Let me tell you: our students are unbelievable. They are beautiful, brilliant, and resilient.
After the long weeks of getting our S2 students and S4 student settled, the applications began to trickle in. I read the student statements and many kilometers were logged on the motorcycle conducting home assessments all over the northern region. From Gulu to Lira to Adjumani and beyond. Our process is long, and it is long for a reason.
Educate for Change is what we like to call atypical. We are holistic in our approach. We are ever-adjusting our programs, plans, and goals to ensure that we are keeping up with the quickly changing landscape of Uganda. We stay close to the news, national exam results, school situations, and most importantly, our students and their families. We like to think that we’re practicing to hear the heartbeat on the ground.
We are still a very young organization: Laura and I began the process of NGO formation in August 2012. We rely mainly on friends and family as our financial and moral support, and people are just starting to learn a bit more about us thanks to social media, word of mouth, and my most recent trip to the States. I’ve started to get e-mails from college students who have found my personal page on Instagram (ksullii), or have stumbled upon our site somehow. It is so astonishing, but there’s still so much work to be done.
We are small. And we don’t have a lot of money. But we sure have will and as the saying goes: “A river cuts through a rock, not because of its power, but because of its persistence.” Let me tell you: I am persistent. I believe in fighting for what I love every day.
And you want to know what I love? I love that 41 students are in school that otherwise would not be. I love that so many of them worked over their long holiday so that their families would have an easier time providing their requirements like soap, mattresses, and transport money. I love that we have been to their homes and know each one of them, not just by name and face. I love that I will only get to know them better over the next several years and work tirelessly to guarantee that we can provide support, mentoring, and resources to ensure that they excel academically, physically, emotionally, and socially. I love that they are working so hard both from school and from home to grow up to be educated, responsible, and downright good people.
Nearly every school-aged boy or girl I’ve come across is seeking school sponsorship in some form or another. I get regular phone calls and text messages from numbers in villages around the north pursuing an opportunity to come under our program. When I visit their schools, Head Teachers and teachers ask me if we can support more students. I hear stories of heartbreak, grief, and pain on a near hourly basis. It’s exhausting and makes me wonder if someone’s missing the point (and I usually think that someone just has to be me).
If you were to consider the amount of money (in relation to their income) families needed to come up with in order to provide an education for their children in Uganda, you would be shocked. There is simply no universal, free education here. And I often wonder what’s better: free education that is taken for granted, or costly education that is valued? And is it valued? Where’s the middle ground? How can I wrap my head around what is really going on here?
The ever changing saga of Uganda’s political, economic, and educational landscape is something I grapple with every day as I try to come up with ideas for educational support workshops, student programs (such as leadership trainings, financial literacy workshops, and girls’ empowerment programs), new fundraisers and locally based Income Generating Activities (IGA’s), and even the future dreams of a collaborative school. I am seeking resources about how best to work with my students, counsel and assist those who are HIV affected, infected, or experiencing true heartbreak and emotional issues while igniting their desire for true education. My mind races 1,000 miles an hour.
I dream of the Uganda my students will see when they are my age and my heart aches for the day when they will see themselves the way that I see them. Their beauty, their brilliance, their resilience.
It’s what keeps me going.
NOTE: We are still in need of donors willing to contribute any amount towards the 2014 school year. School began in February and will be completed in November. No amount is too small. And I promise you, it is all worth it. Just you wait and see. If you are able to contribute in any way, please click the link on our website. And if you can, please help us spread the word.
Much love from Gulu!