Carol Lycette lost track of how many times she’s traveled to Uganda with Sister Schools. That’s a testament to her dedication and involvement over the years—from starting as a parent chaperone on our 2005 distribution trip, to becoming Board President from 2016-2018.
We took a walk down memory lane with Carol to learn more about how that first trip—and the 10 or 11 trips since—have impacted her life here in Seattle.
How did you get involved with Sister Schools? I first got involved with Sister Schools when our daughter, Julia, who was in 6th grade at the time, brought home some paperwork from school that the founder of Sister Schools, Terry McGill had left with kids after doing an assembly highlighting the impact that their donations had made on the kids in Uganda. This paperwork was significant because it was an invitation to join Terry on his next trip to Uganda, to engage with the kids firsthand. Julia really wanted to go to Africa. Initially I said, “no way,” but after talking it over with Julia about why she wanted to go to Uganda, I agreed—but only if I could join them as a chaperone. I am so glad Julia wanted to go, and I am so glad that I said yes because our lives were changed profoundly in a good way from that mother-daughter experience. We both fell in love with the people of Uganda and learned that we are able to help the kids and teachers there from half a world away.
What memory from Uganda stuck with you most? Or what did you find most surprising? My first trip to Uganda was as a parent of a 6th grader and a chaperone for the rest of the 12 kids that went with us. I was so afraid we were going to lose one of our kids; they would wander off to explore and get lost, or worse. While I enjoyed all that we did, visiting at least 2 schools each day, doing all kinds of academic activities and playground games, I never relaxed that whole trip. It was such fun to interact with kids and teachers, but I never let my guard down. I was exhausted when we got home, and it wasn’t long before I realized that I needed to go back—but without kids—so that I could experience the trip on my own terms. I am so glad I did because it was a completely different experience. I was free to interact, get dirty with the Ugandan kids, run around and be silly, and just enjoy being in the moment.
Another memory I have is our many visits to the Kampala School for the Physically Handicapped. I love that school. Those kids are so happy and crafty. One time I was taking a tour of the classrooms and dorms and a little boy wanted to follow me. He was probably 3 years old and couldn’t talk or walk, but he could scoot himself on a little pushcart. He followed me through the whole school, sometimes needing a little push to help him over a bump or a little incline. We became a team. We were having the time of our lives on our little adventure.
I came to learn that this wasn’t the first time he escaped physical therapy. 😊
Oh, and the students and aides in the sewing room are just amazing. They are always busy making crafts on sewing machines like my grandmother had, with a treadle and hand cranks. Amazing spirits these young people have.
How did your trips to Uganda change your life here in Seattle? I am constantly reminded of all that we have here in the Pacific Northwest and how little we really need to be happy, safe and thriving. We load ourselves up with stuff, complexity and busyness. I aim to give back as much as I can. I volunteer with many different organizations and I get such a sense of satisfaction from it. I aim to be less of a consumer and more of a giver.
What advice would you give to someone considering a trip with Sister Schools? Do it if you have the chance! It is such a remarkable and rewarding experience. Always makes me happy when I think about my past visits and those kids’ smiles, their curiosity, and their gratitude. At the end of the day, it is me who is most grateful for having been able to partner with Sister Schools and expand my awareness of the needs of the world.
Why is a trip to Uganda so rewarding? Because it takes you out of your comfort zone, opens your eyes to differences in the world (culture, food, education, transportation, communication, fashion…) and you will meet with some of the most delightful people you can imagine. Go with a sense of curiosity and you will be met with curiosity and generosity in return.