Machines, machines and human machines!
Another hot beautiful day in Uganda! We started our day with a tour of the rest of the IN projects, beginning with Hope Technical School. We started with the Tailoring department with Instructor Fred as our tour guide. The class holds 50 students, with the Level 1 one year program costing $106 US. We saw students working on Singer peddle sewing machines, and one making a sweater on a knitting machine. Next on our list was the Hairdressing department. Here they were working on hair extensions….tempting! They have sleeping quarters for 15 female students at the back of the room. The motor vehicle repair training center was next, where we saw 7 men and 1 woman in a classroom learning about light and heavy trucks.
We then moved on to Buikwe Senior Secondary School. The average age of the children here are 15-19, the equivalent of our high schools. The Head Master Paul had been taken in and raised by Justus (the head of IN Uganda) as his adopted son. We discussed significant details of funding requirements and student enrollments. We discussed the success of the school in general, and noted an article in a local newspaper of several of their students winning academic awards. We then viewed the trees planted by the money donated by the Crossroads Kids. From there we moved on to the science lab which was funded by Crossroads Church and commissioned by Pastor Dan in Nov. 2013. Due to the fact that many of the chemicals had expired, the lab is not being fully utilized. We were told that roughly 40% of chemistry curriculum can be taught without chemicals. From there we moved on to the computer room, where the ratio is 110 students to 1 computer.
In both schools we visited today the students were taking exams and we continue to lift them up as they take these important steps for their future.
After our tour around the schools we had yet another tasty lunch made from the loving hands of Irene and then prepared for an outing to visit the Mawotto Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA).
Wow, what an amazing outing we had!!! The point of our visit was to witness the giving out of their savings and shares which have been accumulating over the past 12 months. We arrived to a group of women who greeted us with dancing and singing, each wearing a white t-shirt with the CHAP (Community HIV/AIDS Program) and CrossRoads logos as well as the name of their savings group.On one side was a tent covering around 50 guests who representing family and friends that had also been invited to the great occasion. We were seated on the ‘stage’ which was the front porch of the home we were at. The event had already begun without us with the national anthem and an opening prayer. When we got there the even continued with a few speeches and then we had a chance to ask questions and understand the process of the savings group and how they run. We heard about their policies and group constitution, how they each are expected to save and bring 2000 shillings (approx. 70 cents) each week and then based on savings accumulated they are able to give out loans. We heard some success stories and challenges and then the fun began.
One by one the ladies in the group were to come up to the front where they were met by a secret friend (one of the ladies in the group) as well as any friends and family that had come to celebrate with them. Each of them came bearing gifts. What was extraordinary about this ceremony was how the ladies and all that were up front transacted the gifts. Instead of simply shaking hands and handing over the gift, they literally danced all the way to the ‘stage’ area and then continued to dance around each other, taunting each other with the gifts. It would take multiple minutes to get the gift. The movement in their bodies and the expressions on their faces were simply so entertaining. We were laughing so much our cheeks hurt by the end of the ceremony.
After each of the ladies had received their gifts they invited us to come and share a word. Tracy went and shared on behalf of the group a word of encouragement and then we started introducing each of us. Adam took the show to a different level when he reciprocated what the ladies had done by offering a dance of his own (you must see the video!)- as Bill says, ‘he freed himself up to make extraordinary moves’ and was joined by Tracy. He had everyone laughing and fully engaged which truly broke the ice for us as the visitors. One by one we introduced ourselves by telling about our families and how many times we had been in Uganda, etc.
Next it was time for them to receive their money, the main point of the whole day. Bill was asked to be the one who honored them and handed out the envelopes. He took the opportunity as well to dance and have fun with the ladies. This time together was so much fun and so special. It is pretty common when we come to places like this that we connect and play with the children. However, it is rare that we as visitors are able to really connect with adults in such a free and playful way. What a special time to experience together!
The afternoon finished with a meal where we were privileged to serve each of the guests as they had monumental piles of food on their plates consisting of matoke (steamed green bananas), rice, goat meat and peanut sauce. We then said our goodbyes and then loaded into the van and offered our final interaction by yelling out of the van in the African way (ululation) which made them all laugh one more time.
It was a great day!