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! 

So far, so good

It's Monday morning. We apologize for not getting a blog up for you last night but we had a meeting with the ACT Muko board here in Kabale at the hotel that went until 9:30pm. We were simply too pooped! Yesterday was church all morning - handing out more choir robes to the churches and then some more music and a productive meeting with two people associated with Muko High School.  We learned some good - what shall I say - inside information! Sue, Dick and Diana worshipped at Uganda Martyr's and Fr. John switched his schedule so that he was there for that service. We had a wonderful lunch with him and Sr. Eunice who is the Head Master of Uganda Martyr's school. Sue presented to Fr. John the money that was given in honor of Lisa Corso. It was a moment. We still miss her so. He was so appreciative. 

Youth choir at Uganda Martyrs were very happy with their fancy robes

Youth choir at Uganda Martyrs were very happy with their fancy robes

Dick with the Sisters of Uganda Martyr's School. Sister Eunice is on Dick's left - she is the Head Mistress of the school. 

Dick with the Sisters of Uganda Martyr's School. Sister Eunice is on Dick's left - she is the Head Mistress of the school. 

Sue and Generous ready for church outside the ACT Empowerment Center

Sue and Generous ready for church outside the ACT Empowerment Center

The meeting with the board last night was productive. They were all very favorable about the idea of ACT managing the High School. They talked about the new committees they would form to support the effort. When asked about what they thought ACT could bring to the High School, they said efficiency because of the American way of doing business. As everyone else has claimed, they too, also talked about how ACT's reputation in Muko Sub County would, alone, bring many more students to the school. 

A part of the ACT Muko Board with the US Team

A part of the ACT Muko Board with the US Team

Five loaves, two fishes...and a sausage fly

Our morning began early, especially for Joe who rose early to meet a couple from an orphanage from Rwanda to pick up a camera brought from a church in the USA. They met at 7:30 a.m. while the rest prepared for breakfast at about 8 a.m.

The first drive from Kabale to Muko always astounds us. The beauty of the mountains, the crested cranes, and the people walking by the side of the roads are so remarkable. Even more remarkable is greeting our staff, all considered our dear friends. 

The staff pushed their desks together in the middle of the ACT Empowerment Centre office and everyone grabbed a chair to begin a time of discussing and planning our mission together. We opened with prayer and then an invitation to the staff to bring us their positive and negative thoughts about taking over administration of Muko High School. Howard, Karen, and Joe left right after this discussion in order to unpack instruments, books, and supplies and head up to Muko High School. Being a Saturday, there was no time to waste while the children were not so engaged with classes and free to play instruments.

It took the musicians about an hour to check in with the administration, find all of the students, prepare the room, tune, set up music stands, and help everyone to take their places. Just when this had been accomplished, it was time for lunch. When we asked Howard how long the students spent for a lunch hour he said, "They take 30 minutes for lunch, but in Africa that means one hour" Another problem: Howard had invited the students he teaches at the Centre to come up to Muko High School to watch our shenanigans. They had been sitting silently for several hours. Now, there was a question about how they get some lunch. Since we were at the High School there was no way to provide lunch. SO! Howard suggested that the high school students share their allotment of lunch with those students. Five loaves and two fishes, we said! Joe continued most of the rehearsals for the next three hours while Karen met the rest of the team to meet with the headmaster of Muko High School and take a tour of the grounds.

The meeting with the headmaster went very well. He was very friendly and forthcoming about any question we presented. We learned that the uprising in the school continues to have an affect on their enrollment. The school administration was very positive about ACT helping to run their school. The tour was interesting- several of us talked about how much the property could be improved with gallons and gallons of paint. There is a large amount of land and room for many improvements. Francis, our first orphan to graduate with a Bachelors in Public Administration from Kabale University, and Karen got to sample posho being prepared for the students.

Sue and Dick worked with Moses to document the mushroom growing process from beginning to finished project. During the week, every time they make a step in that process we will document the details about the progress. All of the mushrooms they produce are sold fresh in the local Muko market rather than drying them and selling them to the MTRC (Mushroom Training Resource Center). The MTRC have a ready market in Great Britain.

We arrived back at the Jopfan about 7:30 p.m., just in time for our dinners ordered in the morning. After dinner, the FUNNIEST thing happened! Picture this:The team was having a rousing game of Farkel. It was Diana's turn...suddenly a huge bug landed right on the table. The entire team screamed and jumped back from the table. Diana threw the dice over her shoulder. Somehow, it is probable that the sharing of bat stories the day before caused this wild over reaction. We all had one of the biggest laughs of our lives. We are including a picture of this huge bug. Research on the internet identified it as a "sausage fly"- at least one inch long- probably more! 

Sending our love to you all!

 

 

Karen Francis Posho.jpg

Speed bumpin' our way to Kabale

Yay! We made it to Kabale- traveling about 9 1/2 hours today! The roads have improved since our first trip, however, speed bumps have been added to cause all traffic to slow. Speed bumps are no less than every five to six miles, sometimes even closer, sometimes multiplying in annoying combinations of bumps.

Our morning began by saying goodbye to our Adonai House friends.  Chef Francis prepared sack lunches of chicken and cucumber salad sandwiches (which Dave did not eat!), bananas and bottles of water. Christopher loaded all of the luggage on top of his van and we were off at about 8:30 a.m. After a stop to pick up Generous we motored through traffic to the market. Each team member went on a search for items for MEP like rosaries, horn bracelets, and other items our women do not produce. We were on a mission to accomplish this within an hour and get back on the road to Kabale. 

Leaving about 10:05, we snaked our way through Kampala traffic, arriving at the Equator shortly before noon. Diana was the shopper of the day but everyone was loaded on the van by 12:30 p.m. The women on the van played "Show and Tell" with the gifts they had purchased for family and friends.

 Sometime later we experienced a terrifying moment when a seven? year old girl carrying two large buckets suddenly appeared behind a larger vehicle in the middle of the road. Our expert driver, Christopher, was barely able to swerve and miss her.  Finally, arriving at the Jopfan Hotel at about 6:30 p.m., the staff, Susan, Joshua, and Peace, greeted us with hugs and exclamations of "You are welcome!"

Having ordered a dinner of beef stew, rice, french fries, cabbage and avocado salad the team ate at about 7:30, followed up by a couple of competitive games of Farkel. Dave won both games. We are settled into our "home" and will have much more to report tomorrow as we meet up with our Muko staff!

Sending love to you all!

Meetings, meetings, meetings...

Our day began early leaving the hotel about 7:45 a.m. to meet with the Minister of Education, Mulindwa Ismael. We were welcomed enthusiastically and enjoyed a  productive meeting. Edward Ssebukyu, deputy commissioner for private schools and institutions, joined the meeting. Both men were warm and helpful in our discussions of the Muko High School project. We learned that the new curriculum will probably not be implemented until 2020, costing 55.5 million US dollars. The government is emphasizing subject matter versus learning areas, so, for example, rather than a general learning area encompassing biology, chemistry, and physics, each subject will again be presented separately.  There will also be a new emphasis on problem-solving and critical-thinking so that students have a more practical education. We were given several examples of other outside countries or organizations running a school.  Mr. Ssebukyu agreed to set us up with a visitation to one of those schools on August 9th as we prepare to return from Uganda.

We returned to the hotel in the late morning where the team caught up on emails and debriefing the first meeting. Sue, Generous, and Diana spent some time planning handcrafts to bring back to the USA.  Just before noon Dave, Karen, and Diana went shopping for a computer for the new library at the Muko Empowerment Centre. The library there will be largely internet based- everyone is excited about its development- largely thanks to the Circle of Blessings. We also went to a grocery store to purchase peanut butter, ketchup, and hot sauce to enhance our meals. 

Speaking of meals, lunches usually consist of a cup of soup, trail mix, peanuts, or other snacks. The team is still feeling the effects of jet lag so a few of us timed a short nap so that the afternoon rest would not affect the overnight sleep. 

At 4:30 p.m., Muwonge Kewaza, an Education consultant that Generous works with in her role with a management school committee for a government school. Muwonge Kewaza has a vast background in Education, including being a Commissioner in the Ministry of Education for Primary Schools. He has multiple degrees in Education and works in standardizing testing for the country. We learned about the three types of schools, 1) Government 2) Private but subsidized by government funds 3) Private and unsubsidized by the government. We invited Muwonge to stay for dinner with us and had the opportunity to learn more from him over Chef Francis' vegetable curry, a roasted fish, Irish potatoes, pineapple and watermelon.

At 6:30 p.m., we went to the St. Stephens primary school which is run by Charles and Joseline, friends of Generous', as a business for the St. Stephens Anglican Church. There were many similarities between our Muko High School project and their situation. They kindly sat with us for almost three hours and answered many of our basic questions. We talked about how a child might be dismissed or "chased" out of school if their school fees are unpaid. We learned that they have to plan for an approximate 20% bad debt. At the same time, they fund 50 out of 350 destitute students who go to their school for free. Charles described his job as Director and promised us a job description for their Headmaster. Charles offered a moving prayer that was very encouraging and tear-jerking for several of us. It made us feel that what ACT is doing is making a difference.

Interesting story - during this last meeting a HUGE bug was flying around, first over Sue's head and then around Karen's feet. Diana interrupted the meeting by saying "Step on it, Karen! " CRRRUNCH! Her foot did not move for about a half hour to be sure of its demise! 

Sending love to you all- more tomorrow! 

There's a gecko in my bathroom!

Blog

 

Our team of six arrived safely in Entebbe on Tuesday evening to cool temperatures of 72 degrees. The trip was long but uneventful in a pleasant way. Generous, our Ugandan Director, met us at the airport and guided us with our twelve suitcases, six carryons, five violins and one viola to greet our favorite driver, Christopher. 

 

Our travel team is made up of the following:

 

Dick Dolinski is founder of The Legacy Center,  a Midland-based "think and do tank" focused on outside-the-classroom factors affecting youth learning and development. His focus will be discerning our involvement in the administration of Muko High School

 

Sue Waechter, our USA Director and founder. Sue is involved in all of our five teams for ACT,  HANDS(Helping Agriculture...) MukoHOPE( Helping Orphans Prosper and Endure), MEP(Muko Empowerment Program) which pays a fair wage to women and men for handcrafts then sold in the USA, HEAL ( Health is Elemental for All Life) , and MUSIC( Muko Uganda String Instruments for Children)

 

Diana Stubig, our USATeam leader for sewing, board member, and MukoHOPE team member. Diana's focus will be on training, sewing, and crafts

 

Joe Oprea, Orchestra Director from the Lowell Schools in Michigan and whose focus will be directing and teaching violins, violas, and cellos at Muko High School. Joe will also work with Howard, our music teacher in Muko

 

Karen Viele, USA Team Leader for MukoHOPE, MUSIC, and a board member. Karen's focus will be teaching music and discernment for development of Muko high school 

 

David Viele, USA Finance Director for ACT and board member. Dave will work with the finances of the trip as well as training for budget and finance in Uganda. 

 

All team members will be involved in helping to make a recommendation to the USA and Ugandan boards regarding our future work with Muko High School. ACT has been invited by the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese who owns Muko high School to become the administrators of the school. We are proceeding with careful investigation and deliberations, meeting with administration, teachers, support staff, students, and community members to make a recommendation to our boards in the USA and Uganda.  We plan to have a recommendation before this trip ends. 

 

After a breakfast of meat samosas, fresh pineapple, watermelon and omelettes made to order, Dick and Sue left with Richard and Generous Turinawe, (the Ugandan couple who are the Ugandan founders of ACT) for Holy Cross Lakeview school in Jinja- an approximate two hour drive. They met with Sister Beatrice who shared information about the founding of the school, its maintenance, financials, and curriculum. A traffic jam delayed their return to our hotel extending the drive by about two additional hours. 

This was a pretty grueling day for them..

 

Meanwhile, Joe, Karen, and Dave drove with Christopher to downtown Kampala to a music store dealing with Yamaha equipment. A piano was chosen that will operate electrically or by batteries and has many features of rhythmic beats and instrumental sounds. The piano will be used to teach music theory, for performances in churches and for community events, and in the string classroom to keep students together. 

 

Diana remained at our hotel, the Adonai, to complete the sewing on brightly colored vests brought for MUSIC students. The Adonai is a peaceful sanctuary for missionaries. It is always rewarding to meet up with other teams from all over the world and learn about their work in Uganda.  We are fortunate to enjoy the food cooked by our masterful Chef Francis who is from Kenya, and allows us recover from the long hours of travel.

 

The team met together at 6 pm to enjoy a meal of beef and chicken, rice, vegetables, Irish potatoes, pineapple, and watermelon.  We were soon joined by three members of Generous' Kampala Advisory Council and we talked together about beginning a Circle of Blessings type fundraising event in Kampala.  We also asked their advice about running a school, asking them questions like "What makes a good school?" "What are the challenges of maintaining teachers?" " What would you suggest to improve schools in rural areas?""Tell us why there is teacher turnover in a school that pays a fair wage?" The conversation could have continued many hours longer but everyone agreed that the hour had come to allow the Advisory Council members to return to their homes! 

 

Additional stories might be captioned as follows, some related to the seven hour time difference:

 

" There's a gecko in my bathroom!"

 

"I tried to take a nap but fell into a sleep that could have lasted six hours!"

 

" It's 2 am and I am ready to get up!"

 

" It's time for bed, but why am I suddenly hungry?" 

 

Sending love to our families and friends and all who are joining us on the blog!



Sent from my iPad

Today is the Day

Our team of 6 will be leaving this afternoon and arriving late tomorrow night in Uganda. Our main focus for this trip is gathering more data about the management of Muko High School. ACT has been offered the opportunity to manage the school. There will also be lots of MUSIC going on with Karen Viele and Joe Oprea working with the ACT Stringed Orchestra. We would appreciate thoughts and prayers for safe travel and good discernment regarding the High School decision!

It's Art Fair Season!

We hope to see you at our upcoming Art Fairs!

 

June 3, 4, 2017: MCFTA Summer Art Fair, Midland

June 10, 11, 2017: YMCA Riverside Festival, Bay City

June 10, 2017: Red Dresser-Barn Market, Traverse City

August 11 - 13, 2017: Great Lakes Art Festival Marketplace, E. Lansing

August 11, 12, 2017: Michaywe Art Festival, Gaylord

November 4, 2017: Dickens Christmas Bazaar, First Congregational Church, Traverse City

December 3, 2017: Holt Presbyterian Church, Holt

December 10, 2017: Grand Haven Presbyterian Church, Grand Haven

On the road again....

The day began, as most do not, with an air of charged energy.  The serenity was still there but overlaid with a veneer of anxiety mixed with excitement.  We were preparing to return to America.  This meant packing and repacking to fit the handicrafts necessary for ACT’s retail outlets in luggage and under the weight requirement for KLM.  We ended up leaving many baskets behind for the next team to bring.

One reason we struggled was that we had to buy just a few more special items for the shops.  We did what we needed to do and so we packed again.  At last, we were on the road to Entebbe, dinner, and our flights home.

I am sure if each of us had to describe this experience in a few words, there would be superlatives charged with emotions.  Now that we are back, it is a good time for you to ask.

Meanwhile, back in Kampala

Sunday the Vocational Training Team attended St. Stephens church to share in the celebration of Director Generous Turinawe and her husband (and fellow founder) Richard's son Jesse's confirmation.  Jesse, along with more than 70 others were confirmed in the church in a service that started a little after 11:30 and ended at 3:00.  The priest while recognizing the VTT near the end of the service said with a smile, "I don't think you have ever attended a service this long."  We agreed he was right!  Jesse is the handsome young man with the bowtie in the family picture below.  

In the afternoon and evening, Dick Dolinski provided training on what makes a good board to members of ACT Uganda's Advisory Board and Suzanne Greenberg presented information on fundraising to Generous and Richard.  

You will recall that sending a team of trainers to Uganda was our "Plan B" when the ACT Uganda team was unable to obtain U.S. Visas to come to Michigan for training.  Reflecting on the time that we have been here and the large numbers from the community that filled the Muko center beyond capacity, we realize this may have been for the best.  Many more than the ACT staff benefited.

Sue Waechter, U.S. Direct of ACT says, "The training was so successful that I think that every time we come we should conduct at least one training session."

A Day of Travel

Good evening to all followers of our blog!  This is Saturday, January 21 and the 6 of us just had a delicious dinner buffet. It consisted of Fish, Chicken, fresh vegetables, Irish potatoes, rice and pasta.  The women are sitting outside on the veranda (where we ate) while I type out this blog. The rest of the women are reading news on their cell phones and the 2 men are calling home. Now Dick, Vanessa, Suzanne and Sue are beginning to play Farkle! 

Our day started with the final packing and poor Christopher (our driver) having to load extremely heavy suitcases on the top of our bus.  We said our goodbyes to the Jopfan Hotel and Christopher drove us 10 hours to Kampala for the last leg of our trip.  All of us stopped at the Equator (which was counted in our 10 hrs) to do a little shopping and have lunch.  It had rained in Kampala before we arrived since we saw puddles.

It is currently 77 degrees at 7 pm and humid.  Most of us are tired from the travel and I don't think it will be a late night. To our dismay, there will be no shopping Sunday, which will be our day of rest.

Last Day in Muko

Today, unfortunately, marked our last day with the wonderful people in Muko. We will certainly miss their warmth, graciousness, and especially, their enthusiasm for learning. 

We began the day with a community dialogue in the village of Nyamiyaga. The leaders and villagers of this extremely high elevation location (8,200 feet!) met with ACT staff and the HEAL team (Health is Elemental for All Life) to identify key issues in the village. The dialogue began by separating the approximately 80 participants into three groups; women, men, and children. Each group was charged with brainstorming a list of issues facing the health of the community. The groups came together and reported on their work. The women identified issues such as alcoholism, a lack of potable water, the care of orphaned children, and spousal abuse. The men noted concerns about a lack of quality seeds, domestic violence, and fees for supporting children's education. The children reported their concerns about a lack of books, disruptive students, and the unaffordability of uniforms. The groups prioritized the issues in two categories; the lack of water, and affording school fees. The groups then developed strategies and actions plans for achieving these objectives.

Upon returning to the Muko center, Vanessa led a group of staff and 32 additional men and women in a training session about community wealth. She spoke to the universality of the desire for health. The key elements of health were discussed as were specific actions to improve outcomes. These included hygiene, vaccinations, exercise, and other important ways to improve health outcomes.

In addition to the group dialogue and training sessions, individual training, consulting and counseling sessions were undertaken by Diana with Guma regarding handcraft marketing, and Tim with Moses following-up on the HANDS (Helping Agricultural New Development and Sustainability) training and field work. Sue also met with Rauben regrading the pilot evaluation of the HEAL program and with Guma about the new administrative/secretarial hire.

Prior to leaving, the various handcraft articles produced at the center were packaged for return to and sale at the US ACT retail stores. Ginny's inventory request was fulfilled.

As it became time to leave, the heavens opened up as if grieving the end of our wonderful journey and we left in the rain. We are heading for Kampala tomorrow and then leaving back for home on Monday.