Since Immanuel began sponsoring students, the number of kids in the program has grown from 16 to 78 and there is a tangible excitement in the air! We had one of the most magnificent greetings ever when we arrived yesterday! The kids were waving eucalyptus branches, singing, and dancing. There were shrieks of happiness from the women. Wonderful things are beginning to happen in Butangala!
We took a quick tour of the land and saw the gardens being managed by the school and church. They have a field of eucalyptus trees planted that will grown 8-10' per year. Those of us who were here in February 2014 got to see the saplings we planted at that time.
Some of the funds raised by Immanuel at Christmas were used to construct a brick school office and storage room. This is a huge deal to a school. They need a place to keep books, paper, etc. where it will be safe from the weather. Textbooks are being purchased as well and they will be stored here.
We were entertained with dancing and music. The new headmaster at Butangala also enjoys music so it will be fun to watch that influence take hold in the next few months.
We let all children in the school spend some time drawing. Afterwards, Barb, Toni, and Tracy lead the women in a special projects - making banners to use when they have worship services on Sunday. It was hard, hot work, but the results are beautiful and the women loved the attention.
We had some free time to read with the kids, play football, and of course, take lots of pictures. We ate lunch and handed out candy to everyone. When it was time to leave, we had the opportunity to visit the homes of three of the students in the sponsorship program who live nearby. It is a sobering experience to see what these kids go home to after we leave. Such small spaces with dirt floors and no light. Our hosts are gracious and seem to love that they have been chosen as recipients of a team visit - even when they don't know we are coming!
We left Butangala and headed back to the Sunset for showers. Dinner was at All Friends Place last night (formerly Two Friends). It is always fun to go there - just for a change. We donned our glowsticks and turned on our flashlights for the walk back to the hotel. Five minutes into the walk, our bus pulled up beside us and some of us hitched a ride back.
Back at the Sunset, we played cards with our Ugandan friends, per Mariah/Violet/Maj rules. These are NOT set in stone apparently and can change as they see fit. Never a dull moment!
We are going to Kamuli today and will be spending the night there. Most likely, we will not have wifi and we won't be able to post much. No worries - we will catch you up when we return to the Sunset Hotel in Jinja tomorrow!
The team is really doing well and they are fantastic at adopting a "whatever it takes" attitude - key to mission team success! Prayers for continued good health and safe travel are appreciated.