Monday, July 9, 2007

From April Murdock

Ask me how you can help eliminate poverty in Uganda this summer!

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do,

or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now.

Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Unknown

I have been filled with so much love lately for my kids at The Crane School, and when I contemplated leaving them in a few months I was filled with so much sadness. They are such a delightful bunch! I love their questions for me about the U.S., like what we eat, what we grow, what education is like, politics, geography, etc. Fridays are debate days, and while the class of 170 students were picking up the rubbish from the red-dirt floor, I decided to have them debate about waste removal. Most people in Uganda burn their trash, taking out the semi-edibles for pigs and such. Wealthy people in Kampala who pay for trash removal may not see their community landfills, but we all reap the effects of burning plastic and everything else. So the debate motion was "burning rubbish is the best way to remove waste." And these young ones get into it when they debate! We talked about recycling, which was a new concept for them. Afterward, we reviewed letter-writing and I asked them to write a letter over the weekend to Bill Gates or the Mukono town mayor, requesting they build a recycling facility in Mukono. These kids don't really have homework or grades (they advance in school by passing the national exams each year), but I figured if even a few of them wrote letters, they would be more committed to take care of trash differently. Monday several of them turned in the letters, and they are precious. I love my kids! I told them that I will really mail their letters ¾imagine if a classroom of 12-15-year-olds get a visit from their mayor, President Museveni or the richest man in the world to see what this is all about and actually do something!

We finished The Wizard of Oz and started reading Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle's Magic in Crane's P7 literature class. A lot of the vocab is difficult, but they enjoy the story and I think she's a great example of loving adult leadership. Many of them don't get enough of that. I hope they grow up to be responsive parents and citizens. In lit class today I was alone for two hours with about 160 students, which was a little challenge (there are usually 2-3 teachers in our class and we split it in half). I started reading a short book to them about Native Americans and my students are fascinated, though it took forever to show them the pictures and repeat everything as I walked around the room because the acoustics are horrible and the class next to us makes noise too.

I've started teaching keyboard lessons at the church twice a week. There is a lot of interest there and I've never taught music but I enjoy it! Two weeks ago I started teaching two English classes to non-students; one in the morning across the street at the Vulnerable Children Care and Development Programme for teens who've dropped out of school, and the other in the evenings for a women's group that makes and sells handicrafts. The class at Vulnerable Children is actually terminated now because of some misunderstandings/complications with the director, but I'll go back to Crane's or find another project. The kids are great and I was excited to see them progress. One of the girls, 15 years old, is from Soroti (a district east of Gulu) and recently escaped the LRA where she was abducted into Sudan 3 years ago. Her family moved here 8 months ago and her father preaches the word of God in Kenya. She invited us to her house on the 15th and we had a lovely time with her step-mom and sisters. We taught them to sing a couple of songs while we waited for a torrential downpour to let up. During our two-hour bus ride up to Iganga this past weekend to work at an orphanage there, I played "It's a Small World" by sitting in front of Esther and Sarah's father. He was on his way to Kenya to preach. We had a good conversation and he told me all about Esther's experience in the bush. Remarkable people, they are. I'll send you more details of their story if you're interested.

The orphanage in Iganga was pretty great. The directors, Ruth and Richard, are single adult siblings who are carrying on their deceased mother's legacy. Friday night the kids danced and sang for us by the dim light of a bare bulb. They are talented! There are about 20 kids there, and R&R would take more but can't afford them. They make and sell magazine-bead necklaces, rent prom/wedding dresses, and work a garden. Great program. We taught a short English class to a group of street kids Saturday morning during a rain storm. We sat on the veranda where they sleep at night, and despite great excitement for us to come (they were expecting us), only a few were there because some had gone out to work (collecting garbage, selling plastic bottles, whatever they can find, sometimes stealing). Only one girl came and she didn't stick around because the girls fear the boys, Richard said. Neighbors came and watched the lesson and I think we helped show the community that the street kids have worth and can be "civilized"; hopefully others will mentor them and help them get off the street. I had a candid, long conversation with a 15-year-old boy there who is actually from Mukono and ran away from his alcoholic, abusive father. Tough life, good boy. Bad situation. On our way home from Iganga Saturday, we stopped in the tourist town Jinja (where we rafted the Nile) to eat at Ozzie's restaurant. So yummy. Being a tourist town, there are more beggars and street kids than other towns and while I waited for my food to come, I pulled out a little book to read with some scroungy kids sitting in front of the restaurant. One of the better times I've waited for food, I think.

I thought we were entering the dry season, but it was anything but dry two weeks ago, and a bit chilly too. Every day the heavens have exploded in waves of rain, with gigantic thunder and lightning. Class ceases when we're at Crane's because it's impossible to hear through the tin roof. Sounds like the sky is falling. And guess what ¾we had an earthquake! Friday the 15th I had just sat down to read before bed when I felt a rumbling throughout the house. At first I thought there was a very large truck in front, but it kept going long and slow. I ran into the front room where Dave was talking with Janet and Janice (our dear new "mzungu mothers" who arrived two weeks ago to stay a few weeks), reasoning that I'd rather die with friends than die alone. No damage done, thankfully¾the best kind of earthquake.

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