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Kawali- Paths & Flowers

Posted on October 21, 2015 at 2:50 AM

Kawali (pronounced kah-wall-ee) is a small valley area within a short distance from SMK. It is the location of the area’s fresh spring water source (more on that in the next blog post), and until recently a natural landscape untouched by development. Several months ago, the new Entebbe Expressway cut almost directly down the middle of Kawali. (Update in upcoming blog post.)

 

Depending on the mud-level, I often take my morning walk through Kawali where the only sounds are the chirping of various birds and buzz of insects. The walk provides an interesting commune with nature, livestock (goats and cows), and occasional sprinkling of people. Kawali reminds me of a large pasture with primitive, rutted, narrow walking paths cut out due to traffic of people, animals, and boda-boda motorcycles. Unfortunately, it is also littered with garbage along the paths, as people use this unmonitored area as a dumping ground.

 

During my first couple walks through Kawali, I paid little attention to the overgrown bushes, shrubs, and grasses that blanket the area. But one day, my eyes were pleasantly opened by the hidden beauties living within this area. Flowers of various colors and sizes (although mostly very small) popped out at me, causing me to see this area in a whole new light. To a more knowledgeable eye I have learned that much of this greenery, blossoms, and fruits can be used for medicinal purposes. While I don’t possess that talent, I can appreciate its beauty, and I hope you do too!

 

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Little Mourie is Growing!!

Posted on October 19, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Moreen has been a regular member of our household for a couple of years now. She came to SMK as one of the youngest children and had some challenges adjusting to life in a Boarding School. Thus she was adopted into our ‘family.’ Mourie (as she is affectionately nicknamed) is now a happy, healthy, independent 6 years old in Top Class (same as Kindergarten). While she is timid and quiet at school, she has found her safe place at my house to let loose and be a loud, jovial kiddo.

 

I find myself having some of the same face-offs with Mourie as I had with Antwain. Kids will be kids regardless of their location. Mourie likes only certain cartoons/movies (especially princess and Barbie), but will watch them repeatedly. She wants to dress herself being proud and uncompromising on her wardrobe choices. She finds joy in her accomplishments of simple household chores. And she is steadfastly determined not be left at home, if she knows that I am going somewhere (unless Brian and Joseph are at home with her).

 

She has really brought great joy and activity to our household. She revels in the attention, as much as enjoy providing it for her.

 

Mourie in 2013 during her first week staying at my home during a school holiday

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Mourie today!

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Uganda's Taxis

Posted on October 4, 2015 at 2:50 AM

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Even after 5 years, I still have NO desire to drive here in Uganda. Without any complaints, I board small Toyota Hiace taxi vans that transport millions of Ugandans daily. The taxi vans all begin their journeys at larger taxi parks within Kampala and then branch out to their intended destination within Kampala, as well as rural villages. Each taxi can legally carry 14 passengers, along with the driver and conductor. However, most taxis will manage to squeeze an extra passenger or two, children sit on the laps of adults, and bags of merchandise or livestock (like chickens) are nestled under the seats.

 

In addition to the license plate information, the majority of taxi vans have clever names decorated on the front and back windshields to identify them. I always enjoy seeing the creative names of the taxis. Here are a few that I have seen cruising down the roads of Uganda.

 

Religious— God’s Mercy; God’s Power; Jesus Cares; Allah is Power

Businesses—Zion Photography; I Love Samona; SF Investments

Luganda Phrases—Wa Kubantu; Beneze; Kakutto Pride; Swali Kabla Huswaliwa

Entertainment—John Cena WWE; Die Hard; Lost Boys; Liverpool

Others—Life is Money; Why Not?; Lucky Boys; Mr. Henry

 

 

 

 

New CTT University Students

Posted on October 2, 2015 at 6:55 AM

On the heels of CTT’s recent Graduation Celebration for University/Vocational graduates, a new group of students have embarked on their Tertiary studies.  During their post-Secondary studies, CTT assists students with the cost of tuition and some discretionary funds for supplies or living. In addition, CTT provides each new student with their own gently-used laptop computer to complete their coursework.  

 

 

After receiving their Senior 6 National Examination results, students apply to a specific school providing their top 5 choices for course studies in rank order of preference. They cross their fingers that their first choice will be accepted and then await the school’s final decision. Because the majority of Ugandans don’t have actual mailing address, the admissions are published in the newspapers. If students accept the program the school has offered him/her, then they pick their admission letter and begin their preparations for studies.

 

Uganda Universities and Vocational schools are program focused. Students take classes specific for their program from their very first semester. No required General Education classes here. However, that means that once enrolled, there is no changing the program. In cases of disinterest in that specific program, a student would have to reapply to the University and go through the selection process again.

 

 

Allow me to introduce CTT’s 2015 University students. These young ladies worked hard to obtain this opportunity. While none of them are studying what they originally hoped, they have rallied to find fulfillment where their destiny has taken them. Each will graduate in May 2018… while it seems like far, the time will invariably fly by very quickly for them.

 

 

Catherine is studying to obtain a Bachelors of Procurement and Supply Chain Management at Makerere University Business School- Jinja.

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Rechael is studying to obtain a Bachelors of Office and Information Management at Makerere University Business School- Kampala.

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Sheillah is studying to obtain a Vocational Certificate in Laboratory Assistance from Medicare Health Professionals College- Kampala.

 

AFRIPads assisting SMK Youth

Posted on September 25, 2015 at 3:20 AM

The following is a post taken from Gloria's blog and written by our special friend, Natalie.  Natalie is responsible for collecting funds, purchasing, demonstrating, and distributing these innovative products to the girls at SMK.  She is truly inspirational!!

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I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Like hundreds of millions of women around the world, I too, get my period. Okay, maybe this isn't such a revelation, but it's definitely not something I talk about with people on a regular basis. And honestly, it's because I don't need to. Throughout my adolescence, it's a topic we talked about in school, including (gasp!) the boys. We learned how our anatomy works, why it happens, and most importantly, how to hygienically manage the monthly occurrence so that it didn't interfere with our daily activities. Although at times it was a bit embarrassing, as everything seems to be during puberty, thankfully, my questions were answered a long time ago.

 

 

This is not the case for the girls in Uganda. It's an issue that is rarely, if ever discussed. In fact, in many parts of the country, menstruation is still considered a source of shame. Couple that with a severe lack of resources and access to proper hygiene supplies, and the most basic of biological functions, for many, becomes a barrier to attending school. So when a friend forwarded an article about AFRIpads, a Ugandan company manufacturing reusable cloth hygiene pads, I knew this was something our girls at St. Mary Kevin needed to know about.

 

 

Utilizing the power of social media, I put out a call to my friends and family to help. Within one day, we had collected nearly $1000. By the end of the week, we had raised enough money to purchase the equivalent of an 8 year supply for 50 girls.

 

 

Not wanting to pass up the opportunity, Irene, Lillian, Tina, and Beatrice were invited along to make the purchase. We spent well over an hour with the staff of AFRIpads learning how to use and properly care for the pads, and by the end of our time there, the girls were PUMPED. So much so, that the responsibility of teaching the other girls how to use the products was passed on to them. When we returned to school, all of our girls were gathered in a classroom and sat intently listening (if not occasionally giggling) to Tina explain how to use the products and worked with Lillian, Beatrice, and Irene to wash and prepare the pads for their first use.

 

 

As overwhelmed as I was with the outpouring of generosity CTT received for this initiative, it was witnessing this transfer of knowledge that had me close to happy tears. In a very small way these bright young ladies have been empowered to take ownership of their own sexual health, as well as the sexual health of their sisters. And it is this gift that will last a lifetime.

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trip to AFRIPads for tour and purchase (from left)

Joan Faith, Irene, Beatrice, Tina, Lillian, and Natalie

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Natalie and girls demonstrate how to use the AFRIPads

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All girls get their new pads

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Happy girls thanks to AFRIPads!!

 

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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Celebrating 5 Years in Uganda!!

Posted on September 17, 2015 at 3:40 AM

This was a holidays for parties which I am going to highlight in the next several blog posts.

 

First off… Antwain and I celebrated 5 years living in Uganda on August 26th. The time has flown by so quickly. There was something special and monumental about this anniversary. It has filled me some great sense of renewed excitement to tackle the unfinished items on my personal list of things to accomplish while living here… 1st on the list is Learning Luganda (seriously ridiculous that I don’t know this language after so many years!). I even promised students that at next year’s anniversary party I would give my speech in Luganda, which should really motivate me!!

 

Our party was just a time of great joy and celebration. Lots of love, laughter, hugs, and general merriment as we ate, drank, had cake, danced, and enjoyed being a large SMK family! Antwain and I were also very thankful to have some special visitors and friends join in our celebration.

 

Still love this place as much as I did when we first moved here!!

 

My loves... Antwain and Henry

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good friends from left: Adam, Christie, Joan Faith, Bobbi, Rebecca, Ben, and Maria

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lots of hugs from our friends

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Antwain with Ugandan sisters- Claire and Rechael

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not one that likes to speak... I did have to say thanks and promise to learn Luganda!

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gift from Rosemary and Joseph... never had my photo on a cake before

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ceremonial cake cutting with special friends

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no SMK party is complete without DJ Eddie and really loud music

Term 3 Has Begun!

Posted on September 15, 2015 at 2:30 AM

This post will take a brief pause before further reminiscing about his past Term 2 holiday.

 

Last week students returned back for their final term of this academic year. They will look forward to their long holiday towards the end of November. This Term 3 holiday is considered the ‘promotional term.’ Schools place a greater weight on a student’s academic performance during this final term in their decision to advance (or pass) students onto the next grade. In addition, this Term will bring about all of the National Examinations in Primary 7, Senior 4, and Senior 6. Students have been working tirelessly in preparations for these crucial examinations. (More information about each exam as it approaches in the upcoming months.)

 

Change The Truth’s annual sponsorship provides for not only school fees, but students are also provided with requirements provided directly to schools (like photocopy paper, brooms, hard brushes and rags for mopping, toilet papers), individual student’s school supplies (like notebooks, pens, mathematical set), and individual hygiene supplies (like soap, shoe polish, and vasoline). We were fortunate to have our friends, Carol and Natalie, here at SMK to assist with the distribution of these supplies to students. They commented about the incredible task of the supplies, which made me reflect on this past year.

 

Change The Truth has provided students (and their schools) with:

810 Rolls of Toilet Paper

90 Reams of Photocopy or Ruled Paper

568 Notebooks

957 Blue ink pens

396 Bars of soap for washing uniforms and other clothing

164 Textbooks in Various subjects

99 Tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes

192 Outside brooms for cleaning school compound and classrooms

And those examples just scratch the surface of a lengthy list…

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Natalie assists with providing school supplies

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Carol distributes hygiene supplies

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Thanks to Change The Truth and individual sponsors, special CTT friends/supporters, SMK Administration and Support staff, local business owners in the Kajjansi area, local Boda-boda/private hire/taxi drivers, and CTT’s partner schools of Kajjansi Progressive Senior Secondary School, St. Noa Girls’ Senior School-Zana, Bethel Covenant College, Taibah International School, Baptist High School, Merryland High School- Entebbe, and Mengo Senior School. We could not have done it without this combined effort!! It has taken a village to see these students through another academic year!!

 


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