Heart for Uganda

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Nurse Douglas The Graduate

Posted on August 30, 2012 at 9:15 AM

Douglas was Change The Truth’s first graduate for his vocational program in Nursing and Midwifery. He completed his course last November. CTT recognized his achievement with a cake and team congratulations when the team was here in December. He passed his final National Examination amongst the top in his class. And just a few weeks ago, he participated in his official Graduation Ceremony at Mengo Hospital’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. (Typically due to the cost of such a ceremony, post-graduate vocational schools host the elaborate graduation ceremonies once every 2-3 years.)


Since his completion of his course in November, Douglas has been working back at SMK. His heart and passion has always been with the orphans at SMK, so now he is the one bandaging knees, administering medications, coordinating hospital visits when appropriate, and overseeing the general health of all of the students of SMK (about 150 orphans and 200 day scholars/boarders).


Congratulations again to our caring, capable, compassionate, handsome Comprehensive Nurse Douglas!! So proud of you!!

Getting It Down... Preparing for Another School Term

Posted on August 29, 2012 at 10:50 AM

Since I have been around for several school terms now, I get a little more efficient every term with my preparations. This term it is my task to support 22 CTT sponsored Secondary students, 3 CTT sponsored Vocational Students, 5 CTT sponsored University students, 10 SMK sponsored Secondary students, 37 Primary sponsored students, and my own posse of children (including Antwain) back to school. Needless to say, I typically start the week after the holiday beginning my preparations.


Every school provides parents/guardians with a school circular/newsletter with Final Grade Reports on the last day of term. This circular includes highlights of term’s events/activities as well as requirements for the upcoming term. CTT has a pretty tight budget, so any ‘surprise’ expenses creates some creative financial juggling. For the CTT students, CTT sponsorship provides for students’ school requirements (reams of photocopy paper, mopping rags, brooms), school supplies, and hygiene supplies. With requirements in hand, I have found a few trust-worthy, honest shop keepers who are happy to assist with the bulk of my shopping. One stationary shop caters for most of the school supplies (copy paper, notebooks, pens, graph books, art pencils/markers). Two small shops share the hygiene supplies (vasoline/lotion, shoe polish, washing soap, toothpaste), and a hardware store always has some school requirement (mopping rags, brooms). I really try to support the little local shops in Kajjansi as much as possible. I arrange a pick up date for all of the supplies the week before school to have ample time to make little packages for each student and organize distribution.


Here in Uganda every school has tuition that students must pay to attend. In addition, there are no credit cards, debit cards, or checks…cash only. Schools will not accept that cash in their office for security purposes. So every parent/guardian of a child in school be it Primary, Secondary, Vocational or University lines up at specified banks to pay school fees/tuition. The bank’s receipt is delivered to the school on the term’s Reporting Day to allow the student to begin classes. (I know…crazy, but true.) To make matter just a little more complex, schools have different accounts at different banks for different grade levels, so every term I line up at 9-12 banks to pay school fees. I have learned to pay school fees early in the holiday, avoid banks at all costs during the week of school, and start early in the morning. Happily, this term I paid all fees with very little wait time over a 2 day period.


Then Reporting Day… again with CTT sponsored students attending different schools, there are usually 3-4 different days where student need to report. Some schools start reporting early or late to avoid the horrendous traffic jam that deadlocks Kampala on the ‘official reporting day.’ With about 90% of students boarding at school, it is a constant flow of students carrying metal cases, their mattress, and large backpacks/shopping bags of clothing and goodies. Ugandans are typically known for their later arrivals, so my trick is to have the students return to school right after lunch. They return well-fed, and I avoid most of the chaos of the roads. That is a win-win on Reporting Day.


For Term 3, Reporting Day started last Sunday, August 26th. Antwain and 8 other students were amongst the early leavers for school. Then this coming Sunday, September 2nd, the majority of students will return to begin the ‘official beginning of Term 3’ on Monday. Only 3 students will be late-goers on the following Sunday 9th.


Then I will exhale and relax for a day. It will be too quiet and boring, so I will begin other projects to keep me busy until next holiday, when I will begin all over again.


Posted on July 21, 2012 at 3:45 AM

Change The Truth now has 3 sponsored students doing University studies, and CTT is hopeful that 2 more students will join university studies this upcoming fall.  While Jeff and Jennifer were here visiting Uganda, we took an afternoon to visit Nelson.  Nelson is a first year student at Makerere University, which is Uganda’s oldest, largest, and most highly respected public university.  He is studying a 3 year Bachelor’s degree in Computer Sciences. 

Makerere University's Faculty for Computer Sciences

Lecture class

One of several Computer Labs

It was incredible to see Nelson is his element on the campus.  The laboratory and classroom spaces were impressive, and he was visibly proud as he toured us through every inch of his facility. Ugandan college students are called Campusers.  Nelson is definitely a full-fledged Campuser with an additional swag in this step, a new mature style in his dress, and a backpack always attached to his side. 

CTT will continue to support Nelson’s dreams, and it is a huge honor to share this experience with him.


Term 2 Visitation Days

Posted on July 21, 2012 at 12:30 AM

This term Visitation Days were spread over a one month period. Every weekend (usually dodging the rain), I would travel with small gifts from sponsors to check on our Change The Truth students, collect school reports, visit with teachers, get a full update on the term, provide encouragement, pay for textbooks or upcoming school trips, and tell many stories about events at SMK. When students are in school, they do not leave their school. Often they have little access to news and television. Only for emergencies can they call home. They exist largely in a bubble where their priority objective is studying.

The children were fortunate to have some other friends visit them, too. Jeff, Jennifer, and Phillip all made time in their schedules while visiting Uganda to also encourage the CTT students. They proudly facilitated school tours and shared information about their daily lives at school. Academics in Uganda are so extremely different than America, that the visitors received a good good educuation, too.

Now the countdown to holiday will begin… t-minus 2 weeks and counting.


Here are a few of the CTT students during the Visitation...



St. Charles Lwanga SSS...Jennifer, Scovia (Senior 1), and Jeff

Baptist High School... Cate (Senior 5)

Kajjansi Progessive SSS...part of the crew (from left front): Rechael (Senior 4),

Male (Senior 2), Joseph (Senior 3), and Brian (Senior 2)

(from left behind): Nicky (Senior 3), Sam (Senior 3) and Sanday (Senior 2)

New Hope High School.... Steven (Senior 1)

Taibah International SS... Rebecca (Senior 1)

Brian Back to Boarding

Posted on June 16, 2012 at 3:05 AM

Brian (left) with older brother, Willy

Brian has made a successful transition back to boarding at Secondary School.  Brian still works on certain areas of recovery, but his band of brothers (Willy, Caleb, and Joseph) continue to lend their assistance and support. 

While I was at Kajjansi Progressive just last week visiting another student, I was able to catch up with Brian.  Although he is relieved to be back in the boarding section with his peers, he admitted that he misses home.   Truth is, I miss him, too, but I was overcome by the progress this young man has made since his accident in late December.  It is truly a remarkable blessing and a testimony to God’s grace, Brian’s positive attitude/ hard work/ determination, and the loving support of his SMK and CTT family. 


Update on Brian: He is Back in School!

Posted on March 28, 2012 at 7:20 AM

NOTE:  Apologies for the previous posting.  Experiencing some site challenges. 


Brian has completed his 3rd week of returning to Kajjansi Progressive. At our last appointment, the doctor was astounded by Brian’s progress over the previous month. The two main concerns that the doctor had, Brian’s balance and frequent headaches, are no longer challenges. The doctor’s suggestion was to allow Brian to go back to school at his pace to reactivate his brain’s strength.


So Brian is a day scholar for the remainder of this term, in that he attends school only for classes during the day and then returns home daily. His school and Headmaster have been incredible about providing some supports for Brian if he feels exhausted or overwhelmed during the day. His best friend, Caleb, has asserted himself to acclimate Brian back into the school schedule and atmosphere.


Prior to his accident, Brian was consistently in the top 5% of his class. He has returned to school to find he can not recall many facts from his previous year of studies… mathematical formulas, significant historical events, geographic locations, elementary principles of physics just aren’t within his mind’s access. Will any of it ever magically return, or will Brian need to relearn all of this information? It is a curious question with no concrete answer.


Caleb is another academically excellent student and has been faithfully by Brian’s side coaching and coaxing him along the way. All of us should be blessed enough to have a Caleb in our life. Caleb has diligently assisted Brian in copying notes, providing explanations for forgotten material, works practice problems during class breaks, encourages Brian during discouragements, and praises Brian during successes. Caleb recently asked Brian if he trusted him. Brian replied, ‘Of course.’ Caleb confidently shared, ‘Good, cause I will help you catch up in classes.’


Brian has treated his return to school much like marathon training. He has set small benchmarks for himself. For this term, he wants to perform better than certain students in the lower half of the class. He knows that there are certain subjects that he applies more efforts into. He takes victory in the small accomplishments, like remembering elements from Chemistry’s periodic table or surprising his classmates with the correct answer to a challenging problem.


Socially, his return to school has been the greatest challenge. Brian is having a terrible time recalling names of his colleagues, teachers, and even his Headmaster. Students have had to reintroduce themselves to Brian on several occasions. While their faces appear familiar, Brian can not recall their names despite his best efforts. Peers are honest (sometimes brutally) with the changes that they see in Brian and his personality.


Sometimes patience has been a challenge for Brian. He is his own best motivator, and he desperately wants to return to ‘normal.’ Many times, I find myself being a reassuring voice to Brian and gentle reminder that his recovery has been a marathon. We look back at how far he has come since his accident in late-December. He is able to see his own progress, which continues to provide him hope for the future.


Brian also grapples for understanding other people’s reaction to him. (And quite honestly my greatest internal struggle is the same.) There has not been a day that I don’t ache a little sending Brian to school, cause I know that cruelty is everywhere. Brian is so kind-hearted, easy-going, and forgiving. His peers and teachers have done some pretty insensitive things whether intentional or not. If something has truly bothered him, Brian will share those moments sometime during the night. The side comments, outrageous questions, or rude remarks are not overlooked by him, as he searches for their meaning and reasoning. Some of his recent quandaries: Will people always think I am mad (or crazy)? Why did this person say hello to me and then laugh? Why does this person stay away from me, do you think I annoy them now? Will I ever have the same abilities as before the accident?


There are times that I have to intervene, which I have tried very hard to curtail despite every protective fiber of my being. I declare no evening studying or school the next day, when I can see that he is exhausted. I steer his goals in a different direction, when I see that he is setting an unrealistic expectation for himself. I try to provide some sense and comfort, when someone has sincerely wounded him.


Every day I feel like Brian takes a small step in his recovery. He finds great joy in his small victories. They give him confidence as he strives to make more of them. Thanks for your encouragement and prayers. Brian really feels every one of them!

Letter from Scovia

Posted on March 22, 2012 at 6:35 AM

During our recent Visitation Days, I was handed this letter by one of our CTT sponsored children at the end of her visit. I must admit that I was surprised to receive a letter from Scovia. She one of the more reserved, very shy CTT students, and I typically have to seek Scovia out for conversation. This Visitation Day, she was more animated and happier than I have seen her in previous terms, which really warmed my heart.


Here is a segment of the letter that she gifted me with. I was profoundly touched by Scovia’s words and humbly reminded that even the smallest nugget of support, attention, and love truly can take root.



To Mummy Melissa,


The main reason for writing this letter is to at least say a word of thanks to you because you are always there by our sides during the course of our studies and you never give up.


You have also been a wonderful person to me and others at St. Mary Kevin. You are such a caring and loving person for each and every one in SMK.


We love you and we enjoy your stay in Uganda and especially me, I know that you love it more than we do. For that case I can witness it myself because you are always there for us.


You treat us as if we are your children, because you never make us lose hope in our studies (academics). You give us wonderful advice during the course of studies and other important styles of life which guide us.


May the almighty God bless you and reward you abundantly for your good work done and blessing your family, too. We love you so much and we can’t be without you, Melissa as a mother to children.




Next Up: Senior 5's Return to School

Posted on February 29, 2012 at 9:25 AM

This week has been the time for Senior 5 students to return to school. These students took their Senior 4 National Examination last November over a 3 week period for 10 subjects. They have been waiting for several months, and finally just a few weeks ago, they received their exam results. Depending on their performance, some students will enter their final two years of Secondary, which is called Advanced Levels (or A-Level). Some students will enter into a vocational (or trade) program to learn a professional skill or craft. And some students will end their academics.


Change The Truth will support 3 students into Advanced Level: Catherine, Pauline, and Joseph. Each student worked very hard to earn respectable results on their National Examination.


In Advanced Level, students chose a course combination of 3 primary and 1 secondary subjects. Class lectures and study materials provide a thorough, in-depth, very detailed understanding of each subject taken. All examinations are presented in essay format, so students must be able to articulate their subject materials quite concisely.


Cate and Pauline have aspirations for Mass Communication or Journalism, so they are both taking a HDL/Ent (History, Divinity, Literature, and Entrepreneurship) course combination.


Joseph has interests in business in his future, so he is taking a HEG/Math (History, Economics, Geography, and Mathematics) course combination.


All 3 students are attending Baptist High School together. This is a new school for CTT to explore, and it is one that came highly recommended and equally high performance standards. Check it out at http://baptisthighschool.org


Best wishes to Cate, Pauline, and Joseph. In many ways, they were as excited as the new Senior 1 students. Advanced Level is new for them...much like University studies. They are now amongst an elite group of scholars, the respected upper-classmen. Their class time is more lecture and philosophies, rather than note taking of foundational information. They are starting to see the light at the end of the Secondary Level tunnel. They are seriously thinking about university and careers. Real grown-up things...quite astonishing to witness this process!!


**Last up will be the Senior 6 students, whose National Examination results were just announced yesterday. More updates on them in the days to come.**

Update on Our Brian

Posted on February 21, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Sometimes it takes a crisis for someone to really understand how loved he is, and thankfully our Brian has been able to feel much of that love from so many friends all over the world. After several emails or inquiries about Brian, I have decided to post something about him. While I struggle internally about using such a public forum to share personal information about Brian, I have come to recognize that Brian’s story could actually help someone else, as other internet posts from people recovering from head traumas or concussions have helped me during my research.


In late December just a few days before the Change The Truth team was leaving Uganda, Brian had a tragic accident where he jumped from a slow-moving truck. Since it was almost stopped, he thought that he had timed his jump perfectly. Unfortunately, it was not perfect, and he landing on his side seriously knocking his head on the gravel road. After being transported to the nearest government hospital, Brian was diagnosed with a severe concussion, but thankfully no broken bones or other internal injuries.


After several days in the hospital, Brian was released to come home to my house for his recovery. The timing was of personal challenges for me, as I was scheduled to leave for America to visit family only 2 days after his release. However, Brian’s older brother and others of my Big Boys stepped up and took exceptional care of Brian. In addition, Douglas and Mama Rosemary frequently checked on Brian to ensure his good care, and I called from America several times to receive updates on his recovery progress.


Since I have returned back to Uganda, Brian and I have fallen into a comfortable routine. After visiting the doctor last month, he shared that Brian should take this school term away from school to concentrate on his recovery. I was very proud of Antwain to allow Brian to move into his bedroom while he is away at school. Brian and I made a daily timetable providing some structure for academic revision (in small time increments or until he becomes fatigued), physical exercise (non-strenuous and non-contact like walking), recreational activities (he enjoys art and computers), reading (like the newspaper and trying to interest him in short novels), and conversation (often probing his memories or getting him to tell stories with details). Brian is very comfortable at home, and we enjoy each other’s company. It is not uncommon for him to be quietly content in the same room as me doing his own studying, reading, or computer work.


I have learned so much about head traumas in the past few months through internet research, advice from others, and just day-to-day life with Brian. The first thing I have learned is time is the best recovery but often the biggest frustration. Each patient is different, and their recovery timeline is different, too. There is no prescribed time frame until one can be declared ‘normal’ again. So it is a waiting game of seeing small improvements and hoping that time will really provide a full recovery to a person’s former self. I have learned to share honest answers like ‘let’s see what happens,’ ‘maybe but no promises,’ or just plain ‘I don’t know yet.’  It can be challenging to be optimistic about the future without being certain.


Also, I have learned to be candid and talk about things openly. There are some involuntary things that Brian does (like inappropriate laughter) or forgetful things that are obviously strange to his peers. Instead of having them uncomfortable or ignoring the obvious elephant in the room, we just talk about what has happened and why. The simple explanations put everyone to ease and provide some understanding. In addition, it assures Brian that some things are just not within his control yet.


Our conversations will usually entail a few questions for Brian to probe his memory. Simple things like asking him to relay what he ate for breakfast the day before, the name of a specific person, details from a previous conversation, or description of his favorite things. These small inquiries keep Brian’s memory active. There are some days that the answers to these simple questions come easier than other days. I have learned to be patient, not provide the answers (unless he truly can not remember), and then move onto another question or conversation topic without drawing any unnecessary attention one way or another. Typically though Brian is astute enough to inquire if he remembered things properly, and I give him an honest response.


It is best not to push too hard. Brian is really his best motivator. He wants to return to school and regular activities, so I often find myself having to be the intermediate. I am frequently checking on him ensuring he is challenging himself but not overexerting himself. Overexertion only leads to head aches and extreme fatigue. Both are counterproductive to his daily activities and overall recovery. I find myself being the cheerleader, advocate, explainer, sympathizer, and sometimes the hard-nose (although not very often with Brian).


So that is where we are today... Brian’s recovery looks better today than yesterday (or last week) but we are still looking forward to more progress tomorrow (and the weeks to come). For all those that have given Brian positive thoughts, prayers, or sent him messages, he appreciates and cherishes each one. They are what keep him going forward, too, and motivate him towards a full recovery.

Within The Cases

Posted on February 17, 2012 at 2:35 AM



I enjoy my time with Mama Rosemary. Whenever I am in her presence I am sure to glean something thought-provoking and wise. Today was no exception...


As I have shared this past week was preparing the new Senior 1 students for school. Each school typically has a list of requirements for students: items for the school (like photocopy paper, brooms, toilet paper), school supplies for the students (notebooks, pens, art supplies, etc.), personal items (hygiene items and clothing), and dormitory supplies (basin, bed sheets, mattress, mosquito net, soap, etc). I have developed a system for purchasing most of the supplies from various shops within Kajjansi. I like to shop locally and support the small business owner. Every student goes to school with the same supplies, so it simplifies shopping considerably. While I make these purchases carefully within a tight budget, I give little thought to the items otherwise.


However, I have been humbly reminded about the significance these supplies are to the Change The Truth students. CTT provides as many of the essentials as possible within the parameters of the annual sponsorship, as CTT wants students to be equivalent with their peers within the boarding section at school. SMK and guardians have provided as much as possible for the orphans, but it is a reality that personal possessions are few and precious. There are a lot of orphans always needing something at SMK. Children learn to share, borrow, and barter with one another at an early age. So it only stands to reason that receiving individual items would carry additional meaning and significance.


There have been a couple of distinct moments that I have given pause to what ‘new and personal’ supplies really mean to the CTT students. The students have been received second-hand clothing or shoes for their entire lives, which they often have to wear for more than one year. So the idea that they are getting a new pair of school shoes annually is sometimes mind-blowing. Then when they find out that they are going into Kampala to shop for those shoes themselves, they are doubly thrilled. Something so small and simple from my experience (as I would never buy Antwain school shoes without his presence) is so special and thrilling to the CTT students.


In addition, students take notice that they are going to school with their own bathing soap, washing soap, shoe polish, vasoline, etc. These are items that they are typically used to sharing or borrowing from others. When students are presented with these simple items, one would think they were plated in gold for the additional value placed on them. Students then take meticulous efforts to label their items, pack them neatly in their small metal case, and then inventory their case. Some students can be found opening and reopening their cases several times a day, just to make sure their items are still there.


When heading to school, a student’s essentials are contained within a small case. I have often challenged myself to think about what would go into my case. What would be the most valuable or useful possessions for me? For most students, it is their notebooks from previous years, a few photos/letters, and their personal care items.


I certainly hope that I remember this experience in the future, and I continue to appreciate the smaller essentials (like soap, toothpaste, pens) a bit more than I have in the past. Afterall life without them would be a complete different experience, so CTT should be proud of providing a well-rounded, fully supported experience for their students. I am a witness to how even the smallest items have enriched their lives!