There is something about Africa that is like no other place on this planet ; the smells, the rawness, the simplicity woven with complexity, birds signing at the top of their lungs and the eyes of pure joy. Today was such an amazing day it is hard to put it into words. Our drive to our first school was like any Ugandan day, we passed women working the fields, children wrapped tightly to their mother’s back as they carried a bowl of fruit or a wooden bowl filled with items yet to be revealed. Young children playing alone on the steps and people walking down red dirt roads on their way to something important I imagine.
The two schools we visited today were amazing and unique in their own way, one down a long red path out amongst fields and villagers working the fields, and the other not that far away from the other, but a different feel to it all together.
At Lutengo, the first school, they greeted us with rows of children clapping and singing and it felt like we were royalty of some sort, as we waved and grinned from ear to ear as we entered the property. Elizabeth, one of our lovely volunteers on the trip, broke into tears as it was such an overwhelming feeling to feel that much love in one space, along with it being her dream to go to Africa, as it now was becoming a reality with seeing the children. It was overwhelming indeed and absolutely beautiful.
As Terry and Michael worked on the videos, Janet, Elizabeth and I walked with the head teacher, Carol, to each class room. She would introduce us to the children, they would try and repeat our names, and we would all laugh as we soaked it all in. I spent some time in a P3 classroom where a sweet girl names Grace read all the sentences that they had hung up from the rafters that were flying in the breeze. As she read each one, the other children would watch in anticipation hoping that she could do it to perfection, which she did. When she finished the last one they all did a hand motion that looked like “jazz hands” but meant “stars”; a way to give a gold star without physically having a sticker to give. She was so bashful she hid her head in her hands as the “stars” continued waving, but when she looked up I told her my middle name was Grace and she smiled again and I took her gleaming photo. As we were getting ready to leave Elizabeth pulled out balloons and it was as if the kids she gave them to had one the lottery. A particular boy with a blue balloon danced around as if he had just turned into a superhero, his smile and energy looked like he could indeed save the world.
On to Kisowera we went, a larger school with much more children and even a nursery. This school has our last year’s shipping container patiently waiting as we raise funds for so we can build a resource center out of it and leave a Sister Schools legacy, along with a much needed place to store the books we bring every year. The children greeted us again with rows of smiles and songs and colorful red checkered uniforms on the children that could afford them. We met with the head master, Tom, who then introduced us to all of the school children and Michael and I said a quick thank you for hosting us at their school. The choir was going to sing a song and say a few words that they had been practicing for a few days; with the look of nervousness on their faces, Michael (Sister Schools fabulous Board Chair ) started going around and giving each child in the choir a high five (photo above). It cut the nervousness away and they started smiling and giggling and sang a perfect song.
Elizabeth and I went to check on what the kids were eating for lunch, they all lined up with colorful cups soon to be filled with porridge out of a pot so extremely large it looked like it could fit several of the children in it and would be a perfect hiding-go-seek spot if it weren’t sitting on flames. I found a large classroom where some older girls were playing for their recess lunch break. One sweet girl was busy skipping recess and focusing on studying as it was exam week at the school and she was determined. After I secretly took her photo the girls wanted their’s taken and we took a few silly ones that made them laugh as they looked at their image on my digital camera. They then asked if madam (I guess that was me as no one else was there if I would go with them and take a picture of their dormitory. As we skipped down the hill, they all jumped on their beds, I counted to three, they all posed and we took a wonderful shot of their home. A teacher then came and requested that I join everyone for lunch (this wasn’t the first time I had been called back to the group while I was out on an adventure, time gets away from you here). After lunch I came across a classroom that is soon to be remolded and had a few young boys playing soccer or “football” out of a ball made out of string, plastic bags, tissue paper and whatever other treasure that were rescued/repurposed from the trash. I am not going to lie, it was a great soccer ball to kick, even I felt like Beckham kicking it across the room with my Mary Janes.
Lessons I learned from today; simplicity is beautiful. You don’t need much to be happy; a ball made from trash or stars given to a classmate to let them know you care. I will leave you with a few photos of our day, look into their eyes and you too will be able to feel pure joy.