Heart for Uganda

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NEW Toilets at SMK!!

Posted on December 13, 2015 at 6:40 AM

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Within the past couple years, SMK has become a partnered project site for People For Change. Several visitors from Amsterdam have visited SMK to assess their ability to impact change to benefit the children. The very first visitor was Jeroen. During his time at SMK, he was moved by the children’s hygiene conditions. The existing toilets were getting older and difficult to maintain properly. Upon his return home, Jeroen was inspired to fundraise for new toilets and shower buildings. There are a total of 12 toilet stalls with porcelain basins and 8 shower stalls for the children and staff staying within SMK. Construction on this project has been happening for upwards to 6 months. And now, they are finally completed!

 

Thanks to Jeroen and his friends for their support on this project.

SMK Garden is Growing!

Posted on December 11, 2015 at 6:35 AM

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The rainy season has been persistent in Uganda for over a month now. One of the benefits of the plentiful rain is seen in the rapid growth of SMK’s Gardens. A few years ago, a generous CTT donor assisted with the construction of ‘Tom and Randy’s Garden’, which is enclosed on a larger plot of SMK’s land. The goal is to provide nutritious vegetables added to the bean mixture for additional vitamins. Children assist with the ground preparations, planting, weeding, maintaining, and harvesting. This gardening activity acts as a valuable life skill with rewards at the end of their labor. It truly is a community project enjoyed by all!

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SMK Violin Classes- 2015

Posted on November 21, 2015 at 8:25 AM

For over 2 years, SMK has had the unique opportunity to offer Violin lessons to students. Violin is not a typical instrument learned here in Uganda, so these classes really set SMK apart from other area schools. These weekly classes have been a joint funding effort of American-based, Strings for Uganda, and Ugandan-based, Kampala Music School. Both have been exceptional partners and supporters of this program.

 

During the 2015 school year, there were 17 students in Primary 5 and Primary 6 who gave their time and hard work to learn this complex instrument. Teacher Samuel, a proficient violin player and music teacher from Kampala Music School, came faithfully every week to strengthen, encourage, and motivate students to progress their talents in violin. With Teacher Samuel’s influence and diligence, this past year violin students have displayed growth in violin handling and caretaking, note reading and playing from assigned sheet music, and performance etiquette.

 

On the very last day of violin classes, a small concert was hosted for the student body of SMK. It proved to be an excellent showcase of talents, as well as a great recruitment tool for next year’s classes. Students from each of the 3 violin classes performed splendidly and confidently.

 

These classes will take a break for the long holiday. They will resume again in February. Special thanks to teaching staff at SMK Primary School, Stings for Uganda supporters, Nick & Lindsey, Kampala Music School and funders, Fred & Noreen, and of course, our talented Teacher Samuel. With the collective support of everyone, these violin students are making beautiful music!

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2015 SMK Violin Group (with Teacher Samuel)

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SMK Beginning Violin Class performing at End of Year Concert.

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SMK Primary 5 Violin Class

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SMK Primary 6 Violin Class (with Teacher Samuel)

 

 

SMK/ CTT Graduation Celebration

Posted on September 23, 2015 at 1:10 AM

The final purpose for this mega-gathering was to recognize CTT’s exceptional graduates of the past few years. In Uganda, I would compare graduating from a tertiary program as challenging as climbing a mountain. It is physically taxing, emotionally overwhelming on most days, obstacles come from all directions, and only the most elite will actually complete. Although CTT could not provide every single requirement for these students, sponsors paid school tuition and functional fees, as well as provided a small stipend of funds for extras. The desire to study and complete motivated these young men and women to work hard, travel long distances to their classes, take on additional employment, and stretch their Shillings. But they made it… they completed… they are amongst the proud.

 

Most of these students are the first in their biological families to complete a University or Vocational program. And their younger siblings at SMK look at them reverently hoping one day to emulate their successes. It was a proud day, even emotional at times. It is almost overwhelming to witness the profound appreciation and gratitude that these young graduates showered on Mama Rosemary, Daddy Joseph, and Mama Gloria. We were all proud to be part of this celebration with them!!

 

A very special congratulations once again to:

Douglas- Vocational Certificate in Comprehensive Nursing & Midwifery from Mengo Hospital

Isabella- Vocational Certificate in Hotel & Institutional Catering from YMCA

Henry- Vocational Certificate in Electricity from Nakawa Vocational Institute

Saka- Vocational Certificate in Accounting from Buganda Royal Institute of Technical and Business Education

Daniel- Bachelors of Marketing from Makerere University Business School

Nelson- Bachelors of Computer Science from Makerere University

Billy- Bachelors of Business Administration from Makerere University

Rosette- Certificate in Travel and Tourism from YMCA

 

Watch out, Uganda… these young people are ready to lift up this country to higher standards!! Great things are going to come from these youth… just wait and see!

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Nelson gifts Mama G with his graduation cap... a sign of respect and appreciation.

Mama Rosemary received one, too.

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Gloria with CTT graduates (from left): Douglas, Billy, Daniel, Saka, Rosette, Nelson, & Henry

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Special gifts to the Mamas as another token of thanksgiving. Mama G received one, too.

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No graduation party would be complete without cake.

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Mel with her special 'kiddos'... Rosette, Henry, Nelson, and Saka (my first Ugandan loves)

 

Gloria's Honouration Celebration

Posted on September 21, 2015 at 2:55 AM

Since her initial visit in 2006, Gloria has devoted her love, organizing, networking, fundraising, caring, cheerleading, and overall support to SMK. Her abounding energy, contagious enthusiasm, unwavering devotion, and consuming love for the orphans has been inspirational to more people than I could even imagine. She loves these children as a Mama, and they love her back with that same pure, unconditional love!

 

To be a partner with an International entity is not an easy feat, but Gloria’s leadership of Change The Truth has transcended many obstacles and challenges for 9 years. There is a genuine, mutual trust and affection between CTT and SMK with the joint objective to educate vulnerable orphans that otherwise would not have the chance to study. SMK took this visit as an opportunity to publically applaud a decade of service and support!

 

Personally, it has been a sheer privilege to be a member of the Change The Truth family. Gloria has taught me more than I can convey in this brief posting, and my respect and admiration for her is beyond the limits of the sky. She is as gracious, generous, calm, and loving as any other person I have ever met.

 

This ‘honouration’ (although not a word in the dictionary seemed appropriate for the occasion) of Gloria was a genuine act of love and respect from SMK Administration and staff, children, guardians, fellow well-wishers, and even members of governing organizations. Cheers to Gloria. Our hat of love and respect is off to you!! Many more years of continued successes for CTT!!

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CTT Student presentation

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Another CTT student presentation

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words of appreciation from SMK Administration... Joan Faith, Mama Rosemary, and Joseph

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special gift to Gloria

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Mama G and her kiddos

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tshirts made for Mama G saying 'thank you very much' in Luganda

 

Gloria's Birthday Bash

Posted on September 19, 2015 at 3:45 AM

The next 3 blog posts are dedicated to the most massive party SMK has thrown in quite some time. It was a tri-purpose extravaanza … Birthday Party for Gloria, Honorary Celebration for Gloria’s tireless efforts for SMK youth, and Graduation Party for CTT’s University & Vocational Students.

 

Gloria, who is affectionately known as ‘Mama Gloria’ to SMK youth, chose to celebrate her birthday at SMK, and the children were thrilled for the opportunity to share in this day and entertain her. It was a day where love, adoration, and appreciation overflowed for Mama G. There was not a single person smiling from ear to ear that day. It was a joyous day indeed!!

 

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Term 2 Holiday Happenings- Part 2

Posted on September 13, 2015 at 3:15 AM

Visitors, special friends, beloved ones... SMK is always at its most joyous surrounded by friends.  This holiday provided the opportunity to meet and reconnect with many special friends.

 

The beginning weeks of this Term 2 holiday has been filled with music. SMK’s friend from Amsterdam, Monique, continues to instill a great passion for music to several aspiring musicians. One of the things that I enjoy the most is Monique’s arrangement of various instruments together in a musical performance. She encourages instruments to find their harmony with one another to bring about a great piece of music for all to enjoy.

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 Adam and Christie lived here in Uganda for several months about 4 years ago. They lived at SMK’s Guest House, so they were my first neighbors here at SMK. Upon returning back to America, life charged forward by having a son and advancing their careers. But they never forgot their time in Uganda or the special friends they made. So they came back to Uganda (with a little one growing in Christie’s belly) to reacquainting and reconnecting with those friends and Ugandan living. 

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Bobbi was one of the annual visitors with the Change The Truth teams for several consecutive years. After a few years absence, she came back to reconnect with friends at SMK and within Kampala. We only had Bobbi with us for a couple of days, but it was if she never left.

 

Gloria, affectionately known as ‘Mama Gloria,’ missed a visit last year due to busy schedule. But she returned as if she never left. (More about her memorable visit in the next couple of blog posts.) Gloria came with CTT friends, Natalie and Carol. Both ladies have been regulars to SMK, and they, too, have not missed a beat. Kids are very comfortable around them, so conversations flow freely. (More about Natalie’s visit in an upcoming post.)

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Rebecca’s boyfriend, Ben, is a beloved son at SMK for all of his years of generosity and friendship to the children at SMK. Ben’s stories have endeared Rebecca to SMK, as well, and we have been so honored to have her here spending time making her own set of special friends.

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Term 2 Holiday Happenings- Part 1

Posted on September 11, 2015 at 7:00 AM

A couple years ago Change The Truth was awarded grant funding from the Good People Fund (www.goodpeoplefund.org) . They have assisted CTT and SMK in the implementation of a Holiday Enrichment Program when the students are home at SMK for their month-long holidays in April, August, and December. The main focus of this Program is academic lessons. There are secondary aspects of holiday activities and career guidance, too. (More about the career guidance aspect coming soon.)

 

Ugandan classroom populations are by nature very large in size. In a Secondary school it is not uncommon to have 50-80 students in a classroom. With so many students, the nature of teaching is impersonal with students copy notes from the blackboard while the teacher lectures. Interactions are usually limited to students as a group reciting something back to the teacher in a rote manner.

 

During SMK’s Holiday Enrichment Program, the class size is drastically reduced to 12-15 students, which encompasses the individual Secondary classes of Senior 1, Senior 2, Senior 3, and Senior 4. The pace of the topic review discussions can go as quickly or slowly as the students’ comprehension. More hands-on work, practical applications, and examples can bring about an understanding that may have been missed in their school classroom environment. Prepared notes, textbooks, and handouts also provide additional resources of information. The overall goal is to fill the gaps of learning comprehension from the current term’s work before the student moves onto the next term. For this Holiday Enrichment Program, classes were offered in Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, English and Computers.

 

For the past couple years, I have actually had the experience of teaching English and Computers. My only qualification for ‘teaching’ English is that I was previously a good student, and it is my first (and sadly only) language. I have enjoyed the experience of preparing and presenting topics in class. In English class, students choose the topics for revision, as I wanted our limited time to be of the maximum benefit to them. It is truly delightful to watch a young person’s mind and creativity come alive! Maybe in another life, I would be a teacher. (One of my greatest mentors was my High School English teacher. I have thought about her a lot while teaching English to these young people!)

 

In Computer classes, students are finally grasping the basics of Microsoft Word. This term has been particularly rewarding, because all of our previous holiday lessons have finally culminated in completing a project. Students were able to type their required Sponsor Letter. It was fun to see them excited and proud of their achievement! It is also providing a skill that they will benefit having in their future.

 

We certainly are hopeful that these Holiday Academic lessons are making an impact for students. It is keeping their minds active during holiday! Another special thanks to Change The Truth and The Good People Fund for providing this opportunity to the Secondary students at St. Mary Kevin Children’s Home!!

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Sound Advice from SMK

Posted on August 26, 2015 at 3:55 AM

Within the grassy compound area of St. Mary Kevin Primary School are some small signs. I have passed them several times, but something really struck me this morning as I read them. They are really great words of encouragement and advice for both young and old alike. Hope you get a little nugget of goodness from them, too…

 

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SMK Classroom Decorations

Posted on August 24, 2015 at 5:40 AM

I have spent this past couple of weeks inside the classrooms at SMK Primary School teaching an English class to Secondary students. (More on that experience coming.) As students in America prepare to return to school, I was once again struck by the stark differences between American and Ugandan classrooms. My sister-in-law is a Special Education teacher in Middle school. She shared some photos of her classroom, which was so clean and creatively decorated. (She has a great knack for design). There were technology items visible, lots of books and resources, and fun wall decorations. In comparison, the classrooms at SMK (like all classrooms in Uganda) are often dusty and barren. There is not much light. The wooden desks are rickety. The paint is peeling. And textbooks are used rarely (if ever) in studies. (SMK is one of the fortunate schools to have textbooks available to older Primary classrooms.)  But the books are only brought out for classes and then safely stored away in the Headmaster's office for the next class.

 

However, with a piece of large poster board and some markers, teachers really make their classrooms come alive. They draw some pretty complex diagrams for older Primary classrooms, and some really fun visual pictures for the younger Primary classrooms. Children are able to learn through these drawings. I really respect the resourcefulness and creativity of SMK’s teachers. They work with what is available to them, and their children appreciate so much!! Even during the holidays when the classrooms are open to anyone around SMK, not a single poster has been disturbed or destroyed.

 

 

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