Little Things

Days seem extremely long here...but then when it's time for lights out,  it's a little hard for me to believe that another day has passed. 

This morning Alisha and I went through the Primary level students school reports.  They receive a report card at the end of the term which includes the number of points gained, their class ranking, teacher comments and tuition fees.  While we were going through these reports, it was hard evidence as to why Kikulu's purpose is so important ("It's important" is what Kikulu means anyway)!  Lets take a child in level P-4.  The possible points they could earn in a term is 500.  The amount they gained was only 190 - which is 38%.  In the US, that is obviously failing...and not just failing...like were-you-even-present type of failing.  Here is the kicker.  This student who received 190 out of 500 for their end term grade was 10th in their class out of 40.  That's the reality. And it's not just for P-4, it's for all grade levels.  The higher the grade level, the lower the percentages.  I don't care what country, no matter how rich or how poor - if a nation's education is this deficient, how could they ever expect to improve overall conditions without prejudice? There are many pointsb to address that contribute to the issue, like quality of schools, quality of teachers, financials, training, and the list goes on. Hopefully will touch on that later.

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This afternoon was  spent at the orphanage playing with the kids and doing some house keeping.  Doors were cleaned and painted. Walls were prepped for painting. Building additions continued.  As for myself, I did a little painting and then spent time playing with the kids.  Reality hit me like a ton of bricks when I was walking by a girl who was tossing half of an old corn cob up in the air.  So I had her toss it to me, which then led to seeing how far we could throw it, which then led to moving out to the front court yard and involving more people and throwing it even further.  We literally played with half a corn cob for about an hour.  There's no magic formula here - the kids just want interaction.  As one of the helpers at the orphanage said, it's great for us to play with them because it takes their mind away from focusing on the fact that they don't have a mother or a father or they don't know where their siblings are. For a moment, we are their mothers and fathers and siblings.  And that's what makes it all worth it. 

This is Paul

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More Than Words

Today was too overwhelming to put into words...so this time, I'll let the photos do the talking

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The kitchen at the Orphanage 

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Classroom in one of the better schools in town - the kids are currently on break

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Alisha with Beatris "Mum" - founder of Menya school; former headmaster and member of Uganda Parliament 

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So long Christmas trees...hello Uganda

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Well…this time next week my feet will be firmly planted on Ugandan soil.  Christmas is my all-time favorite time of the year – like combine all the other holidays, including my birthday, and that is the joy that Christmas brings me – so at first leaving the land of pretty lights, Christmas trees and pumpkin spice lattes  (aka The US) wasn't such a great idea.  But there is something that I love more than the Christmas holiday – people.  Taking that a step further – people in need.  Wait!  How about children in need.  So this is kind of the best Christmas gift ever.  I hope you’ll take a moment and read this in its entirety…I promise posts to come will be much shorter!! 

Why is this on your photography blog?

Obviously one of my passions is photography.  As I mention in my about section, “Photography is all about documenting the passion in a moment, capturing stories, and creating emotion.  I look for the unique and unusual shots that make an indescribable memory forever tangible.”  That is what I will be doing in Uganda.  No words or pictures will ever be able to describe what we will encounter…but I sure can try.  We have 10 days to capture in our hearts and on camera why the world should find our cause important – so that’s one of my big tasks.  If you’ve never been to Africa, let me tell you…there is a realness and a rawness to everyday life that we simply don’t see in America.  Americans tend to hide behind materialism but in Africa, that concept isn’t relevant.  The realness of humanity is unveiled.  It’s survival mode every single day.  And that’s why I love being there – it strips everything you have down to nothing and you see life in a completely different form.  I’ve been to Zambia, Botswana, Cambodia, and Malaysia.  I took hundreds of photos as an amateur and look back on those wishing there was a way I could have put more of what I was feeling into a photo.  So this go around, that’s what I hope to do.          

  Alisha with the kids from Hope Orphanage  

Alisha with the kids from Hope Orphanage 

Why Uganda?

First of all, I’m not jet setting alone.  I’m going on behalf of the Kikulu Foundation – a startup nonprofit based in Dallas, Texas that focuses on supporting education in communities affected by poverty and oppression.  Alisha Robertson, the founder and brains behind Kikulu, is also going with an important agenda for us to complete.  Alisha spent 15 months traveling the world and spent a significant amount of time in various countries, not to enjoy the scenery but to get involved with projects much bigger than herself.  Uganda was a place she landed and her heart attached.  She loves their people and their needs – predominantly the need for education.  As of the 2013 census, nearly 50% of Ugandans were under the age of 15.  That’s kind of insane.  Could you image 50% of the US only being teenagers?!  Kind of hard to wrap your brain around.  So imagine that many kids either not having proper education or any education at all.  Now imagine all those kids 20 years later as the adults of Uganda trying to run the government or create businesses or provide for their family.  So addressing the issue early is not only helping children, but also helping the future of a country.  Many people always ask “well what about the kids in America…what about their future?”  I’ll get to that on a later post but in a nutshell, of course the education of my home country is important but there is a much bigger picture as to why education initiatives are just as important in developing nations.  Plus, Uganda in particular has been through enough already between previous years of dictatorship and battles with the northern LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army – well known here by the Invisible Children documentary and the hunt to find Kony).  So, this is yet another reason why educating Ugandan youth is so vital – developing brighter futures and creating hope!      

What will we be doing?

Alisha and I will be staying at the home of a missionary of Elpis Ministries in Iganga, which is about 75 miles east of the capitol of Kampala.  (Elpis is a non-profit organization that provides education, medical care, food, clothing and housing support for more than 100 children at the Hope Ministries Orphanage.)  We will be helping with a few tasks at the orphanage like painting and small construction jobs and of course loving on the kiddos.  As for work for Kikulu, we will be meeting with primary schools as well as a teacher training school in Iganga to gather information and seek opportunities for further involvement.  There is one specific school that we are very excited about and I will hopefully have some positive developments to report later on.  Just a reminder, Kikulu has taken off since its formation over a year ago, but it is still in the growth and development stage.  Trips like this one are so very important for creating further vision, establish our presences and build relationships especially since we do not have an American permanently based in Uganda…yet.  As a board member, it is even more important to see firsthand what Alisha passionately speaks of so I can adequately work on that same vision back in the states. 

Kikulu means “it’s important.”  (You pronounce it like Che-coo-loo, for those of you wondering.) I’m not sure how often I’ll be able to update while I’m in country but hopefully it will be enough to communicate the important stuff and share some photos.  I hope that you’ll keep up with my journey over the next week and beyond – I promise it won’t be boring!

Webale!! (Thank you!!)    

For more info: www.kikulu.org