Today, we continue our series of posts from Hearts and Hope mission team members. Thank you to Michelle Larkin for sharing her thoughts on the progress she witnessed during her latest visit!
This trip was my second trip to the beautiful country of Uganda. I was able to go four years ago, in February of 2012. I was anxious to go back and not only see familiar faces, but also to see the progress that had been made through donors & organizations that have partnered with Hearts & Hope.
What a true blessing it was to see the difference after such a short time – the improvements in the lives of so many. Four years ago, I can recall with great detail the makeshift building made from branches and mud that Kainagoga used for a school. The throngs of kids that were packed into this makeshift structure – each in need of a quality education – would make any teacher nervous, especially with no supplies, no pay, no staff training, no food, and no clean water.
What a difference 4 years makes! This past winter, a permanent structure was constructed from funds raised at the 2015 Party with a Purpose and from generous donations from donors in Vestavia Hills, AL. What a beautiful structure it is!! It sits on a gorgeous piece of land and the school building looks like it goes on forever. You could see the joy and pride that the teachers and students had in their new school building – so many of them had sacrificed for years, teaching without pay and learning in something that barely resembled a structure. We had the pleasure of handing out packets to the sponsored students in the school. This was our first of many days handing out priceless communication from US sponsors to each of their sponsored students across various villages. However, Kainagoga has so many more to students in need of sponsorship!
Each classroom in Kainagoga’s school has a magnificent breeze that flows across the land and through the big windows. The classrooms are adorned with chalkboards, alphabet banners, and hand-made teaching posters. I was lucky enough to put an extra loving touch on one of the classrooms by helping to create a mural on the wall.
Kainagoga was a picture of health, education and joy that simply did not exist 4 years ago. (Please join us this August 20th for this year’s Party with a Purpose to fund wells)
I also remember visiting Butangala the first time 4 years ago - the tree and small tarp we sat under to worship and hear from the village leaders. Now there is a well that supplies the children and families with clean, healthy water. There are now structures for the classrooms – although they aren’t permanent, they are functional for now.
Butangala is such a joyful place. The teachers and school staff are happy to show you their newly purchased land, where some day they’ll have a permanent school structure. They are proud to show you the gardens they have planted together as a community to feed the teaching staff and children.
And the music… the village is literally full of music. The headmaster for Butangala has a passion for music, so these children learn many songs; songs for learning, songs for rejoicing and songs to fill the air. They encourage and teach the children traditional dances and how to make & play handmade instruments. We were privileged to see these skills in action.
It quickly became apparent that the community there is full of self-starters. Community members and parents were in attendance at every village we visited, but this village impressed me as to how much involvement there is from the village and surrounding community. They are all invested in the success of the school and the community as a whole – and this is what Hearts & Hope clearly seeks to establish, a self-sustaining village. The spirit within Butangala’s people will carry it forward over the coming years. Butangala’s children look so much healthier and happier since I visited in 2012 and the transformation – while in its infancy – is clearly evident and progressing quickly.
Both of these villages had no US partner church or sponsored students in 2012. While Kainagoga still does not have a partner, both villages are shining a light that everyone can see. These villages have clean well water that improves the health of the community, have education provided by certified, professional teachers, and sponsored children that are fed each day and have uniforms to wear. Glory be to God!!!
Matthew 25:40 - “…Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
This verse was a theme of several devotions during our trip. It weighed on my heart over and over as we’d visit each village and look into the eyes of the children. When we did simple acts like painting the nails of the women and girls, this verse came to mind. When we helped to make liquid soap with the women of the villages, so they might reproduce to earn money for their families, this verse weighed on my heart. When we played simple patty-cake games on the grass or showed the children pictures of themselves on our phones, this verse rang true. When we visited a school for the disabled, the verse screamed at me. When we stopped, took the time, paid attention to each person, we can visualize this verse in action.
Hearts & Hope is a nonprofit organization focused on unlocking the potential of people in Uganda through relationships with people in the US.