Last Day at Sunrise

The weather on our last day of teaching at Sunrise encapsulated everyone’s feelings: grey, dreary, and rainy, as we were all dreading saying goodbye to the students, teachers, and staff at Sunrise. While each classroom was dark due to the rainy weather and lack of electricity in the school buildings, the rooms were full of light and joy as we all enjoyed our last day teaching our students and also learning alongside our students. Because we wanted to celebrate our new found friendships with our students, class ended an hour early for a dance party. Each class gathered in the courtyard of the school and we listened and danced to American and Ugandan music alike.

At the beginning of the dance party, our team of BSC students gathered to paint metal signs with inspirational phrases that will be placed on the school grounds. Some of the phrases include: “bravely imagine”, “be where your feet are,” “education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world,” and “promoting life-long learners.”

After painting the signs, as a team, we each were given the opportunity to paint a tile on the school building to commemorate our time at Sunrise. Most of us chose a tile outside of the classroom we’d been teaching in for the past two weeks. After our hectic painting frenzy ended, we were finally able to join the dance party.

I think each of us had kids fighting over who could hold our hands. At one moment, I had a child holding onto each of my fingers! We had such a fun time dancing, singing, and being goofy with our kids. It was evident that all of us were living in the moment, soaking up the last few minutes we had at Sunrise. Finally, we were invited on “stage” (which was really just the porch of the library building), and Dr. Spencer said a few kind words about how much we deeply appreciated our time at the school. After she spoke, in unison, our team shouted “thank you Sunrise!”

We each left the stage and said our goodbyes tearfully. Everywhere I looked I saw our team of teachers embracing students and saying kind words. It was a very heavy moment in that all of us were so sad to leave a place that has brought us all so much happiness. However, it was also a beautiful moment too. The goodbyes were so difficult because in such a short time we were able to forge real, loving relationships with our students.

Although our walk home from school was tearful, and the general mood of the team was down for some time, in our group reflection later we were able to make peace with our sadness. We hope that these two weeks will continue a ripple effect in the lives of the students at Sunrise and as well our lives back at Birmingham-Southern. We sincerely hope that our teaching was effective for the students, and we find joy in knowing that the kids taught us valuable lessons as well.

As we begin our travels back to Birmingham, I know we are all sincerely grateful for the people, the places, and our experiences in Uganda. We are ready to share those experiences with our loved ones upon our return!

Caroline Grove

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Home visits

Thursday was our last full day of teaching. I’ve been in middle & top class (pre-k & kindergarten) with Emma. Every day has been quite an adventure for us! We do lots of singing, dancing, P.E., and rest time (usually more for us than for them 😉)! After school today, we had the opportunity to do home visits. Each grade level picked one or two students to go visit. We put together gift bags consisting of soap, sugar, tea, salt, and bread to take to each family.

Some of the students being visited came to school wearing their nicest clothes, and all of the kids were very excited to welcome us into their homes. Emma & I went to visit one of our brightest and most engaged students. We walked the short distance from the school to his house along with our Ugandan teacher, Teacher Robina. Teacher Robina was able to translate for us as we met our student’s mother and grandmother. They expressed over and over again how thankful they were for our visiting and how they now knew how much we loved their boy. It was such a cool opportunity to enter into a different aspect of our students’ lives and get a glimpse of what daily life looks like for them outside of the classroom. Everyone came back with a different story to tell of their experiences with the families & some even brought back items their hosts had gifted them for us all to enjoy like nuts or fruit. The generosity and appreciation of these families despite their lack of material possessions was humbling. The way that these sweet kiddos have opened up their hearts to us despite the short amount of time we were with them left a lasting impression on us all.

Lindsay Curry

Ryan shares about her P3 class

Hello, everyone! Our time is so close to an end, and we only have 2 more days with our students; Friday is going to be such an emotional day saying goodbye! When preparing for this trip, I expected to get close to the children in my class, but I never could have imagined how close of a relationship I would have with each child. At break time, all of the students at the school are running and playing, but they also love sitting, talking and laughing with us on the steps of the school. The walk to and from school is also filled with children and they normally want to hold our hands and walk with us. We have met and developed such personal relationships with these sweet children. They all are the most incredible and optimistic kids, and I’ve loved getting to see each of their individualistic personalities day by day. I’m so blessed and thankful that I had the opportunity to meet and get to know each child; I would love to share the names and what I have learned about all of the 17 kids in my class below.

Tigan. He is full of energy and a smile never leaves his face. He is so curious, whether that be in the classroom or during break time; he is always asking questions and eager to learn! He is very inventive in this thinking and loves coming up with games and new ideas.

Alice. She is literally a ray of sunshine. She comes to school every morning shy and giggling, but by the end of the day, she is laughing and her outgoing personality begins to shine. She is very girly and gets easily attached once she gets comfortable with someone.

Pevin. Although he is the little troublemaker of the group, he is extremely smart and absorbs all the information taught to him. He loves to talk (especially to his brother) and never shys away from thinking and answering questions aloud. He loves to be in charge and help his classmates with any problem they may have.

Calvin. He is Pevin’s brother, and is more quiet and sensitive. He is also another brilliant student who does not like to speak aloud to the class. He never stops smiling and laughing, and is a very quick thinker.

Marion. She is very mysterious and likes to blend in among her classmates. She is extremely smart and loves to play and talk with her friends at break and in class. She has enough attitude and sass for us all, and if she had it her way, she would draw flowers all day long.

Jackie. She is genuinely so kind and sweet. Jackie lives in her own little world in her head. Her imagination is huge, and she is full of creativity. She loves drawing and coloring, and always goes the extra mile in making sure her artwork is full of colors!

Enock. He came a few days after school began, but he had caught up to his classmates very quickly. He is normally very shy, and likes to do individual work rather than in a group. His emotions are all over the place, and when he comes to class, it’s always a surprise to see what mood he is in.

Mubarak. He loves to stand apart from his classmates; and lately, he has become very mischievous! He always knows the answers to questions and leads the class read aloud. He is such a natural leader and his peers look up to him.

Rogers. He is extremely animated and loves goofing off with the boys in the class. He is a student that benefits more from working one on one rather than a group. He retains so much information and is such a hard worker on paper. He is also a perfectionist when it comes to drawing, and he pays a lot of attention to detail.

Doreen. She is so caring and attentive. She always puts her best effort into her work, and is such a good listener. Even though she is normally very calm and sweet, she does have a quick temper. She is never afraid to stand up for herself and is so strong in that way.

Desire. He is utterly brilliant. He is so eager to learn and retains so much knowledge and information. If a question is asked or a discussion is happening, he is the first to answer and start the discussion. He is literally a walking encyclopedia for P3.

Resty. She is sassy and you can look at her face and know exactly what she’s thinking. She is scared to be wrong in class, but most of the time, she is normally correct with her thought or answer. She gets attached very easily once she is comfortable, like with her best friend, Esther, and us teachers.

Christopher. He comes to class so eager to learn! He gives any discussion or assignment his all and stays focused. He is very self-disciplined in class, but at break and song time, he is so lively and loves to join in laughing and playing.

Esther. She is the most quiet in the class. She carries this sweet half smile on her face and wears a little brown and white dress everyday. Esther is so compassionate and loyal to her friends, and is always respectful to anyone she comes in contact with.

Jessy. When it comes to learning, he is silently exceptional. He flies under the radar, and does not like to be noticed, but he has all the answers. He loves to be active and moving, and hates having to sit still!

Yusuf. He is one child I can always trust to do the right thing. He knows the difference between right and wrong, and does not let himself be swayed to make a wrong choice. He is so respectful and considerate to his teachers and to his classmates.

Godfrey. He is our newest student, and he has already jumped right into the class and his learning. He is so eager to learn and has tried so hard to catch up to everyone else. He is extremely detailed and creative with his work, and takes the longest to finish his assignments because his imagination is going in so many different directions.

Ryan Kimbrell

Sunday at the beach

Sunday was quite the change of pace. We planned a beach day, and we were able to sleep in for about two extra hours, which for many of us was much needed. We hung around the casita for a little while, reading books, playing bananagrams, or kicking the soccer ball. We were supposed to leave around 11:30 for the beach but as you all know by now that meant about 1:00 for our actual time of departure. We packed the majority of us into a taxi van and drove about thirty minutes to Lake Victoria, where Mzee invited us to hang out at his private beach. The beach itself, even though it was a part of a lake, was pretty comparable to the beaches in the gulf. Many of us laid out mats or grabbed chairs and slathered on the sunscreen (remember the equator is not your friend). Oh yeah, and then also happened to be a camel. Mzee passed a camel on his way to the beach and decided that we all needed to ride it! So if we didn’t look like a crazy bunch of mzungus on the boda bodas, or on the horses, or crammed in a taxi, then we for sure looked like a bunch of crazy mzungus now.

After a couple hours of killing time on the beach or taking turns on the camel, several of Mzee and Maama Namuli’s family members arrived, and I quickly realized that we had actually been invited to some type of family gathering accompanied by a very large meal. I will always be amazed by the graciousness that everyone has shown us here by inviting us to experience their culture along side them. After dinner, I noticed a few kids in worn clothing from the local village watching at our rambunctious group. They inched closer and closer to the fence line but eventually stopped where the sand met the grass. I happened to be facing them, so I rolled them the soccer ball that we brought. They all looked at each other, giggled, then looked at me and rolled it back. The kids were pretty apprehensive about the game that I had just started, but once I got up to join them they exploded with energy. We kicked the ball around for awhile before we decided to take to the ball to volleyball net on the beach, past the fence. We asked permission from Maama Namuli for them join us on the beach, but when we walked toward the beach they immediately stopped at the fence line until I coaxed them inside. Something was stopping them from coming inside, it was like they knew that they could only enjoy the lifestyle that we had been a part of from the outside looking in, even after being invited. I hated that they didn’t initially believe that we were on the same level, but after a little provoking I loved that we were able to finally cross this barrier and play a game as equals.

Sarah Gwin Moore

A day in Jinja

Hello friends and family! I just want to thank everyone for all the thoughts and prayers—it is greatly appreciated!

We have been having such an amazing time. From the beauty of Murchison falls, to being in the classroom with our students, none of our time here has been wasted. Every second I have been here I have learned so much about the culture, but also about myself. There is this thing called “Ugandan Time” where if we say dinner is at 6, it may not be until 7 or 8. I normally would be so frustrated but I have had to challenge myself to be patient. Patience is definitely a virtue, and it is something that I will take back with me to America.

Today we went to Jinja and rode on horses through a village and down the Nile. We also had a boat tour of the Nile where we saw lots of amazing birds, and we even saw a cave full of bats. Every time we have seen the Nile I am in complete awe. The beauty is indescribable, and I am so blessed to be able to experience it. After all the fun we went to a restaurant called “Igar” where I had the most AMAZING coffee milkshake. I honestly have never had anything so magnificent. Most of us grubbed on cheeseburgers and French fries. We then headed to the markets to shop, and I bought some of the most beautiful artwork. I don’t think it’s going to fit in my luggage, but there are a lot of smart people on this trip to help me figure out how I will travel with it. We are now back at Bush Baby Lodge, and are ready for dinner (well, whenever it is ready).

Again, thank you for all he thoughts and prayers—we are so blessed!

Emma Holland

Ugandan Reflections

Upon reflection of the first week in Mukono, many unforgettable moments fill my mind. Monday began one of the hardest weeks of our lives; however, as the week progressed the smiles, laughter, and love of learning that filled the classroom turned a hard time into one of the best weeks of our lives.

Each day we start with a walk that is a little over a mile each way to school. As soon as we step foot on the winding dirt road we are joined by our students eager to hold our hands and teach us a new Lugandan word/ phrase. The other day while walking to school we had 32 students with us. During the walk I looked around and saw some new and old faces. After asking where some of the new students had been all week, their answer shocked me.

One student told me that he had to stay home because his younger brother had Malaria and he had to stay home to take care of him, the student is 8. Another student said that they had to miss school because they had to herd their goats all day, the student is 10. Other students told us that they didn’t have clothes to wear that day, so their parents had them stay home. More and more stories poured in upon each new student that would fill the classroom. With each explanation my heart broke for them that they were burdened with responsibilities or hardships that American children could never dream of. It is with a heavy heart that I realized we were not just across the world, but in a different world than home.

The kids in Uganda face and go through different things than those in America. Specifically, growing up in America I was fortunate enough to have clean clothes, shoes, and have a source of transportation to school. However, some students in my class wear the same outfit each day, do not own any shoes, and have been walking themselves to school since they were old enough to walk. In contrast, though I see their lack of basic needs as a hardships, they view it as a way of life.

The students acknowledging their way of life first broke my heart; however, now I have learned that different people go through various things in order to accomplish their dreams. For the kids at Sunrise, the days they miss or amenities that Americans take for granted, are just obstacles they have to overcome in order to achieve a brighter future.

It was only the first week of teaching and my students have already taught me so much. Weble Sunrise kiddos, I can’t wait to learn more from each of you this last week!

Claire Cooper

Morning Walk to School

Hello friends and family! I think I speak for everyone when I say we are having a blast here teaching, meeting new people, and experiencing the culture in many ways.

Part of our little routine here is the morning walk to school, which is a mile long trek that perfectly portrays our life here in Uganda. We begin our walk by leaving the Bushbaby Lodge or “farm” just after breakfast. Our morning walk is much cooler than our afternoon walk, and we enjoy watching the fog lift as we make our way.

My favorite part of our walk is meeting with the village children along the way. It is almost comedic as our “Mzungu” (white person) crew attracts attention, and parents send their children to join the teachers as we make our way. I love all of the sounds as sometimes as many as 25 kids join us. Many holding our hands, and others racing to the front of our pack. Should you join our parade, you might hear a group chanting our newly- learned Ugandan songs such as “Shake the Mango Tree” and “Two Little Black Birds” or conversations about which cow is the loudest. It is interesting how funny a joke in broken English can be for a group of amused teachers who are simply proud that their student is catching on.

By the time we arrive at school, we are a gang of close to 40, drawing stares from the whole village. A large group of Mzungu alone was enough to turn heads, but add 20 kids and we are quite the spectacle.

These moments make me love it here, and help us to connect with each child personally– many of whom follow us all the way home every afternoon to play until the sun goes down. The children are the reason for this trip, so that we might teach them, and so that we may learn as well. I am sure I speak for all of us when I say we are enjoying every minute with them.

Emily Farley