Feature Friday

Staff Spotlight: Interview with Sheilah Otyek

As a staff member, Sheilah Otyek learned first-hand how the Sister Schools program opens eyes and changes lives in Uganda.  Now an integral part of our team, Sheilah’s favorite part is getting to see the photos of the generous faces behind the donations she delivers every year – one day, she’d like to come visit them in person.

Read more about Sheilah in this week’s Feature Friday!

What do you do as the Field Coordinator in Uganda?

Essentially, I ensure that the supplies that our donors send safely reach our intended beneficiaries: our schools and orphanages.  I am the physical representative for Sister Schools to our Ugandan partner schools and other beneficiaries and I act as a communication channel between Uganda and Seattle.

When the Seattle team visits Uganda, it is my duty to ensure that their stay is comfortable and worthwhile.

What is your favorite part about your job?

The look of  raw, genuine excitement, awe and fulfilment on the children’s faces whenever we deliver their gifts and donations from their friends in Seattle is priceless.  It is like Christmas for them.  The days we make deliveries are the happiest days of my work life.  Ironically they are also my most hectic days.

The Seattle team visits to Uganda is another of my favorites because I learn a whole lot of lessons from our visitors. Everyday working with them is like a fun crash course in humanity.  I have also built some great friendships and acquaintances from these visits.

What are you most looking forward to when the pandemic is over?

Freedom, Freedom and some more Freedom!!

Freedom to just breathe in the natural air without a care that I will catch a virus or something – freedom to decide how, when, and where I spend my time – freedom to travel at will and freedom to get back to work. I miss work a lot.

How has Sister Schools shaped your view of the world?

I used to think that I needed to be Melinda Gates to make a real difference in the world, but working with Sister Schools taught me that even one broken crayon can truly change somebody’s life.  From Sister Schools I have learnt that just by giving people hope, you are changing the world for better.  Despite all the challenges life throws at me, I am an Ambassador of Hope and positive change in my community, thanks to my involvement with Sister Schools.

If you could tell the Seattle partner schools and students one thing, what would it be?

You are awesome and amazing and our ‘thank yous’ will never be enough but we are eternally grateful to you for your endless generosity towards us.

What kind of impact has Sister Schools had on our partner schools in Uganda?

Sister Schools has had a very very positive impact on our partner schools in Uganda.

The children in most of these schools come from embarrassingly humble homes where they can barely imagine life beyond the next meal, but with Sister Schools’ involvement I have heard these children talk about better tomorrows.  They have hope.  Many have learnt about a beautiful world beyond the one they know, through reading our books and even interacting with our visitors from Seattle.

Only recently when schools were open after the year long lockdown, six of our fifteen schools failed to comply with the COVID-19 SOPS (Standard Operating Procedures) and were going to close down for good. Sister Schools supplied them with the highest quality facilities and they were cleared for operation. They also became model reference schools for other schools that were struggling to comply with SOPS requirements. And many parents transferred their children to our schools.

In fact on many of my visits to the schools, I bump into parents who tell me bluntly that they trust the school largely because of the Sister Schools presence in it. Many head teachers use Sister Schools activities as a reason to gain the  confidence of the parents and community.

The list of the impact Sister Schools is making  is endless but one thing is for sure: Sister Schools is significantly opening eyes and greatly changing the lives of our children, schools, and orphanages in rural Mukono and Kampala Central.

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