Dear ALL: Thank you to all who sent encouraging messages to us during our trip. We are all safely home and making an effort to readjust after 40 hours of travel. We had a great trip and look forward to sharing with you as much as you are able to hear!
We spent another long day in Muko.
Diana helped so much by helping to pack and inventory suitcases with handcrafts and clearing up a few last minute MukoHOPE issues like our letter writing log and revising the gift buying catalog. We will bring this to the next MukoHOPE meeting.
Roger found some scrap pieces of wood and constructed a place in the safe room for hanging music vests. It will be so helpful to Howard for keeping them organized. It is really quite inventive and I am really grateful! Roger also spent time with Moses and Will and the HANDS program.
Dave spent the whole day at Muko HS. He is now within one hour of balancing the August accounts with Grace and feels very hopeful about the next few months. Grace has done many repetitive transactions within Quickbooks and Dave feels that the future is bright! The school even finished August in the Black by using the government funds received. Now the challenge is finishing the year the same way!
Rev Esau ( Chair of the Board of Governors or school board) came to the school to lead a meeting with Sam, Generous, Guma, Dave and Archdeacon David. The meeting went very well and everyone came out in good spirits and much hope for the future.
Dave and I spoke to the student body in an assembly today. We talked about the future, about tightening up discipline, about vandalism, and emphasizing education in the next year. We recognized the National Math Contest scholars, the Prefects, the Honors Council members, and the Music students. After the meeting, Sam and Godfrey ( our Head teacher and Deputy) called in seven boys one by one who were the most difficult discipline problems at the school and we talked to each one giving them one more chance to remain at the school. We are all praying that they will “wake up” and choose good paths. If not, and there is another incident, we have agreed with Sam and Godfrey to dismiss them.
Sam also disciplined three girls who refused to cut their hair. The student code of conduct requires short, literally shaved heads so we supported his policy, even though we were wishing they would give them that choice. Rev Esau shared with us that this had happened with one of his daughters as well. Rev Esau has ten children with three sets of twins so he understands these things!
I had a rehearsal from 5-6:30 with the MUSIC students. Today they learned about the role of the concert master and it occurred to me that their audiences might not know the protocol! Still, we selected a concertmaster and they sight read two new pieces.
The team is ready to wrap everything up and pack up tomorrow night.
This morning Diana, Generous, Maurice, and Josiah joined me at Uganda Martyrs where we met with 29 children. This school seems extremely well disciplined. For example, we gave the children some papers to fill out and they did not begin writing until we invited them to begin. Since we weren’t aware of this necessity, they sat there for a few minutes while we scratched our heads trying to figure out why they weren’t writing! The Reverend Sisters made us breakfast and lunch, very extensive and good. Father John came to be with us and we always love his company. This school is in desperate need of water tanks. The children all ( nearly 500 of them)all take a pail to the creek to draw water for washing and bathing twice a day. To see this is unbelievable! We had the opportunity at all of our three schools to see the children receive their school supplies. I think every sponsor would be happy to see all that they receive.
After our visit at Uganda Martyrs we returned to the Centre for a meeting including Diana, Maurice, Generous, and Josiah regarding the gift buying program. I have some notes to share with Muko HOPE that I think will be helpful to everyone. We talked about our children acting entitled and we learned that the more they must struggle, the more responsible they become. A good lesson for us, I think. Norman, the director for our other primary, Murole, came by as we had asked for him to be involved in the review of the deaths of two of our orphans this summer. We had a good conversation about the circumstances of their illnesses and deaths that I will share with the team when we return.
Following these meetings, I met the MUSIC students at MukoHS for a 5 pm class. This was actually only the second time I was able to be with them. We had a good rehearsal. I am very pleased with all that they are doing and also try to add important information each visit, critical to their growth. I have found the bows in very serious need of cleaning. We also expect to bring about seven back to the USA for minor repairs that cannot be accomplished here. Diana accompanied me to the class so she could watch her orphan play violin. Afterwards, we met up with Dave who had spent the entire day working with Grace on the books. He was so happy to report that they reconciled July. The next goal is reconciling to the bank and moving ahead to the next months.
Roger, Will, and Moses went to the MTRC (or is it MRTC?) a mushroom facility. I know they had a good day but am not sure about all that happened.
I am engaging Roger in a project to reorganize the safe room at the Centre so we can design a small area to hang our MUSIC vests. So they all returned to the Centre to look at some various projects to finish.
We are double checking our lists to be sure we have done everything or at least put it on the schedule for the next two days before we leave.
Dave spent most of his time today with Grace, our school treasurer. He is teaching her Quickbooks. This will allow our accounts to be reconciled between USA and Uganda and we will understand our high school finances. Dave then went to the office and audited three of our program accounts.
Roger spent his day traveling around looking at land resources for school nutrition. The Diocese has land to sell to pay outstanding debt from the school (last year). Our driver, Christopher, went up and down the hill many times today, more than earning his salary. Roger talked with Moses about profit and loss and did a review of the hand tools. Moses, Will, and Roger walked to the Uganda Coffee Development Authority and counted 500,000 plants, close to being ready for distribution.
Diana spent the morning packing one suitcase with baskets and mobiles for our return. She organized sewing notions as well. In the afternoon Diana helped Karen meet the Senior 1,2,and 3 children ( approximately grades 8-9-10). Diana was happy to greet her orphan, Precious, and also made a wonderful video with her. Our friend Lydia Komugisha arrived in the late afternoon to learn how to make Days for Girls packets so Diana went back to the Centre to train her and a few girls she brought along.
Karen spent the morning working with Howard to inventory instruments and clean bow hair. We had encouraged Howard and his wife to take their baby boy ( two months) to the clinic for a checkup. Being new parents, they are nervous about his weight and health. So he left at noon to go up to the clinic. In addition to meeting the Senior kids, we made two additional videos with Agnes Akampurira- we are all excited about the videos we made today. I consulted with Maurice about two of our MukoHOPE children who are struggling with illness. We helped Josiah and Maurice give out school supplies to the children at Muko HS. Today they received 7 pens, 2 pencils, 4 composition books, 2 rolls of toilet paper, laundry soap, a pair of socks, shoe polish and a couple of other items. Wow! How well our sponsors and staff care for our children!
Today three Boards met together! The ACT Uganda Board, the school board (board of governors), and three members of the ACT Michigan Board. The meeting, all about the school, went well and we took notes. It was good to meet up with dear Reverends, friends and acquaintances.
We had “tea” in the morning with delicious egg sandwiches, bananas and tea, and a buffet type lunch after the meeting so everyone finally left after 3:30 pm.
The team had hoped to walk down to Kabale to shop for some items we wanted for the last few days. However, just as the board members left a cold rain changed our plans. So we were forced to relax until about 5:00 when we finally made the trek down the big hill. Diana purchased some interesting items for her Trivia Night basket and we had a drink at the Barista. Power had been out nearly all day so they had nothing cold. However, we saw our sweet waiter with a plastic bag leave the store for the supermarket next door… we later figured out that he wrapped up some warm beers and traded them for some colder ones there! Initiative!
We are energizing ourselves for two more intense days and then one more final day wrapping everything up. We will soon be back in the USA!
We had a chance to sleep in until 8 am today. We met with the Bishop at 10 am — the meeting went very well and we left, as always, feeling like we are truly in a partnership here. The Bishop really cares about what we are doing together and gives us good advice. We talked about how to provide housing for our teachers at Muko HS and we have some ideas about some ways we may proceed. The Bishop also talked to us about setting some academic goals and measuring our success. I reassured him that our director, Sue, keeps us strategically planning.
After the meeting we tried to get out to the Centre as soon as possible since everyone had things to do.
Dave helped Generous prepare the information for the Blessed Sacrament grant and then traveled up to Muko HS to collect information for the presentation to the Midland Noon Rotary this Thursday. He also took photos of the dire conditions of staff housing so that we can look for a possible grant. He also worked with Grace, briefly reviewing the intake of school fees as students were arriving for the first day today.
Diana worked with two of our best sewers, Penlope and Phoebe, who were thrilled with making scrappy placemats. Diana videotaped a celebration of their achievement with a vocal rendition of a Russian Cossack dance which we all enjoyed. Generous liked the placemats so much she wants to buy them when a set of four are completed.
Karen spent the afternoon with Howard inventorying the fifteen instruments just received. We also inventoried the vests sewn for the musicians to see what has been sustainable.
We have been engaging Roger in some engineering projects like devising a way to hang the MUSIC vests and also hang some curtains that seem to have disappeared since Diana donated them! He was unable to do some of his other planned activities because our Peace Corps Volunteer was still quite sick with food poisoning. I am happy to report that tonight he was able to eat some food for the first time in two days and we were able to fortify him with some M&Ms!
Yesterday Diana and I visited with our Murole children. They are well and seem happy. I took many pictures. We also had a nice visit with Norman, our Murole Prep School Director
Dave spent the day working on finances. He is trying to get the fees owed the school figured out so that ne and Sam, working together, can set necessary standards on this complicated issue.
Roger visited Daniel’s land and saw the improvements made there.
This morning we go to a church service during which Rev Esau will be installed as Arch Deacon. It is a big day for him!
Later in the day:
We had a fabulous day here. Our ACT Board Chair, Rev Esau, was promoted to Arch Deacon. You would not believe the fabulous event! We estimated 2000 people attended the event (minimum) and all were fed! The worship service continued for four hours. At least one hour was all about Rev Esau. We have pictures and even videos to share.
Lydia Kyomugisha, our former board chair came to the event and we so enjoyed seeing her again. Lydia is doing a mission in Kabale for pregnant girls that I got VERY excited about and we are going to investigate partnering. Diana plans to teach Lydia how to make Days for Girls pads and double the mission!
The team sat around and talked most of the evening. Sue FaceTimed in and we caught her up with our activities.
Wow! Did we have a busy day!
Roger now knows more about coffee than he ever thought he wanted to know. He is excited about a possible cash crop for the Muko community with government support. He spent this day of new ideas and learning with Will (our Peace Corps volunteer), Moses, and the ag teacher at Muko HS , Bowen.
The rest of the team spent the morning at Muko High School meeting with teachers and administrators. Each staff member presented their idea for what would most help them in the classroom.
In the afternoon Diana met with the sewers. She showed the 7 women four new patterns from start to finish and left examples and a variety of sewing notions with them.
Dave and Karen met with school administrators, teachers, Honor Council, ACT orphans from Senior 4 and Senior 5, plus Dave did a tour of the school and took many pictures. Our school has improved in so many ways:
1) There is safe drinking and washing water.
2) Floors are refinished except for two main buildings.
3) Cleanliness and order are exhibited everywhere.
4) Animals have been banished from main compound and grass is neatly mowed.
5) New land purchase has been cultivated for food crops for the school.
6) The Ag club has an impressive mushroom production- 25 gardens which is
like a garbage bag in size. It is said that the teachers will buy the first crop.
7) The water tank given by the district has been completed.
What do we want to improve?
1) Many teachers asked for textbooks.
2) Many simple teaching aids were requested:
protractors, compasses, (including a giant protractor and compass for demonstrating on the board), maps, a globe, paint and crayons for art class plus a book of pictures for drawing, lesson plan books, volt meter, microscopes and science tables, dictionary for Swahili/English
3) internet and computers
6) scholarships for needy students
We really believe we need to raise teachers’ salaries. They are severely underpaid according to teachers in government schools and even nearby schools. We learned today that Muko High School was the only high school in the Rubanda district that did not have a “strike” in second term. A strike means unrest, violent outburst or riot. At St Charles high school (our rival school) a student died in their strike.
Before driving out to the Village we stopped in Kabale for fabric to bring home and also for our village sewers. Diana found some lovely material and both sets of ladies can look forward to sewing on it!
We had a good day of greeting our staff - always wonderful to see them again. We spent the morning reviewing our itinerary, making small additions and changes. After the meeting Guma ordered some food from Doreen ( Doreen’s Hangover Clinic is the name of her little restaurant).
Karen and Howard headed up to Muko H S to participate in the last day of the MUSIC camp. The MUSIC students are doing well. We worked at some length on a piece called Sonata Vivant.
Dave, Karen, Guma and Generous met for a couple of hours this afternoon, covering many issues to try and settle over the next few days. It promises to be challenging and interesting.
Roger spent most of the day with our Peace Corps Volunteer, Will. We all liked Will - he is charming and appears willing to be very involved. The HANDS team met and Roger talked over many issues with our team here. He will have much to discuss with HANDS USA including the suggestion to make a red beet wine! Apparently some villagers have discovered this interesting use for red beets.
Sue Waechter Skyped in about 4 pm our time - Generous and Guma were glad to meet Margie Phillips and Janis Van Hala who were at Sue’s. We agreed to Skype with Sue on Saturday with the staff as we all work together on a grant request.
We arrived in Kabale today after 81/2 hours of driving. We heard stories that the trip could be made in six hours, however, we think MANY speed bumps have been added, so our progress was slow. But as always, our fabulous driver, Christopher, did a great job of keeping us safe.
We are preparing for the next days work. Last evening we listened to a really good proposal from Rev Jared, Generous’ pastor who works part time for a company that offers workshops for the parents of schools to train them in working with their children. They work with issues like behavior, self esteem, support of the child, and many others in a three day workshop. Dave estimates the cost of such a workshop might run$1000-1500. The encouraging thing about it is that many parent and guardian issues would be addressed right here.
Generous’ son, Jesse, demonstrated a computer programming project he is working on which would possibly program a bell to ring between classes at Muko HS and also control lighting. Jesse is doing advanced work at his boarding school at the Senior level, as a ninth grader this year.
Dave met with Fredrick and cleared up a misunderstanding about the bid we have been waiting for about solar lighting for Muko HS. Dave expects to have the bid by Thursday this week.
We had a fabulous 1st day. We like the Apricot Hotel. We are trying a different hotel in Kampala recommended by Generous and it is roomy, clean, and comfortable. We had a good breakfast and a hot shower, very welcome after the long flights.
Generous, Diana, and I went to Kyambogo university and met with the head of the music department and some music students. I had a wonderful time with the students, of course! I have some ideas for partnership with them. They are sending Generous a syllabus of what is required to pass music in high school and that will be very helpful to us. Their violin had no d string but a student played a simple melody on the a and e. I am sending them a string I have at the hotel. I hope to have some other resources to send with the February team. I now understand what would be helpful to the students there. They are hoping some of our music students might attend the university.
After lunch we met with Richard and James from the Peace Corps at the US Embassy. We were sort of connected to the US Embassy but in an adjacent building. Richard was one of the ones who traveled to Muko to prepare for our Peace Corps volunteer. James Ham is the director for the whole country - Peace Corps - and has a lot of experience in the Navy and volunteering all over Africa. He was warm and interested in ACT, very affirming.
Later this afternoon Dave will meet with Fredrick about the solar power estimate for the high school. Afterwards, Generous’s son , Jesse, will give us a demonstration of a high school science project he has worked on at the Senior level ( he is finishing his 9th grade year at present). I believe it has something to do with electricity and saving power.
We will be off to Kabale tomorrow ( an all day trip in the van).
Dear Friends of ACT – We have another mission team heading to Muko Sub-County on September 9, returning on September 24. As always, your prayers are welcomed and encouraged – for a safe and productive trip. The team is small (four people) but the mission is BIG!
All four individuals have been to the villages before and they are looking forward to again working with our ACT Uganda brothers and sisters in Muko. While all four will be involved at some level in all activities during the trip, they will each be specifically working on the following items:
Karen Viele – Karen is the Leader of the MukoHOPE Team (orphan program), the MUSIC Team (youth orchestra) and is also on the TEACH team (administration of Muko High School). During this trip, Karen will focus on MUSIC classes, fact-finding for the TEACH team as they plan to prepare training during a trip next February, and also be meeting with all 140 MukoHOPE Orphans.
Dave Viele – Dave is our finance guy as well as leader of the TEACH team. Dave’s focus will be working with the accounting team at Muko High School to clarify bookkeeping procedures, and fact-finding for the TEACH team in preparation for the upcoming February mission trip.
Diana Stubig – Diana is on our MEP team (handcrafts) and leads the sewing program on both sides of the ocean. Diana’s focus will be sewing training for the women in Muko who create the beautiful sewn items that we sell here in the U.S.
Roger Moll – Roger is on our HANDS team (agriculture). Roger will be working in the field with the HANDS team in Muko and meeting with our Peace Corps volunteer, Will Buckner. Will came to our villages last month and his focus for the next two years will be agriculture in the villages of Muko Sub-County. He is 25 years old and from Austin, Texas. ACT is extremely excited about this new adventure and will be sharing his experience with you over the next two years. Below is a photo of Will (on the left) with Alexander Gumoshabe, ACT Manager (in the middle) and Moses Tukamushaba, our HANDS agricultural leader (on the right). They are standing in front of the ACT Empowerment Center in Muko.
Members of the Mission Team will be at our upcoming ACTion for Education Trivia Night* and will be sharing information about this trip during that evening.
Many thanks for your prayers, interest and support of the important ministry of ACT Uganda!
Hope to see you in Bay City!
You can now purchase ACT Uganda handcrafts at
25323 Plymouth Road
Monday - Saturday
10:00 am - 8:00 pm
11:00 am - 6:00 pm
We're continuing to attract a lot of positive attention. As more and more students enroll for not only Senior 5 but the other levels as, it's hard not to sense a feeling of positivity on the campus, like birds returning to the Lonely Mountain after the reign of Smaug. On a recent day at the school I had several teachers as well as Godfrey thank me for all that ACT has done for the school. This is no irregularity either, it is a common occurrence. I've also received word that the teachers are enjoying writing their first midterm exams as well, after learning how to use the computer to make it easier on them. We were able to get into all of the computers now as well, and have reestablished accounts that the Administration can access, Teachers can access, and Students can access so the teachers no longer have to worry about losing their information. The football team has also attracted some positive attention and have already received two proposed friendlies and a third to be on its way. Both boys and girls are going to do a fantastic job representing their school and will be a great attraction for future students.
There is still a lot of work to be done of course. Construction is nearly complete with a few things that will need some extra attention such as drain pipes, trenches, and some attention to fine details in the concrete. The television has yet to be mounted for the students, but the cage is on its way. There is a lot of rubble laying around still that would be best cleared. And the student count is still shy of the 350 mark we would all love to see. I have complete confidence in the school administration to complete these tasks.
Outside the school all other programs are moving great. Josiah and Maurice were happy to hear that all the orphans had been adopted and a new group is nearly completed for further consideration. Prudence and I have begun the logistical planning for a tourist kiosk and have some places we will be traveling soon. Benson continues to trace Rauban's and is doing a great job following up on past villages to see out the work. And Moses and Herbert wait in anticipation to see how the next crop of mushrooms are going to come out with a new technique. Everyone who has attended a training recently has returned to the staff with great energy and full of new ideas.
As for me, I continue to feel pampered by everyone in the ACT organization. With a new television installed just yesterday I was able to watch my first football match from the comfort of the ACT center, although it turned out to be a boring goal fest for one side. I've learned how to cook many new dishes, some of which I will still have access to the ingredients back home. I continue to hear plans of installing a water heater for a shower, which I implore you not to do if it is only for my sake. The water I have is plenty fine and the money could go to better causes in a great many other places. Still I am thankful and happy to be thought of and appreciated.
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.
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.
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.