Football has returned to MHS

This last week saw the completion of the Interclass Tournament and the crowning of the champion class - Senior 3s.  It was a lot of fun and the entire school came out to the games to cheer their teams on.  We have a first team out together now including some of our own Muko HOPE students - Andrew Karugaba, Samson Muhereza, Friday Mugarura, Dishan Agaba, and Innocent Beinomugisha.  Everyone is looking forward to the District competition where I'll face Moses's team.

Enrolment at the school continues to climb and we are now at 250 without Senior 5s reporting.  I've heard estimates that Senior 5s will put us squarely over 300. The teachers are active and have asked me for a few different computer training lessons. This past week I put together an excel training that the staff at ACT also ask me to show them.  Here, Guma has reinstituted Technology Tuesdays so everyone can continue to improve their computer skills.

Ive been spending lots of time in the field, learning about how the different managers run their programs and I've been learning a lot.  I also experienced my first illness this week, but plenty of experience with water poisoning in a land without doctors gave the ability to recover quickly. Sorry this is so short, but the website keeps crashing and wiping my drafts clean, so I wanted to sign off fast.

 

Opening Day

Today was the much anticipated opening of Muko High School. On the way to the village, we learned that the Muko High School truck was touring around the Muko Sub County announcing the big event. The truck also carried a number of our musicians singing the ACT song between segments of the pre-recorded announcements.  We reached Muko High School about 10:30 with activities due to start at 11:00. However, some threatening weather and delayed arrivals pushed the ceremony back by more than an hour. While waiting for activities to commence, Sue and Dave had a chance to meet with Dickens, the chemistry teacher at Muko High School, and to go through the equipment and supplies available for science labs. There is clearly an opportunity to supply some additional items to improve the lab experience for students. Dave also had a chance to visit the library and look at the lab and class books used for chemistry, physics and biology. Lab space available at the school is very limited and makes completing the practical exam part of the national exams challenging. 

When the ceremony commenced inside the assembly hall around 200 people were in attendance. Sam, the Head Teacher, emceed the ceremony. We had a full agenda, commencing with the school song, the Uganda national anthem, the East Africa national anthem and the US national anthem. The surprise for the US Team was that they did not have music for the US national anthem, so Sue, accompanied by her much less talented cohorts, had to sing the Star Spangled Banner. Sue did a great job. Many messages were shared with the students, parents, alumni (Old Boys and Old Girls) and supporters who were present. During the ceremony, ACT presented a 55", internet ready, smart TV, from an anonymous donor, to the students of Muko High School. The students were thrilled.

The ceremony ended with the planting of tree by ACT on the school grounds. The tree is a symbol of ACT's partnership with Muko High School and the growth that is expected to occur in the years to come. To cap off the celebration, cake was served to everyone present. People remained for some time after the ceremony and continued to socialize.

The event was covered by local radio stations and both Evan and Sue were interviewed by the press.

We returned to ACT headquarters at about 4 PM to work on some future grants and departed for Kabale at about 5:30. Back in Kabale after a long day of activities we had light supper on the porch and relaxed.

A follow-up to yesterday's blog: The Muko football team defeated the visiting team from Central Uganda by a score of 4 to 1. Evan reported only a few aches and pains from the encounter.

The crowd minus those standing in the windows who could not fit into the hall! Students, parents, teachers...

The crowd minus those standing in the windows who could not fit into the hall! Students, parents, teachers...

Evan being interviewed by the two radio stations. We are in Head Teacher Sam's office (he is standing). 

Evan being interviewed by the two radio stations. We are in Head Teacher Sam's office (he is standing). 

Dave taking inventory of the science lab with DIcken's, the chemistry teacher. 

Dave taking inventory of the science lab with DIcken's, the chemistry teacher. 

Sharing the Sabbath.

Sunday in Muko begins with drumming from the various mountaintops calling worshippers to church. Each church has their own drum rhythm. In fact, Evan shared that he was awakened by the drums!

Sue, Generous and Evan attended the Pentecostal Church in Muko. The service began at 11:30am. Pastor Jason is on the ACT board. He asked Generous to preach when we arrived. During the service we delivered 12 choirs robes that had been donated by the Presbyterian Church in Grand Haven. We have delivered robes to several local churches and they are so overwhelmed by the quality of the robes - like they have never seen before. They danced and danced and felt "like their situation was elevated" because of receiving these robes.

Dave, Moses and Prudance attended Mukibungo Catholic Church. Again, the robes were so welcomed. The whole service in both churches were in Rukiga with some translation. 

We returned to the ACT Center around 2:30pm. Sue had some opportunity to talk with Maurice and Josiah to learn more about what ACT's Senior 4 students who are still awaiting their results from their exams. Senior 4 is a natural break in High School. Many students stop at Senior 4 and go on to a vocational school. Others go on to Senior 5 (called O Level) and 6 (called A Level) which is really preparatory for University. Only about 1% of students attend University in Uganda. Having a diploma or degree doesn't necessarily help them get a job. The unemployment rate for young people is now at 70%. 

At 4pm, Sue, Generous, Prudance and Grace (the Bursar from Muko High School who is learning how to use Quickbooks) SKYPED with Dave Viele to further work on this process. 

At about 5:30pm Dave and Sue headed back to Kabale with Generous who is staying with her sister tonight and then doing some banking in the morning before we leave for Muko. As we drove away, Evan was on his way to a big soccer tournament in Muko. The organizers, who had upon learned he was in the area and a Certified Soccer Coach, invited him to be the Guest of Honor AND play! We'll report tomorrow about how it was.

Tomorrow will be a big day at Muko High School. Students will report for the new term and there will be an opening day celebration for the new Muko High School - ACT collaboration. We are excited.

We wish all of you a blessed day/night as we begin to retire here in Uganda.

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Get ready, get set and tomorrow is a go!

Today was more preparations for the opening of the school. Tomorrow the students begin arriving with their parents. The day began at 8am with us arriving at Muko High School around 9am. The Board training that Sue was preparing to do was scheduled to start at 10am but we started around 11pm and went until about 1:30pm. The topics covered were Board Roles & Responsibilities, effective board agendas and meetings, consent agendas, board and committee charters, ground rules, action registers, issues bins, etc. The leaders shared that there were things they learned that would be helpful. The Board members took a tour of the school and were so pleasantly surprised and excited about the improvements that have already been made.

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As the Boards were in training, more volunteers, including Dave Molzahn, continued painting the school. Today they began painting the doors and the shutters on the windows and the girls' dorms. Dave learned the limits of the land for the school and where the Agriculture teacher and students plant food for the school and as part of their training. 

We had a lunch at about 2pm that the High School prepared: beef stew, rice, matooke, posho, cabbage salad, watermelon and pineapple. 

Two sweet girls who are twin sisters! They are sponsored for the first time and this photo shows all the supplies that the sponsorship purchases for their first year in school. Their mattresses are behind them. They will be attending Uganda Martyr's Primary School.

Two sweet girls who are twin sisters! They are sponsored for the first time and this photo shows all the supplies that the sponsorship purchases for their first year in school. Their mattresses are behind them. They will be attending Uganda Martyr's Primary School.

We rode back down to the AEC and SKYPED with Dave and Karen Viele with Sam, the Head Teacher to discuss some financial issues and Guma to discuss the improvements that he has been leading. What a grand job he has done! A very busy man the last few weeks. Guma works very, very hard. 

While we were back at the office, a few orphans came by with their guardians to pick up their school supplies to take to school. Evan went across the way to the Saturday Muko Market. He seemed eager to explore this venue and all the throngs of people.

David is another orphan who has already been in our program so this photo shows what his sponsorship provides for his school year. Laundry soap, body lotion, black shoe polish, sheets, pencils, toothpaste, composition books.

David is another orphan who has already been in our program so this photo shows what his sponsorship provides for his school year. Laundry soap, body lotion, black shoe polish, sheets, pencils, toothpaste, composition books.

Evan met his new brother yesterday - Blessing is his name and he is in Baby Class (Kindergarten). These two will become fast friends! The Martins recently started sponsoring Blessing.

Evan met his new brother yesterday - Blessing is his name and he is in Baby Class (Kindergarten). These two will become fast friends! The Martins recently started sponsoring Blessing.

Guma and Evan looking out classroom windows at Muko High School.

Guma and Evan looking out classroom windows at Muko High School.

Empowerment was the theme of the day.

Sue met with the Muko Empowerment Program women today with several goals in mind: further work with Prudance, the ACT staff member now in charge of MEP taking over from Guma who is too busy; check in with the sewing members and providing new patterns for them to try; meet with the three leaders of the three MEP programs (Weavers, Sewers and Beaders). We spent some time brainstorming the possibility of putting a small roadside storefront on the Muko High School property for the women to sell their handcrafts to tourists. See their three pictures!

Dave, Moses and Evan met to further discuss mushroom operations and results. They then spent time in the Mushroom House behind the ACT Empowerment Center (AEC) particularly examining the temperature and humidity environment. It was decided that it would be helpful to get data from other mushroom growers for comparison.

Benson and Sue continued their discussion about the HEAL Program (Health is Elemental to All Life). We discussed the communication from Benson and the villages to our new HEAL Sponsors as well as the Ikamiro Clinic and the treatment of our MukoHOPE orphans from the office since he is a trained medical professional. There is still much to learn in how to be most effective in this health promotion program. 

Most of the day occurred without power in the building. Our solar batteries have become weak and are struggling to support the load of the 9 laptops and cell phones! At the moment we have many financial priorities with our 5 ACT Programs and the new High School, and this is an unexpected and unwelcome expense. We need to figure out how remedy this rather immediate need.

Generous received a phone call from Kampala, the Peace Corps representative in Uganda. ACT had applied for a PC volunteer about 5 months ago. This gentleman, a Ugandan, was quite impressed with ACT, had visited our website and spoke about how all our programs seemed to fit very well with PC programs and volunteers. He is coming to our ACT Empowerment Center on Thursday next week to meet with Generous, Guma and Evan as well as the rest of the staff. Unfortunately, Sue and Dave will be on an airplane on the way back to Michigan. Please pray for the outcome of this!

The highlight of our day was visiting the MukoHOPE orphans at Murole Primary School. They have just spend their first week at school and seemed eager for the new year. We introduced Evan to the students as the ACT Intern but most importantly, a Certified Soccer Coach. They went wild! He also got to meet Blessing, the Martins new orphan! I am sure they will establish a strong and loving bond in the coming 10 months that Evan is here. 

 

 

Lovinah, ACT Weaver Quality Manager, is holding one of her own exquisite baskets.

Lovinah, ACT Weaver Quality Manager, is holding one of her own exquisite baskets.

Jovia is our Beader Quality Manager holding some of her creations.

Jovia is our Beader Quality Manager holding some of her creations.

Phoebe (pronounced Foib) is our Quality Sewing Manager and happens to be Josiah Nankunda's wife.

Phoebe (pronounced Foib) is our Quality Sewing Manager and happens to be Josiah Nankunda's wife.

MukoHOPE Orphans at Murole Primary School waving hi.

MukoHOPE Orphans at Murole Primary School waving hi.

A Cast of Thousands and 15 Paint rollers

At least 50 people showed up today at MHS to paint walls, base boards, wash floors, etc. The was gaiety and singing and paint everywhere! We finished around 15 offices and classrooms. It was a major project. The walls are a bright cream with a red border for a baseboard. They look so fresh and bright. The carpenters continued to build desks and bunk beds. The teachers were having so much fun and we got to paint alongside them and talk with them. Howard, ACT MUSIC teacher broke out into song and everyone seemed to migrate to that one small classroom where we were. Suddenly, it was so crowded we could not turn around. 

We stopped at about 1 pm for some posho, rice and beans lunch. Then a photo op of the whole group of volunteers. There were speeches by Guma, Generous, Sue, The Old Boy leader, and more. A bit of a sunburn standing in the sun for so long. The mood at the school is pure excitement waiting for the students to start arriving on Sunday and Monday. 

The ACT Staff came back to office for what was supposed to be a 2 pm meeting but we started at 3:45. Sue still needed to walk the staff through the ACT Strategic Plan and Sustainability Map. Then we had some more general discussion about other topics. Everyone was very tired from the long day. We stopped at 5:30 pm. We wish everyone back home the best!

Everyone who came to paint today! Teachers, Administrators, Old Boys & Girls (alumni) and ACT Staff

Everyone who came to paint today! Teachers, Administrators, Old Boys & Girls (alumni) and ACT Staff

We crammed 13 into Christopher's van to go to the high school to paint. 

We crammed 13 into Christopher's van to go to the high school to paint. 

New bunk beds for the boys!

New bunk beds for the boys!

Fedis is the Music Teacher at Muko High School. She is a delight!

Fedis is the Music Teacher at Muko High School. She is a delight!

We recruited some VERY young helpers!

We recruited some VERY young helpers!

Davis is the DOS (Director of Studies) and is a huge asset. He is the one leader carried over from the previous administration.

Davis is the DOS (Director of Studies) and is a huge asset. He is the one leader carried over from the previous administration.

Norman is the owner/director of Murole Primary School where we have about 80 MukoHOPE orphans. He decided to come join in the fun!

Norman is the owner/director of Murole Primary School where we have about 80 MukoHOPE orphans. He decided to come join in the fun!

Meetings, Meetings, Meetings

Last night the Internet was too slow to upload the blog. Then today, we were busy all day and did not have time to post this. We will write another one from today as well! Also, because we were in meetings all day we took no photos!

January 31st: We began the day with a meeting with the ACT Staff. The first topic on our agenda was talking with our staff about the learning that the ACT MI Board has done with our book studies. We have completed two books to educate us on appropriate and successful mission work. Sue talked about When Helping Hurts and Charity Detox and what we took away about the negative impact of aid to developing countries vs. focusing on self-development. The ACT MI board is committed to removing aid from our focus unless it is for an emergency and appropriate. Charity Detox talks about how “you cannot serve people out of poverty.” Robert Lupton goes on to explain about the focus of wealth creation instead. How do you build profit-making into the community to bring people out of poverty. Sue told the ACT Staff that the Team Leaders in Michigan were challenged to think of ways to make their programs self-sustainable that requires bringing revenue in to support the programs. The ACT MI is working on this. Sue then challenged the ACT Staff to brainstorm ways they could do this with their programs. Wowsa! It was a sight to hear and behold. They had a MULTITUDE of grand ideas. At the end of the discussion, they were chartered to go write proposals for these business endeavors. They seemed excited to do so. This provides great hope that our Ugandan partners will be able to become self-sustainable and not dependent upon their US partners for revenue forever. This is just huge!

We next discussed the new Program Budgets provided to the Ugandan staff. This is a new endeavor for them to annually work within a budget for their specific program. Again, this is a big step to self-sustainability – to know how they are spending and what is the targe

After lunch we reviewed the 2017 ACT Action Plan & Program Outcomes document. This is an annual plan and strategy for ACT US and UG. We collectively recited the ACT Mission and Vision and talked about our performance on these. Following the Vision we reviewed the Strategic Objectives for ACT. This is the higher view of our “roadmap” for program planning. Without completing our discussion on this due to additional meetings already scheduled, we committed to return to this discussion tomorrow afternoon at 2pm, after painting at the High School.

A meeting regarding Life Pathways. Sue, Generous, Maurice and Josiah met to review the program for the MukoHOPE Orphans whereby Maurice meets 7 times with the children during their tenure in the Orphan Program. Those intervals cover things like their initial welcome into the program as an Orphan, information regarding puberty, their time taking the Primary Leaving Exam and so forth until they are officially launched from the sponsorship program. She has documents that were created in partnership with our MukoHOPE staff and the MukoHOPE US Team. Maurice shares these documents when she meets with the kids. This has been very, very successfully thus far. It has begun to change the expectations the orphans have of their sponsors. They learn that they are required to work in partnership with their US sponsors for achieving success.

Our last meeting of the day, from 4:00-5:30 PM, was with Benson Ariimpa, our new HEAL Manager. Benson has completed Dialogues with 16 villages and follow-ups within his first 5 months.  He is very dedicated and patient with us as we continue to find our way with this program. We are still eagerly seeking sponsors for the various 74 villages in Muko Sub County who will be involved in dialogues and action-planning to improve their health and community living. In the US we are recruiting Dr and Dental practices to sponsor this health promotion initiative. If anyone can refer someone they know to Sue Waechter, please do so. Currently, we have enough money in the program for one year!

During the day, the HANDS team also managed to prepare 55 mushroom gardens and move them into the incubation house. Young mushroom growers, in training, helped with todays activities.

Amazing success stories on all the ACT Programs accomplished in partnership between ACT US teams and our incredible ACT staff in Uganda. Thanks to all for making such a difference in so many lives in Muko Sub County!

Left in the Dark!

Evan’s first night in Muko at the ACT Empowerment Center (AEC) found him without power from our solar power system. Apparently, our batteries are shot! So much for making his first evening stellar. Actually, maybe it was pretty stellar since there was no light. But as in Rome, or in this case Muko, do as the villagers do and go to bed early. This morning we found Evan furiously studying Rukiga (roo chee ga) with Prudance. He will be conversational in no time!

Dave and Andrew (his orphan) stopped at the AEC to pick up copies of handouts of Sue’s training in Time Management. Last January when the Rotary Team came to provide many training classes, the one class we ran out of time for was – wait for it – Time Management! So, to follow through on this, we held the session today for two hours. There were 32 people there at the Muko High School (MHS) in a newly painted classroom including, all MHS teachers, Leadership, ACT staff, and Evan. Guma assisted Sue in demonstrating the proper scheduling of daily priorities. High priority tasks should be scheduled before the less important things in your day. This ensures that high priority tasks are completed, while still leaving room for lower priority items. We used rocks and sand for the demonstration. We also talked to the teachers and staff about our new partnership and all we are looking forward to. She described the TEACH Team (Targeting Educational Advancement for Children) in the US and how this team exists solely to support and provide advice to the MHS staff. Sue shared with them that much of the support for the school comes from organizations like supporting churches and Rotary. The staff are very proud of MHS and happy to be there

Following the training, we came back to the AEC to have lunch – Evan had his first village lunch of matooke, g’nut sauce, rice and meat. He reported that it was all good,

save the Matooke! We then had a meeting with Prudance regarding the Orphan Gift-Buying Program. Dave Molzahn led the discussion and we came up with some changes, but overall, it is a resounding success so far.

Sue helped Prudance understand Google Drive a bit more. Evan and Guma went to Kabale to buy more paint supplies and food for Evan. Josiah joined them in the truck with some additional orphans to deliver to Murole Primary School with their supplies. Sue and Prudance had discussions about the Library that was funded by our Circle of Blessings. We had 12 people visit the Library in the month of December, some to read books, most to spend time learning the computer and some simply using the Internet. Prudance spends time teaching people how to use MicroSoft Word and Excel and charges a small amount for that time.

Through most of this day, Andrew and Howard serenaded us with Silent Night and America on the violins!

Now, our not so silent night is beginning, as the dogs in the nearby housing compounds begin to yelp, cry and howl.

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Muko High School - here we come!

January 29th

All before 10am: Evan bought new gum boots, a tie and an electrical power strip since his were stolen from his duffle bag; Sue bought some new fabric for the sewers; Dave bought 7 brooms and 5 squeegees to clean the classroom floors at Muko High School. Then we picked Generous up from Barclay Bank and Evan, Sue and Generous got Evan’s new sim card for his cell phone and minutes for the three Ugandan cell phones we use while here. This was an amazing feat for those of you who have been here and know downtown Kabale!

We arrived at the Bishop’s house at 10am sharp for our meeting with he and Sam, the new Head Teacher. It was wonderful to meet Sam. We had a lovely discussion about the future of the school and our hopes and dreams. Sue shared with the Bishop and Sam about ACT’s vision of always focusing on self-development of our programs here – not simply providing aid – for that is not helpful to these developing countries.

After our meeting at the Bishop’s house we traveled to Muko High School and proceeded to meet Godfrey, the Deputy Head Teacher, Davis the Director of Studies and Grace, the Bursar. A 1.5 hour walk around the school grounds afforded us the opportunity to see all the improvements that Guma has been hard at work supervising. It was impressive. All the floors in the classrooms are brand new requiring them to break up the old concrete floors and starting afresh. What a job! There are several classrooms painted a nice, bright cream color which will be the color of all the classroom. Some shutters have been replaced and will be painted. The carpenters were there working diligently on the new bunk beds. We realize we are still about 10 bunk beds short for the students we expect next week. Each bunk bed is $50. If you know anyone who would like to donate for that, please pass it on. At Dave’s suggestion, they are using the broken bunk beds to create walkways for the rainy season. Also, there are single desks being constructed as well.

We walked into one classroom and there were a couple of dozen of the teachers who were painting the classroom. They all seemed very happy and I asked Sam and Davis if their morale was high with all the improvements. They said definitely yes they were very happy.

A meeting in Sam’s office with Godfrey, Davis, Grace, Generous, Guma, Dave and Sue achieved the completion of a very, very long list of questions sent with Sue for answers. In addition we finally stopped at 4pm for lunch (rice and beans) and then returned until 6:15pm working on the document that Donna Block Clampett had revised. Many of the suggestions were accepted so we are initiating an Honor Code at the High School and and Honor Council with some student representation for the first time! The students will sign a pledge of the Honor Code as they begin school. We also planned Monday, Feb 5th for the student/parent arrival and a celebration of the opening of Muko High School in partnership with ACT! I will be describing the agenda for the event in a future blog. It will be momentus.

Dave left partway through our meeting to meet up with Moses who was beginning to boil the substrate for the mushroom gardens. They then walked through the demonstration garden and Moses took him down to a local coffee growing coop by Lake Bunyonyi. This is an operation that is growing seedlings for farmers.

As we drove back to Kabale, we left Evan in his new home! He seems settled and was more than ready to leave the hotel and begin his Muko stay. Dave brought his orphan, Andrew, back to Kabale with us. Andrew has never stayed in a hotel before and had a bit of trouble with motion sickness in the van but we just finished our 8pm dinner and plan to settle for a game of Farkle in a few minutes. We wish everyone back home well and want to assure you that everything is going very, very well.

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Arrival in Uganda via Rwanda!

January 28th, 2018

Arrival! 2am Uganda time. We flew into Kigali, Rwanda. We got lost twice and then had to go through the multiple-stop border between Rwanda and Uganda. We arrived in good shape albeit exhausted. Evan’s duffle had been opened and he was missing his rubber boots that he had stashed other items within. So, we are working to replace those items in Kabale town.

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We made the choice not to go to church this morning since we were so tired. We left for the village at noon and spent time with all the staff discussing what we had to accomplish while here. Guma had put the list of things to do into a scheduled document. The staff took great delight in giving us Americans grief over being late today! We didn’t know they had expected us at 8:55am. Guma has adopted quite the Muzungu way of scheduling – so precise!

We turned over some of the items that we brought for the staff. Howard got his repaired violin bows and hymn books. Josiah and Moses divided up the donated choir robes for two different churches. We provided Moses with many seeds. I will be going through all the MEP supplies with Prudance when I meet with her.

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Evan, Dave and Sue went to the mushroom house. Dave is going to have the opportunity to begin the preparation process with Moses tomorrow. The mushroom dryer is set up outside and they have been drying mushrooms. Moses said the flavor was even better than the fresh mushrooms.

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The three Maverick Leadership Scholars traveled to Muko so that we could see them and get a photo of the three of them. Judith traveled from Kisoro, Benson and Isaac from Kabale. Benson and Judith will be graduating with their degrees next year. Isaac is in his second semester. Three outstanding young people!

Evan and Sue put his “closet” together for his apartment. He got everything settled in and he will move there tomorrow. Evan says he’s happy to be back in a tropical climate, pleased at how warm everyone was and he looks forward to getting to know everyone better.

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Exciting News!!!

As of December 15, 2017, ACT Uganda will be the official administrator of Muko High School! This development has been a long time coming and many people, both in Michigan and Uganda, spent untold hours considering the issues from every angle and working out the details. The result is  a Memorandum of Understanding to which all parties have enthusiastically agreed. The new Archdeacon in Muko is very supportive of our efforts.  New staff have been hired: an excellent Head Teacher and Deputy Head Teacher, a competent Bursar, and a well-respected Director of Studies. Generous and Alexander (Guma) have well-defined roles. We will also have an American Intern, Evan Martin, on site beginning in January.

Plans for the school include both physical renovations and academic innovation. Many physical repairs are needed, from repairing floors, roof leaks, and water tanks to supplying new beds — and recycling broken beds and furniture in the construction of a boardwalk over the mud.

Academic innovations will, hopefully, include supplying books for one subject area crossing every level from S1 through S6. (If this doesn’t sound “innovative” to you, consider that in the past, teachers at Muko High School have not been allowed/encouraged to use books in the classroom at all and have presented their lessons as lectures from memory. Students currently learn by rote.)

The new term begins in February. We can hardly wait!

Top row: Muko High Administration Building, Classroom;  Bottom row: Muko High Library, Boys' Dorm & Water Tank

Tuesday, Dec 5th 9am EST

As I write this blog entry, Karen and Dave should be taking off from Kigali airport in Rwanda. They were to leave Kabale this morning with Francis Girakwayo, our recent university graduate, for Kigali, Rwanda so that Francis could visit with his sister. Their flight was to leave at 5pm. 

I have not received a blog to post for them on Monday which is not surprising. They had an incredibly full day planned with lots remaining to accomplish before they left to come back to the US. 

Please keep them in your prayers for a safe and uneventful journey home. They arrive back in Michigan at about 10am Thursday morning. Looking forward to all they have learned!

Sue Waechter

OOPS, I posted this too soon! Karen has sent another blog post:

For the blog-

The MOU is signed! Our Ugandan friends from the Diocese and Act signed the MOU on Monday evening, December 4th. The Bishop hosted us at his beautiful home where we met his lovely wife, Chris. After some tea and obushera ( a special Ugandan drink) we gathered in the dining room and enjoyed an official signing. Generous signed for ACT and the Bishop signed for the Diocese. Three of the Reverends and Dave were witnesses. Everyone is very happy about this partnership, expecting great things to happen. When we return home we will share pictures. 

Our day was spent wrapping up all activities- the training of Grace, our Bursar, on Quickbooks and final MUSIC lessons with Howard and six other young men who stayed behind after the Music camp ended. 

We took another tour of Muko HS making sure the girls dorm has adequate beds. Dave and I feel like the foundation has been laid to build a marvelous school. We will proceed slowly but surely. We welcome your interest and involvement in this exciting project. We met with Generous and Alexander about their evolving roles in ACT as we initiate work at this school. 

I am writing this from the Kigali, Rwanda airport. We find the airport beautiful and well run. There is a coffee shop where Dave ordered me a decaf cappuccino. Heaven! 

We experienced a wonderful day- saying goodbye to our dear friends at the Jopfan Hotel at 8 am. The trip to Rwanda takes about four hours, mostly due to an hour and a half at the border of Uganda and Rwanda and a slow speed limit in Rwanda which Christopher religiously followed. Francis, our sponsored orphan, traveled with us  so he could meet up with his sister. We stopped at the Hilltop Hotel where we hosted a lunch for Francis and his sister, Dafroza, whom he had not seen in about five years. Dafroza’s guardian came as well- I call her Jojo as it is the simplest form of her names! I found Jojo to be delightful. During lunch we named the baby girl she is expecting in January. It is going to be Kenna- after my granddaughter and also my father, Ken. I will never forget this! 

Francis asked us if it would be all right for him to stay behind for a couple of days to enjoy a longer time with his sister. Of course, we agreed. 

Generous, Francis, Dafroza and our wonderful driver, Christopher, said goodbye to us at the doors of the airport entrance at about 3:30 so they could return to Kabale this evening. They should arrive there about 8:30 pm if all goes well. 

So, dear friends and family,  we head for home. Our first flight is in about four hours. See you soon! Love to you all- Karen

Sunday Dec. 3 The first Sunday of Advent! 


Dave and I took the day off today- which was a wise move. We both needed some time to rest and think about all we have worked through and what we must do tomorrow before returning home. 

Dave worked on updating the needs for Muko High school and streamlining Quickbooks for our Bursar’s use. One day of Grace’s training was lost while we were here because the MUSIC students who were staying overnight at the Centre watched TV which used up a lot of solar power! (we were glad they could enjoy that activity) Plus, it has been rainy so the power takes longer to accumulate. Top that off with Dave’s effort to make some coffee and the immediate draw of power blew the system out! So Grace’s computer could not be fired up on Saturday. 

We spoke with Sue Waechter on FaceTime to be certain we are finishing everything she had in mind. One more day to wrap up our visit!

We took a walk to downtown Kabale which means trekking up and down a very steep hill, not bad going down. We visited a pharmacy and a grocery store and hoped to do a little more shopping but we noticed a rain coming in and decided to begin the trudge up the hill. Sure enough, on the way back it started to rain! Luckily it was a medium rain, not a downpour so we were wet, but not soaked.  We detoured through the golf course to avoid some trees with thousands of fruit bats. You would think they would just be sleeping during the day but they were really pretty active so we both chose an alternate route- I am sure this was completely unnecessary! 

I wanted to share some of Generous’ words for Francis last night. She complimented him on his exemplary behavior that allowed him to become our first graduate. Then she advised him to continue his good behavior in order for him to achieve continued success. She mentioned our wonderful driver, Christopher, who is so uncomplaining. Wherever we want to go, he takes us with not one word of complaint. She said,” When Moses led his  people away from Egypt they began to complain. They complained so much that God let them wander for 40 years. 
Nothing is accomplished when everyone is complaining. Let us move forward without complaint”. I was thinking how true this is- how little is done during the time of complaining. I learned from several of our Ugandan friends on this trip how they are able to move on from disputes without pressing every gripe, even letting  go when it keeps the peace. 

Sending love to you all, both in Uganda and in the USA! Our partners, shoulder to shoulder. Love Karen
 

Dec 2 2017 Rehearsals, Library Grand Opening and Graduation!


Hi to all!!We hope everyone is well! We miss you all and are beginning to think of home. 

Our day began at the Centre where I rehearsed with the orchestra and Dave went up to Muko HS to measure rooflines for gutters for saving water to tanks. With the assistance of Guma and Moses, Dave also checked over the water tanks  and assessed repairs necessary on them. They inventoried the furniture and (shockingly) discovered that there are only 12 useable bunk beds in the boys dorms. So Guma  is researching the cost of some heavy duty bunk beds. Dave had a great idea to use the wood from broken bunk beds to make deck style walks over the mud. This will help keep classrooms and feet cleaner.

Maurice called two girls in to the Centre so I could meet with them. We had expected to find students at school during this trip but when we found they had already left for the holidays, I had asked Maurice to invite a couple of girls in who had been having some difficulties. We conducted two conferences and I appreciated the wise advice Maurice gave them and the trust these children seem to have in Maurice. We are so lucky to have such a stellar staff. On this trip, I really appreciated them all so much. 

Together with the staff, we had an official opening of the library at the Muko Empowerment Centre.  A few short speeches were given and the MUSIC students performed while standing in front of the Centre. This made a beautiful closure to the camp we had conducted with them during our visit. As I waved goodbye to those wonderful students, they started playing “God Be With You Till We Meet Again”. This will be a lifetime memory for me. I love those kids and you would too. 

We met the Bishop and Rev Oscar at the Jopfan Hotel around 4 pm to sign the Memo of Understanding for Muko HS. As it turned out, however, Rev Esau had not yet returned from his Travel to Kampala ( he is a major signatory) and the MOU was not ready with logos as we had hoped so we had a lovely tea with the Bishop in the garden and enjoyed each other’s company, agreeing to meet on Monday evening to do the signing.  

We expect to meet with our new Head Teacher and Assistant Head Teacher on Monday. Rev Oscar reported that the ones we chose have both accepted the positions. I will write more about them when I feel confident that everyone has been notified, both successful and unsuccessful candidates. 

Dave, Generous and I quickly went inside the hotel to prepare for Francis Girukwayo’s graduation party. Francis is the first MukoHOPE orphan to graduate from university. We had invited the whole ACT staff and their spouses to attend. We decorated the conference room with crepe paper and balloons! The Jopfan Hotel prepared a marvelous buffet that included a delicious fish, metooke, Irish potatoes, mango, watermelon and pineapple. Josiah livened up the party by serving as a Master of Ceremonies. Generous and Tito entertained us with a song. Many speeches were given including the grand finale by Francis. What a fabulous evening! 

Our days are coming to an end. We are taking a day off tomorrow to rest and recuperate a bit. We hope to regroup , gather our thoughts, and communicate with a few people in the USA. Then on Monday we have one more day at Muko before we head for home on Tuesday. 

Sending love to you all- Karen
 

Friday, Dec. 1st Progress, progress, progress!

Our day began with a meeting with Davis, the former Director of Studies at Muko High School. He was well liked by students and faculty, in fact, everyone speaks of him as “a good man”. We met for three hours and Davis agreed to begin at once to help us plan for the upcoming school year which begins on Feb. 4, 2018. 

The teacher from Muko High School who we implicated in the beating of the student came to the office to tell us his side of the story. He  read our blog and felt upset about the exaggerated story, as he said.  We listened to his side carefully and respected his decision to come and talk to us. In hindsight, we should have checked both sides before telling everyone what our children said had happened to them. Everyone is realizing how violence against another person increases the anger, frustration, and further violence. 

I worked with the MUSIC students for several hours this afternoon. They are improving every time I visit and I am so proud of them. Howard is a good teacher and it is a blessing that he does such a good job with them.

We interviewed three more Head Teachers tonight finishing at 10:00 pm this evening.  We will soon be able to tell you the results. We are meeting with the Bishop tomorrow when we will sign the Memo of Understanding. Our Board of Governors will assume their responsibilities on Monday. 

Off to bed …..sending love- Karen

November 30,2017 Hi from Uganda!!


We hope all is well there in the USA. We are well! 

We slept only a little last night. Some of the events of the previous day kept us up and we found ourselves discussing issues at 2:30 am! Finally at 5 am we got up and called Sue Waechter to debrief. 

The morning at the ACT empowerment Centre began by finding out we had lost our candidate for Head Teacher. This disapppointment took us a few minutes to process but we regrouped and our friend ,Geoffrey, who is one of our new board members scrambled all day to come up with more candidates. He worked so hard and we are very grateful to him. We made appointments with two teachers to meet us in the evening to just chat and decide if we wanted to proceed with them in a final interview. More on this .....

I met with the Head Teacher, Tobias, of one of our primary schools. I had taken four children’s books to give him written by Jackson Kaguri, our friend who runs the Nyaka non profit in Uganda. We had a nice chat about some of the children and his plans for the school. He also gave me some interesting feedback about how he handles children who fail to pay their school fees. 

Dave asked our office professional to train our MukoHigh school bursar, Grace, in opening the computer and working with Excel. Grace and Prudance spent the whole morning together. 

Howard rehearsed all day with the string kids. They have nearly mastered a new piece! Howard described to me the flood they experienced last month. The staff members were all sitting in the office when they heard a huge rush of water. When they looked out, it surged toward them and filled the office up to about a foot. Howard said sheep and goats were floating in the surge. When he went home to check on his wife she was standing on the bed and water was everywhere in their home. Some of you know that Guma supervised the digging of a large trench around the Centre to divert water should this happen again. We could use the construction of two small bridges now and our road is no longer passable by car. 

We awarded the security fence contract and construction begins Dec 15th. We are moving forward with the lightning arresters as recommended by the government emergency coordinator. 

I showed the Cornerstone film about Jackson Kaguri’s mission to sewers who were working in the office and the string students. Everyone enjoyed seeing a film so geographically close and so similar to ACT. 

We drove back to the hotel in the late afternoon and had an hours nap before meeting the two recent Head Teacher candidates. We liked both and hope we can gather everyone for formal interviews tomorrow so we can catch up on the training and face to face contact with our new Head Teacher. Maybe tomorrow, if we are fortunate, we will announce the one!

Sending love to our family and friends! Love Karen
 

Nov. 29, 2017 Catching you all up on the happenings in Uganda!

Dear All:   

All of our previous posts have come from emails since we have had such a busy schedule with long hours every day. Posting the blog is a tricky and frustrating issue with lack of reliable internet connection here at the hotel. In spite of that, we have been really exhilarated on this trip by the affirmations we have received regarding our decision to administer Muko High School.

On Monday, Nov. 27th we met with the teachers at Muko High School. The children had all been sent home early because of the famine in Muko. Torrential rains had washed out the gardens causing a severe lack of food. Many schools were unable to feed their children. Most of the teachers had gone home to correct their papers so they came back especially for the meeting with us. They dressed up in their finest clothing for the meeting. We called forward the teacher of religious studies who had asked for the 100 Bibles and presented the Bibles to him. We will bring pictures home for you to see. Everyone was delighted! We went on to inform them about ACT’s plan to administer the school and they asked many questions. The teachers are concerned about their jobs and hope to be informed if they have a position before they leave on December 7th. Our hope is that we may be able to organize this if we have a Head Teacher to help us with that task and enough time to complete it.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28th we interviewed all day. We were prepared to begin by 10 a.m. with three Bursar interviews (they began about 11:30)  and then again at 2 p.m. (they began about 3:45) with four Head Teacher interviews. With many long delays because of transportation problems and waiting for everyone to arrive we finally finished about 7 p.m. Interviewers were Friday, Reverend Esau, Reverend Oscar, Geoffrey, and Benjamin from our new Board of Governors and also Generous, Guma, Dave and me. The interview team returned to Kabale to meet at our hotel, have dinner together, and then discuss which Head Teacher to choose. We did not finish up until about 10:30 that evening. 

We chose a Bursar from the first interviews who is the current Bursar at Muko High School. We found that her experience there would be an asset. She is very dedicated to the school and seems knowledgable and trainable. Her name is Grace.  ( I am dispensing with last names for now )

For the Head Teacher: We liked one candidate very much. However, it is not yet official as we are checking references and the Board wanted us to spend more time with him. Tomorrow we have called him in to the Act Empowerment Centre to spend a day with us talking and learning more about each other. We are hoping all of this will go well and we can announce his appointment tomorrow. Pray that all works out! 

For First Presbyterian of Battle Creek and First Presbyterian of Traverse City who donated hymnals, let me tell you that Rev. Oscar and Rev. Esau from the Diocese were very, very excited about receiving one each. I showed them how to choose a hymn based on scripture, first lines, or topics. Rev. Esau asked me to sign his as a gift from ACT. They were really happy to have them! The others we will take to Muko High School. We were only able to bring eight
hymnals this time because of their weight, however, each time we will bring more. Rev. Oscar told us that he is the pastor for a chapel, seating 600 people. 

Our driver and dear friend, Christopher, has worked very hard on this trip beginning with the long trip from Kampala to Kabale, then driving to Rwanda to pick us up in Kigali, then returning with us to Kabale. To understand this commitment, he drove from approximately 6 am to 1 am. Then, in addition, we have been spending very long days together. So tonight we made an effort to get back to the hotel by 6 p.m. so he could have some time off tonight. We were sold a tank of gas earlier this week that had been watered down and he had a little trouble with the van. He alleviated the problem by buying a new gas filter, luckily avoiding the trouble of draining a whole tank of gas. We drove over to the gas station that sold him this fuel and he rolled the window down, called over an attendant and said, “I would like to register a sincere complaint”. He said this several times and the attendant refused to accept any responsibility. I so admire Christopher as I watch him deal with people so calmly-a true gentleman who takes care of us so well with never a complaint. You know you are in trouble with Christopher when he says softly, “Wow, wow wow”. For those of you who have traveled here, you understand!!

We had a great meeting with the non-teaching staff at Muko High School this morning. Grace, our new Bursar, came in not knowing that we had chosen her. Some comment was made in the meeting about her and I guessed that in the flurry she had not yet been informed. So I leaned over and whispered, “Grace, do you know that we have selected you for our Bursar?” It was at that time that we announced her appointment to everyone and took some pictures.
She seems very excited. I am guessing that she has been working and persevering with maximum frustration and stress and I am hoping this will be a welcome relief. However, learning Quickbooks will be a challenge. She is so excited about having a computer to use, plus, we told her today that we are empowering her with more authority over the finances of the school. She has been dealing with the most difficult of situations: possible corruption, fear of losing her job if she stands up to authority, unable to finish reports due to lack of cooperation, interruptions in her work when she is expected to be a runner, etc. 

Each of the staff was asked to report ways they could be supported in their jobs. They all spoke briefly and some wrote out lists of equipment they could use. Examples: the man who cleans the pit toilets asked for boots (he was barefoot) and coveralls. Wow, Okay to that. The woman in charge of meals asked for some kitchen utensils. Okay. Easy. This is pretty surprising when we visited her living area and found a room about the size of one of our closets, 7x9 in which she and two other people sleep- two on the bed and one on the cement floor. Chrispus, our electrician (he seems really cool) asked for electrical tape and a piano for their chapel. We have a whole list of things like this.

Then in the afternoon….Howard had asked 30 students to come in for a few days for MUSIC. About 20 or so showed up and we practiced all afternoon on our back porch. When a brief storm blew in, we went inside the Centre to the back room and Big Dad (Dave) brought in sodas. I gathered them around and we talked for over an hour. I started by asking them to pretend they were the Head Teacher and tell me what they would do to improve Muko High School. They asked for the following menu: Mon, Tues., Thurs., Fri. Sat. they agreed to their usual fare which is posho (corn meal mush) with cabbage and beans. On Weds. they asked for ground nuts and rice and on Sunday they asked for meat and rice. One major thing they asked for that should not have surprised me was their top priority for a decent chapel. WOW  I have many notes about all they requested, most of which are “givens” in our high schools, like a school bus, the ability to do competitions and sporting events with other schools, jerseys for their football team (soccer), a soccer field, a good science teacher, a science lab, etc. I learned a few shocking things: Our boys dorm is overcrowded. The boys are sleeping two or three in a bed, some on the floor. The beds are wooden and old and sometimes break in the night, falling on the people below injuring all concerned. The previous DOS (Director of Studies) beat students with an electrical wire. One boy was in the hospital for three days. Our Oscar said he had been beaten by this man with the wire because he was sleeping when he was supposed to be up and around. The man came into the dorm swinging the wire and whipping everyone there. The students and I had a long talk about the RIGHTS OF CHILDREN in Uganda and how this is AGAINST THE LAW. We continued our conversation about what sort of discipline is appropriate and how they would discipline their child or expect their own child to be disciplined at school.

After this, we also talked about school fees and how children are “chased” out of school for lack of money. They told me that children preparing to take exams are accosted in school and sent out on the road, even near the end of a term. Some of the children may live very far away. They are expected to go home and get the money from their parents. I asked them what they thought would be reasonable and our dear Rogers said he felt the parents should be contacted for the money, not the child. We are determined to do better for these kids. After all of this, I called Josiah in and asked him to hear the stories of the students about the beatings. He did not know about the situations of the beatings but knew which teacher had been acting as the DOS so if further investigation proves these stories true we are determined not to include him in our list of employed teachers. 

After spending this time with the children, I more fully realized the immensity of this job of running Muko High School responsibly. I continue to trust God to help us find a way. I know how generous our friends are in the US but it is hard not to wish for a lottery win so that we can just go up there and build dorms for the boys, living facilities for the teachers, showers, and chapel. I heard Dave tell Generous today “I wish I could just win the lottery”. Go slow to go fast we say….Let us work together to make this right.  

We are thinking of home but I am enjoying my continued days in flip flops! It is cool in the morning and at night but is like our most beautiful summer days in the afternoon. More tomorrow!

Love you all!

Karen

A report on the Muko High School Facility

We went up to MHS today and had a good meeting with non-teaching staff.  We discussed what would make their job better, and improve the quality of the school.  It was interesting that they discussed mainly small things, like new pots for cooking, hand tools, spoons for eating with, cups, cleaning supplies,  mainly little things.  Karen and I did a tour of the place, and as we know there is a great need, but small things like identified would do a lot for staff morale. 

 

We toured the staff housing, when we hear about the floods in the housing, in actuality the building were destroyed, literally knocked off their foundations and flattened.    So staff had to move.  We toured a room measuring 7x9 housing 4 persons, two to a bed. 

 

On the bright side there is a lot of area for planting gardens, using HANDS and the agriculture classes to raise foods, to use in student feeding.  

 

Karen and I are meeting with Kambaza Gerald  (the selected Head Master) tomorrow to begin our discussions, we were given permission by the BoG to do this while the Bishop contacts the Chairman about Geralds resignation from his government position.  

 

It has become very clear that this school has been run very poorly for the last three Head Masters, and allowed to go down hill.  We will have much to discuss when we return, and will keep emailing you while we are here. 

A Successful Day and a Strong Partnership

Dear All- sending a long message from Uganda. There is not a strong enough signal to do a blog tonight. (Sue is posting this for Karen)
First, our Travel was smooth. The flight to London Rwanda made sense. Their airport is beautiful. We had a problem with parking and it took almost an hour to straighten out plus the border of Rwanda and Uganda took some time so by the time we arrived at the hotel it was after 1 am. Travel time was a total of 36 hours if you count the parking delay, layovers, etc. I guess we are growing accustomed to the trip because we managed well and did well. I think I watched five movies- so let’s have a conversation sometime about some good ones!
After only five hours sleep we were picked up by Christopher and Generous and went to a church service(Church of Uganda) that lasted four hours. This is a real endurance test because it is not in English. The Bishop was making his yearly visit there. We were invited for lunch afterwards- a lovely traditional African feast. Then another man who was a professor wanted us to see his property which was one of the most beautiful Ugandan homes I have ever seen. He had a unique story of being exiled by Idi Amin and how he was invited back to the country by Museveni. We stayed a few minutes only and the Bishop prayed over the graves of his parents. Interesting experience. 
When we climbed into the van after this Generous said “ The Diocese office is working on the applications for headmaster. They want to be involved. They are waiting for us there- do you want to go over?” Mind you, Dave had just told me he was too tired to take another step. However, he enthusiastically said “absolutely!” So off we went....to an impressive meeting. They had narrowed 72 applicants down to four using a criterion of eight excellent points. We all agreed with their system and then continued by planning the interviews and our time together this week. It was such a good meeting. Rev Esau started the meeting by asking Ilya to cross our arms and hold each other’s hands at the level of our hearts. This was to show our unity. I have pictures of this. Incredible. 
For Dick and Sue- interviews were changed to Tuesday, not Weds, at 6 am your time. I hoe this change will work. You would not believe the difference in attitude from these people as compared to board we met last summer. These guys are serious, intense, cooperative, engaging- great. 
After the meeting we went to the Bishops residence for dinner. We had another delicious African feast. Before dinner the Bishop talked to us at some length- he asked Generous, Dave and me all to speak. It was a lovely touching meeting where we bonded. The Bishop said he felt something special on the road when he met us last summer and had felt good about this partnership ever since. We did not sign the MOU because the Bishop wanted the logos to be ACT on one side and COU in the other side. Otherwise, we agreed on everything. We made an appointment to meet on Saturday to make this change and do the signing. 
We were all walking on cloud nine after the dinner meeting. Generous underlined to me later that she has such respect for the Bishop - he is down to earth and encouraged us to tell him if there is any misunderstanding or problem before it gets into a situation. I asked him for a blessing and he gave us a beautiful prayer. 
Also, the Bishop said he would appoint his two Board members tonight so they could attend our training on Monday.
If you are following our travel itinerary, it has changed quite a bit already. Most of the items are just shuffled around EXCEPT the students were sent home early for holiday breaks because there is famine in Muko Sub County. The huge rains washed away the gardens and there is such a shortage of food that many schools could not feed their kids. The only children at school are the ones testing- I think it is Senior 6 students. This seriously affects our planning with kids and MUSIC. 
Tomorrow we will go out to see the staff in the morning, I may get a chance to have a lesson with Howard and at 2 pm a staff member from the Bishops office is going to help us have a meeting with the Muko HS teachers where the COU will finish their business with the teachers and they will officially hand over the controls to us. They had asked the teachers to apply for a job next year and they wanted to let them know what is happening themselves before we move forward. We will tell the teachers that most of them will be retained- the Head teacher will figure out (with Dave’s help) a schedule of staffing that will help us determine who is needed and not needed, covering all subjects and then the teachers will be evaluated throughout the year for the next year. 
Actually there is more to say. However, enough for now! We will try the blog again tomorrow. Sending love to you all- Karen