Today is the fourth day of our time in Uganda, yet in many ways it is just the beginning.
Kind introductions, warm hand shakes, expressions of appreciations and pleasant surprises marked the beginning of school tours to meet and speak with students and staff of each school. Entering New Life Primary, we were met by students beginning their day with an infusion of school chants, distinctive clapping patterns and greetings of school teachers and staff rivaling intentional school culture practices at American charter schools similar to KIPP. New Life happens to be the namesake for Knickers for New Life (KFNL) and at the inception of the organization the assumed sole recieiving school of the organization’s work – a gentle reminder that God’s plans far exceed our own. With 351 registered students (and counting) this school has grown tremendously in the last two years. In addition to influencing enrollment, the staff spoke positively of the impact of KFNL’s mosquito repellent soap and hygiene training for helping to reduce incidents of malaria and cholera. Additionally girls, prior to KFNL, may not have had any undergarments during their formative adolescent years while attending New Life, but now have five or more pair. Glory to God.
We witnessed a Knickers distribution party and girls ranging from preschool to sixth grade lined up with excitement to receieve four new pairs of knickers. They left the distribution lines that were organized and facilitated by their teachers holding their new-found teasures the way you hold a promise that has been fulfilled. Witnessing these moments reminded me of the wonders of the gift of contentment – what would it mean to hold more tightly to fulfilled promises than the ones we await? Seeing the students of New Life encouraged the prompting to become more like little children in their ability to accept and embrace what is rather than marrying the thoughts of what may never come.
We left New Life to visit Salvation Secondary, a school that opens its arms to children whose families have fled civil unrest in the Congo, South Sudan, and elsewhere. Spanning middle to high school, their temperament reminded me of my former middle school students – students who may have fallen out of love with school as an unspoken entrance rite into puberty. Students at Salvation Secondary, in particular, may have also fallen out of love with the idea of contentment. Age, experience and, I imagine, war can have that impact. Yet, when the boys and girls met separately with staff and Team KFNL to discuss sexual and reproductive health and students’ plans for their futures, purpose, hope and expectations of what’s possible filled the spaces between us.
We (the women of Team KFNL) met with future midwives, nurses, an accountant, pilot and surgeon, among others. Though they may have experienced hardship at their young age they believe and aspire to greater. And we aspire with them and for them – all 243 of Salvation Secondary students. Teachers here also spoke of the positive health impacts of the Makapads, tip tap stations and mosquito repellent soap.
These visits remind us that KFNL and related efforts, independent of their size, are absolutely necessary parts of the work to help girls and boys live with a greater sense of their collective dignity and potential.
The night was capped with a festive family-style dinner held at the home of our gracious hosts – the Isingiomas. A day ended by fellowship, rejoicing, prayer and friendship – an end to only just the beginning. Stay tuned for more and aspire with us for the students and staff whom we’ve had and will have the privilege of meeting. God willing.