As we head out each day to the various projects we are never sure what we will find. Every project has different challenges. Some initiatives work well, others not so well. A change of leadership can quickly alter the effectiveness of the work in a school or parish. Each day so far has brought a mixture of emotions, joy when we see a project working well, sometimes disappointment that the results are not as we would have hoped. We have danced with, and been brought to tears by, those we have met. We have listened to stories of hope and of despair. So as we set off to Kagganda this morning, a little late due to the heavy rain, we had no idea what we would find.
Our work in this rural parish started in 2017 with the refurbishment of the church run school. We had visited in 2016 and found it almost falling down, the 250 children were learning under the tree as the classrooms were unsafe. Few of the parents were able to pay the fees.
Alongside the work at the school, which included the provision of educational materials, lunch and uniforms for some of those most in need, goats were provided for families as an income generation project. The hope being that eventually these families would be empowered to provide for their children and this in turn would impact the school.
We were greeted with flowers and showered with petals as we walked through the now familiar rows of clapping children.
The transformation that has taken place at this school is astounding, the building is attractive and solid, the majority of the children were wearing uniforms as were the teachers, “it encourages the children” we were told.
In a country where parents do not place education high on the list of priorities we were delighted to see a good number of parents at the school to greet us, wanting to be involved in their child’s education.
The reputation of the school is now such that the numbers have grown to 430. This has resulted in too few desks and rather crowded classrooms, but no one seems to mind too much.
We saw the building that was constructed as a kitchen and store being used as a dormitory, alarming by westerns standards, but perfectly acceptable here. However, there were no bunks and the students simply covered the floor with mattresses and squashed in where they could.
The grounds around the school have been transformed with beds for growing an array of organic fruit and vegetables to provide lunch for the children and staff, hens are kept for eggs, we were startled to see a green chick but were told they are painted that colour to stop the large Kites taking them, apparently the colours scares them off. .
A piggery project has also been started at the school. Most of these children will never go on to senior education, however they will leave primary 7 with a good education and the skills required to farm, and care for livestock. As the pigs breed they will be given to the students to provide a sustainable means of support.
We were entertained by the children, and made to dance, complete with grass skirts!!! Then it was time for some CHI.
After lunch we visited the homes of some of those who had benefited from the Goat Project. The committee that oversee this initiative admitted they had initially had some challenges but were happy everything was now on track. 39 families had originally benefitted with the provision of one goat, the first born female to be given back and passed to another family. Today 44 families are raising well over one hundred goats and the number of families is steadily increasing. All those we visited told us they were now paying the school fees for their children, most had previously been unable to do so. Today around 40% of the children pay their fees, enabling the school to better provide for its students.
Most encouragingly, the church congregation of 38 adults and 20 children has grown to 80 adults and 70 children since the start of the work in this parish.
Our last stop was a visit to Mariam, the elderly lady who took in the two children, Atinah and Imran, who were abandoned on the steps of Kimwanyi church. Her house, built with CHI funds, is simple but sturdy although bare of any furniture. She was extremely happy to have us visit and the children both looked happy and well cared for. She also appears to act as an adopted granny for most of the local children.
There are still needs and challenges here but this was certainly the most positive day we have had so far.