Heart for Uganda

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SMK Marching Brigade

Posted on August 21, 2015 at 9:40 AM

 

 

During my initial visits to SMK, Brigade Marching was a primary activity for children. The Boys and Girls Brigade of Uganda embodies principles and activities very similar to America’s Boys and Girls Scouts. They really encourage disciplined team activities, like Marching, as well as organized outdoor experiences, like Camping. Most schools or churches have an affiliation with Brigades, and students really enjoy the comradely and pride within belonging to a troop.

 

Originally, SMK’s Brigade troop was lead by staff member, Officer Ali, who also taught Islamic Religious Studies at SMK. He was an officer amongst the National Boys and Girls Brigade of Uganda organization. For many years, he organized camping opportunities for members, as well as kept the traditional Marching activities alive at SMK. About 4 years ago now, Officer Ali was tragically killed in a traffic accident. His absence left a hole at SMK, as well as the lapse of Marching.

 

This year, Officer’s Ali’s children and Former students at SMK have reinstated that Brigade Marching activity at SMK. At the beginning of the term back in May, they began teaching the fundamentals of Marching as a weekly school activity. Every week, they introduced something new like a marching step or turn or formation. Every week, they spoke to students about discipline and the importance of working together as a team. Every week, there was visible progress made. And WOW… the fruits of their labor were incredible on SMK’s Sports Day. Parents marveled at seeing their child marching with their peers in such an organized fashion. Each team had their own little troop, also including smaller children (Preschool- 1st graders) and SMK staff members.

 

While I watched this activity, led by 2 of Officer Ali’s own children, Umar & Takiyah, and former students, Saka & Eddie, I thought about how proud Ali would have been of them. Ali had this large, infectious, generous smile. In my mind’s eye, I saw that smile. He would have grinned so much that his cheeks would have hurt by the end. I LOVE witnessing his legacy continue to live on in those children, as well as now the next generation of SMK.

 

 

SMK Flag Guard (with flags for SMK, Boys & Girls Brigade, Buganda Kingdom, & Uganda)

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SMK Marching Band

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Saka... Marching Band Leader

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Takiyah- Brigade Parade Leader

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Team Africa preparing for Marching.

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Team Australia preparing for Parade.

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Team Asia marching past Visitors

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Team Europe marching past the visitors (and they are expected to look that serious.)

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Term 2 Holiday is Here!

Posted on August 8, 2015 at 3:20 AM

Term 2 Holiday is officially upon us! Secondary students boarding at their school have happily returned home for the next 3 weeks. (Unfortunately, Antwain will not come home until end of next week. Blah!) Their studying and revision of books can not stop though, as they will be faced with Beginning of Term Exams once they return for their final term of the academic year. Students boarding at SMK will soon return home, leaving on the orphans staying within the dormitories. The whole place takes on a large-family atmosphere.

 

SMK’s activities will be filled with holiday academic lessons, music, art work, and visitors. Lots and lots of visitors… 7 in total! All of them are old friends who have come to reconnect and make new special memories with the beloved orphans at SMK. It is always a special time at SMK when visitors come… there is an excitement in the air and anticipation of the thrills to come. Children become giddy with the activities and additional attention.

 

More details about their visit to come…

 

SMK Sports Day

Posted on August 5, 2015 at 6:35 AM

 

 

 

Last weekend St. Mary Kevin Primary School hosted Sports Day during their monthly Visitation Day welcoming Parents, Guardians, and Special Friends. I have attended many SMK Events, and this day ranked amongst the most enjoyable. Weather was perfect, and the children & parents had smiles throughout the entire day!!

 

SMK’s Sports Days was a friendly gaming competition amongst the students. All the students were divided into 4 teams named after the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. There were 3 components of the day: Team Competitions (Netball & Football… which were done at an earlier date), Brigade Marching (a very popular and highly-disciplined activity here in Ugandan schools), and Fun Competitions (teams send participants to compete in an individual game/activity). The teams received points for their placement in each of the components, and the winning team was rewarded with a Goat for their victory. SMK’s Marching Band provided the musical accompaniment to the Brigade Marching, and later in the afternoon SMK’s Cultural Dance and Drumming troop entertained guests.

 

Some of the events were typical for a Sports Day

 

Dash races

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Eating Competition

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Tire Roll

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Sack Race

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Other events were uniquely Ugandan

 

 

Matooke Peeling

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Bottle Race

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Tire Hola

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Even Parents and teachers got in on the fun

 

 

Parents Vs. Teachers Tug-of-War  (Parents easily won this time!)

 

 

And in true Ugandan humor, there was even an uninvited (and unwelcomed) visitor upset that his favorite pastureland was otherwise occupied  (Really in his defense, we were the trespassers!)

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the day, Europe (orange) was the wining team. There were shouts, jumps, and regale. They will enjoy a special meal with Goat much to the merriment of all. Other teams have vowed their victory next year…

 

Talents Helping Students

Posted on July 24, 2015 at 5:10 AM

For anyone who knows much about SMK, the artistic talents of several students is recognized as being truly exceptional. Last year a partnership with a small art gallery on Uganda’s Equator called AID Child Art Gallery was formed. (http://aidchild.org/) This organization cares for Uganda orphans living with HIV/AIDS. One of their income generating projects is this art gallery. Ugandan artists can showcase their paintings for sale; the commission from the work is divided between gallery and artist.

 

 

We received word that one of Willy’s paintings has sold!! It was a cause of great celebration and incredible pride for this young artist. Along with art supplies being purchased for SMK’s Art Group to make more paintings, Willy was able to assist himself financially with some school requirements for his Senior 6 Examination.

 

 

Titled:  Traditional  (SOLD!!)

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Hanging paintings in the gallery

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SMK Artist (from left): Willy, Brian, and Nicky with Gallery Manager

Each have paintings displayed at AID Child Art Gallery (Equator)

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Congrats to Willy!!

 

New Community Library Coming to SMK

Posted on July 22, 2015 at 6:05 AM

Partners have really been generous to SMK… but the children really make those connections link. Their lovability, good manners, and various talents are often a natural draw. Several years ago, one of the Change The Truth teams stayed at the Lake Victoria Serena, which is a gorgeous, luxury resort no more than 5 kilometers from SMK. It was during that fateful stay that certain key administrators at Serena were introduced to their neighbors at SMK. Since then, the Administration at SMK have done a stellar job of maintaining that initial introduction. SMK’s Cultural Dancers and Marching Band have been invited to perform at some functions at Serena, and for the past 2 holiday seasons, Lake Victoria Serena has hosted an elaborate festive Christmas party, that the children continue to reminisce in July!

 

The latest extension of partnership will soon be launched at SMK. The funding group of the Serena hotel chain called, The Aga Khan Foundation, and Uganda’s Ministry of Education have begun an Early-Childhood literacy initiative here in Uganda. Books are very scarce in Ugandan households. Many parents are illiterate themselves or place small value for books when so much physical labor (within the home or garden or outside job) must be accomplished.

 

SMK was recommended by Serena hotels and later selected as one of 20 small community libraries being planted throughout Uganda. This small library will be a site for community members to borrow books, as well as participate in literacy enriching programming. All of these efforts are attempts to promote early exposure and appreciations for books and reading. SMK will provide the physical space and library supervision, and the Aga Khan group will provide the shelves and books. Sounds like a win-win!

 

One of the long standing buildings at SMK, which served as classrooms for the Nursery section, have been demolished to make room for a new space for the library. Personally, it has been strange to look out my front window and miss seeing that building. But the building’s structure and roof was showing its older age very badly, so it was just as well that a new building with a new purpose will take its place. Exciting changes on the horizons at SMK.

 

Stay tuned for the Grand Opening of SMK’s Community Library very soon…

 

 

BEFORE... Baby Classroom Block

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AFTER... Future site of Community Library

 

NEW SMK Toilets

Posted on July 20, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Positive experiences at SMK have brought more friends from around the world. SMK’s friendship base has reached the Netherlands. Several visitors and supporters have assisted their friends at SMK in various projects, like Music, and now school improvements… a new toilet block for girls and boys. The toilets are still under construction, but there is already a buzz of excitements for these nice additions. Stalls will be for either toilet or bathing. Some type of water source will be nearby the toilets for better functioning.

 

 

More details to come in the upcoming future about this great project…

 

 

 

SMK Dormitories Updates

Posted on July 10, 2015 at 7:15 AM

Change The Truth has been a great friend and partner to St. Mary Kevin over the past 9 years. There is a great deal of appreciation and respect on both ends with the common goal of enhancing the lives of SMK’s orphaned students. Over the years, CTT has contributed several improvement projects to SMK’s Dormitories, where the children sleep and have their own, small personal space. CTT Donors have provided new windows for the dorms, as well as mattresses, sheets, blankets, bed covers, and mosquito nets. In the upcoming months, the dorms will get a fresh coat of paint thanks to CTT donors.

 

A few years ago, SMK Administration planted a greenery area called Gloria’s Garden, after CTT Director’s Gloria Feinstein. Gloria’s garden has grown and flourished. In addition to providing a beautiful natural area for students, the grasses and shrubs help keep mosquitoes away from the dormitory areas.

 

Looking back another visual illustration of what friendship and development can accomplish for the benefit of the children!!

 

 

SMK Dormitory space- 2011

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SMK Dormitories- July 2015

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Inside Girls Dormitories

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Inside Boys' Dormitories

SMK Improvements

Posted on July 8, 2015 at 6:00 AM

Secondary to her incredible love and devotion of the orphans at SMK is Mama Rosemary’s incredible vision and persistence. When she envisions an improvement or project, she works closely and tirelessly to see it through to fruition. I admire that quality within her.   

 

One of her most recently projects has been constructing a new classroom block for the Primary 4-Primary 6 classes. Although I have already shared the photos of the new classroom block, I came across some ‘before’ photos. Personally, seeing the changes daily had dulled some of my appreciations for what Mama Rosemary was creating. But when I saw the comparison photos, I smiled with great delight. I am also very sure that Mama must have seen these visions in her head vividly from the beginning. I hope she feels equally proud, too!

 

In the days to follow there are a few other changes to SMK that I want to share with you as well.

 

 

SMK Compound- May 2012

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P7 Classroom and Dining Hall- May 2012

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SMK Compound- July 2015

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P7 Class & Dining Hall- July 2015

 

 

 

 

A New Look with New Classrooms at SMK!!

Posted on April 9, 2015 at 3:45 AM



Ugandan schools are very many. There is actually a strong competition between schools to bring students into their own school. There are no districts or distance perimeters about where a child can attend school, so families are very free to attend whatever school they can afford within the entire country. Primary Schools, like St. Mary Kevin Primary School, are considered Private Schools. (give statistic about Private vs. Government schools). Although Private Schools, like SMK, must be registered and maintain all quality standards of education with the Ministry of Education, they receive NO funds from the government. It is 100% responsibility of Directors to sustain and even grow the school. It is an understatement that running a school is a LOT of responsibility and constant pressure.

 

Aside from her overwhelming and unending love for her children, Mama Rosemary is also a visionary. With her years of experience, she knows that to keep in competition with other local schools (and there about 5 of them in the immediate area), she must keep SMK growing and evolving. Her latest venture has been the creation of a new classroom block for Primary 4, Primary 5, and Primary 6. In addition, she is changing the main compound to become a garden setting with more fruit trees and shrubs.

 

There is a palpable buzz of excitement amongst the student population as they moved into their new classrooms just last week. Students almost don’t want to leave their classrooms now!!




Next projects in upcoming months:  New Toilet and Showers for students!!

 

Kuch Band Has a Gig!

Posted on February 13, 2015 at 5:20 AM

SMK’s Universal Kuch Jazz Band has landed its first weekly gig!! A new restaurant and bar called Rio’s has recently opened along Entebbe Road close to Kajjansi (and SMK). Managers for the Kuch Band made contact with the owners, and the band really impressed the owners during an audition. Now they are playing every Tuesday night for the crowd at Rio’s.

 

I attended this week’s performance, and it was fantastic. The Jazz Band has merged with the Cultural Dance and Drumming troop to create an eclectic, upbeat, high energy performance. So there is lots of cultural dancing from the different regions of Uganda and neighboring Rwanda, as well as sets of popular vocals from around the world. The talent within these young people is really amazing. It added an additional appreciation that I knew many of the performers, and I think I had a satisfied grin throughout their performances!!

 











If you are in the Uganda area, check out this band:

Universal Kuch Jazz Band

Rio’s Restaurant and Bar- Entebbe Road

Tuesday nights from 7:30p-12:00a