You know that feeling when you know you are exactly where you are suppose to be and, more importantly, doing exactly what you are suppose to be doing? That is how I feel about being in Uganda as the Executive Director of Sister Schools. It is such an absolutely rewarding trip and enriching on so many profound levels. Our visit at Mukono Boarding School was a reminder of that feeling.
Mukono Boarding School is run by an amazing headmaster named Susan; she is without a doubt what you want in a headmaster. She is smart, strategic, a collobrator and most importantly, gets things accomplished. Susan, along with our Ugandan Coordinator Asia, scheduled a surprise field day for us to allow each school that we are working with this year to come and present what they have done with the school supplies Sister Schools gave them last year. When I say field day, I mean large assembly with at least 500+ children and seven schools represented where I was the guest of honor (yikes!). The day consisted of a band, visits to each school booth, presentations and songs from the children, speeches by various headmasters, and then Terry, Michael and I gave speeches to address the large group. One of the most memorable parts of the day was when I was asked, as the guest of honor, to go and inspect the marching children. First of all, I don’t know the first thing about marching correctly, along with how do you tell 500+ sweet children that they are not doing it right, when I myself trip at least twice a day on my own two feet? So I walked around the group and made sure I had eye contact with as many of them as I could and gave a wink or a smile. We then had two youth from the boarding school preform acrobatics, red sweatsuits flying through the air, as the band played on.
After the assembly concluded, we had a lunch served for royalty in the Resources Center built out of one of our shipping containers that Sister Schools along with Fernwood Elementary, OAC Services, and other great sponsors had helped build. It was hard to be treated as such royalty when in reality you are doing exactly what you are suppose to be doing as a human being, helping others.
I made a quick trip to the van to drop off my sun glasses and this little tiny village girl came up to me (she must of been two feet high) and said in broken English and with a thick Ugandan accent, “school fees”. At first I was confused on what she had asked for. Normally in developing countries you get asked for a pen or a sweet or money. This little girl was asking me for school fees. She had been watching the ceremony all day and had been practicing marching in the background. I briefly flashed to one of my prior jobs in the nonprofit arena where we were trying to curb the drop out crisis in the Seattle area, and here in front of me I have a child begging to go to school?
After lunch, I hung up my “royalty” hat and went and played with the children. At first there was a group of about twenty children asking me questions; are you married, do you have kids, why do I have freckles? All great questions I said, not married because I haven’t met Mr. Wonderful yet, I can’t have kids because of medical reasons and freckles are caused by the sun and passed down through my family’s genes, I guess. They liked those answers except the one about not being able to have children; without a pause two girls at the same time belted out “you can adopt!” I smiled and said, you are so correct and under my breath, I secretly promised myself I wouldn’t come home with a child this year, at least.
The children and I then went into a large circle and started playing a game of “skip around the village” or something of the sorts. It consisted of skipping around the village solo, it then opens up, you go in the middle and dance around until you find someone to stand in front of and hug. You then skip around the village holding hands with them until they start the village skipping tour solo. Janet was playing also and the circle kept growing and growing and growing. At one point I looked at Janet and we had that eye contact that said the same thing – could I even skip around such a large village?
The sun was in full force and it was time to go leave, I walked towards Michael and Elizabeth who were sitting under the tent surrounded by children. Elizabeth had a child’s hand on each side, no words spoken, just holding hands with children watching us “skip around the village”.
I had four little children that were my consistent shadows the whole day and at the end of the day, one sweet little girl came up to me when I was walking to the van, and said, “Treeeeeena. I want you to have this.” She had taken off her rosary and it was stretched out in her precious little hands. I quickly got to my knees so I would be at her height and held her shoulders softly and said, “that is the sweetest gift that anyone has ever offered me, but it is so special to you and I want you to keep it.” I promised her I would be back to see her and we would play again, and more importantly I wouldn’t forget her. I thought to myself as the van pulled away, and the children were running along side it waiving, here is a child with absolutely nothing, wanting to give me her most precious possession…
P.S. As “guest of honor” my photo taking was limited but I will include just a few snap shots so you can get the picture.