage with only a piece of chalk. The music class studied the treble and bass clefs and the physics class learned about various building materials like cement, wood, plastics, and elastics.

Dave continued to work in the office, first with Prudance on the gift buying program. They decided to request sponsors to send no more than four gifts at a time and also revised the catalog to include new items and delete a few items they could not find in Uganda- like maps.

Dave, Sue, Diana and Prudance organized the library, hung up posters, talked about the process for people who will use it, and set up the computers.

Prudance, our new office Assistant in the new Library

Prudance, our new office Assistant in the new Library

Dick summarized nearly all of our meetings and evaluated the finances of Muko High School. It was a paper-pushing day for him, much appreciated by the rest of the team in this discernment process. 

Sue designed a HEAL template for the villagers which will be used for them to make a proposal for assistance in achieving their goals. The proposal will go through the HEAL manager and could provide something like a bag of cement to gain a water access. 

Isaac Ainembabazi

Isaac Ainembabazi

We met our new Maverick Scholar, Isaac Ainembabazi. Josiah even brought him up to Muko HS on a motorcycle so Karen could meet him as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Josiah, Sue, Prossi MP, Generous, Guma

Josiah, Sue, Prossi MP, Generous, Guma

A member of Parliament, Prossi, came to the Centre and greeted the team.  In the USA, Prossi would be like a US Representative. Everyone was excited to see her- she already knew about ACT and seemed glad to visit us! 

Sue harvested some coffee beans from the demonstration garden. The bush was loaded with beans!

Our devotional for today was given by Diana from our scripture of the day, prepared by our Spiritual Leader, Nancy Silvey: Matthew 11:28-30- "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For the yoke I will give you is easy and the load I will put on you is light". Diana presented the following questions:

What does this mean to you?

How do we know if we took on too much or it is what God wants us to handle?

How can this show our way with Muko High School?

As a result of this devotion, the team agreed to pray prayers of discernment until Sunday when we plan to meet together to plan our recommendation to the USA Board. 

Missing everyone at home- Sending love to you all!

Working with all our hearts

Colossians 3:23-24 Our verse for the day: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will recieve an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Nancy Silvey, our spiritual leader, prepared a verse for us every day. This would have been a great verse to share with the Muko High School teachers, especially since they are not being paid for July or August. More on that...

Our day began with most of the team meeting with the Bishop's staff regarding the Muko High School project. It was a very productive meeting with a positive outcome. Dick, Dave, Diana, and Sue all felt their questions were answered and that the partnership might be possible. 

                                                     USA Team with Bishop's staff

                                                     USA Team with Bishop's staff

Meanwhile, Joe and Karen went out to the ACT Empowerment Centre to meet Howard, our teacher, and some adult students. Joe and Howard worked on the computerized inventory of the instrument inventory. Since the rest of the team had the van Joe/Howard and Karen/ Mandela rode the motorcycles up to Muko High School. There is only one way to see Uganda and that is on the back of a motorcycle!

 

                                                                      Let's GO!

                                                                      Let's GO!

Diana and Sue spent the afternoon with sewers. The women loved the video that Diana and Sue made showing them how to make a stuffed hippo. They also showed them a variety of sewing projects that Michigan sewers make. Together our women planned for future sales. 

                      Diana and Phoebe, our sewing inspector. Phoebe is also Josiah's wife

                      Diana and Phoebe, our sewing inspector. Phoebe is also Josiah's wife

Sue, Mandela (our interim HEAL manager), and Guma and Generous met with the Health Promotion Workers and our interim HEAL manager and they talked about how they gained confidence and recognition in their villages for their work on behalf of ACT.  They gave us some excellent ideas about ways we can change and improve. 

The rest of the team headed back up to Muko High School. Howard and Joe ran the afternoon music class while Karen, Dick, Dave, Diana, Maurice, and Josiah met with the Muko High School teachers. The teachers spoke openly about conditions for themselves and their students. Obviously, these teachers are dedicated, especially because they are currently finishing a school term without being paid. Teachers are housed four to five per room with no electricity. They gave us many good ideas for improvement to the school. The USA team listened carefully to the teaching staff and took many notes.

The team is well, somewhat overworked, but feeling very good about all that is happening. We are sending our love to you all!