Winston Churchill called it the Pearl of Africa. All we know is that the people of Uganda have been occupying our minds and hearts for months now, and we are beyond excited to live with them and serve them for 9 weeks this summer! If you want to be a part of what we're doing, you're in the right place.


We Can Combart Illitracy

(The main wall at Crane School. Maybe some problems aren't so hard to spot.)
I have never truly appreciated how difficult it is to be a teacher. This past week we began our work at different schools throughout Mukono. One of the schools we work with a few times a week is Crane Preparatory, a needy school that houses many orphans year round. There are no words to describe Crane. Oh wait. There are three words that describe it with absolute perfection: gird your loins. Our group of volunteers has taken to reciting this as we walk onto the grounds of the school, because Crane is about a handful and a half.
On our first day at Crane, we had five volunteers for around 500 students (some of our volunteers, including Jessica, were on the opposite end of the country. More on that later). Not stressful or anything, right? These 500 students are crammed into the tiniest dilapidated brick buildings with dirt floors and rickety wooden benches for desks and seats. The walls are covered in dirt, doodles from past children, and charcoal stains. The “wall” between the classrooms is more like a wooden screen with gaping holes in it where all the noises from surrounding classrooms filter in. Witnessing such a chaotic and cluttered learning environment was difficult to handle. The fee to attend Crane Preparatory is around 10 U.S. dollars, and some families cannot even afford that. All my life I have seen poverty stricken people shown on the news and depicted in movies, but until I came to Uganda I never realized how absolutely real it is. I just want to take all of these kids and give them all the opportunities that they deserve, but the best that I can do is show them that they are loved and hopefully teach them a few life skills along the way. Learning that I can’t change everything is the hardest lesson I’ve had to learn here. 
I was put into the P.7 class, which is the equivalent of 5th-6th grade in the United States. As I said before, I’ve never truly appreciated how difficult it is to be a teacher. Granted, it was never my goal to be a teacher, but due to communication barriers, the teachers at Crane assumed that we would be teaching the classes for them. Another volunteer and I ended up with chalk in hand in front of 105 students waiting for us to teach them. No big deal. After a morning of teaching English and Math to the students of Crane, we finally tracked down the teacher and explained that we are not here to take over their classrooms, but that we want to establish a tutoring program for the students that are struggling in their studies. 
Once class gets out in the afternoon, we lead the extracurricular programs with the students, hence the girding of the loins. The headmaster put us in his office while he divided up all of the children into the three groups: music/dance, sports, and reading. As we sat there we could hear the crowd of kids roar, and that’s when we knew the next two hours were going to be insane. Another girl in our group, Kaile, described the scenario with absolute brilliance when she said, “You know that part in Mulan when the Huns come riding down the snowy mountain, and you see how many soldiers there really are? That’s what Crane is like.” So true. One by one, the headmaster led us out of the office to meet our group of around a hundred excited and enthusiastic students. I was called out to help with soccer, and as I walked up with the headmaster, he said to the students, “Is that how you greet your teacher?” And then they stormed me. I was literally ambushed and body slammed by fifty rushing preteens. It was out of control. Later, I was recruited to assist in the reading groups because we were so outnumbered. After leading the kids in games and songs for the next few hours, we went home absolutely exhausted. That first day in Crane was even more tiring than building an adobe stove in the hot sun. We have now divided the school into more reasonably sized groups for the extracurricular activities, so things are going much more smoothly now. Yesterday, Jessica and I played netball with a big group of P.7 girls that supremely dominated us. It is so much fun to run around with these kids whether we are teaching them funny American games and songs or running soccer drills with them. Despite the girding of the loins and the craziness that ensues when a bunch of Muzungus enter a school, the looks of absolute happiness and delight on the children’s faces are so worth it. 

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