~THIS IS PART OF A THANK YOU LETTER I WROTE TO THE SPONSORS WHO HELPED FUND OUR TRIP.~
This trip was the chance of a lifetime, and I believe we all came back from it changed in some way. This being my first journey to another continent, it opened my eyes to a completely different culture and lifestyle and made me appreciate the things that we so often take for granted in America. A large part of the trip was spent in schools throughout Pallisa, learning about the private and public school systems and working with the children there. St. Jude’s was the first school in which we worked, it’s a private, Catholic run school with many of the amenities that the public schools do not have. Still, they do have their struggles like their lack of much-needed technology, supplies, food, etc. The children and faculty were very welcoming, greeting us with smiles, handshakes, songs and dance, as well as American flags they made themselves. In all the schools we visited we were given presentations by the students consisting of traditional dances and songs of welcome, I found this so endearing because of all the work they put in to it. One of the main purposes for the trip was to stress the importance of education, we did this by telling of our own educational experiences, plans for further education,reading and doing the alphabet. Another school in which we worked was called “Osupa”. This is an extremely poor public school, but one that is rich with hopes for a brighter future. The children here spoke little to no English, had very large class sizes and were without basic necessities like food, balls for play and supplies. We began with the same lay out we used at St. Jude’s, but because of the language barrier we found it to be more productive if we started with the basic English alphabet.
Over the period of two weeks, we continued to work in these schools,made visits to other schools in Kampala as well as a trip to a local hospital. Health matters were also on the top of the agenda,so after viewing the hospital and its terrible conditions we made note of the things they needed in order to send them equipment from the US. We also visited a health center/ newspaper that specialized in the area of AIDS prevention. Their newspaper is called “Straight Talk” and it aims at young people with the much-needed information to fight AIDS and HIV with knowledge. One thing that I found to be extremely sobering was the fact that children under the age of 12 were at as much risk as adults to contract HIV and AIDS because of the lack of knowledge and their need for money. Often these children will be approached by an adult, and offered money to engage in acts that often lead to contracting HIV or AIDS. Again this shows that being educated can save lives.
We began relationships with the local government in Pallisa, often travelling with the Mayor. He would join us at some of the schools, discussing the present circumstances of Pallisa, Uganda itself and the school systems. One of the big problems where education is concerned, is the poor attendance in many of the schools. The faculty members were frustrated because the parents of the students show little to no interest in their children’s education and often do not enforce an importance in attending school. By the age of 16, many students are in the process of becoming married and starting a family causing them to drop out. So it was very important that we share with them how the American education system works, and how completing school and going to college holds a great deal of power. We brought school supplies and passed them out, hopefully encouraging the students and teachers to continue their efforts of making education in Uganda a priority. They accepted these gifts with such gratitude, I really felt that we had made a difference no matter how small. we were able to visit these schools, the local hospital and really make an effort to change Uganda for the better.