India Expedition: Day 2 - July 7, 2018

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Today we returned to work with our partners at the Himalayan Public School - Suyalgargh since we were there during our April India expedition! It was a true privilege to connect with teachers and students the week they returned from summer break! After a short tour of the campus and a check up of the Solar Power Classroom and Water Catchment system, the older students welcomed the team with a thoughtful and kind welcome song.

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"We made a Garland from the buds of our heart"

At the start of our Expeditions we always ensure that we calibrate the goals of our partner communities and TWSBs commitment to educational access. We took the opportunity to share introductions between HPS leaders and the TWSB Researchers and Expeditioners. Here we began aligning our research and expedition goals with the headmaster, the teachers and their teaching goals. "Mera Naam Carly" is how Expeditioner Carly would introduce herself in Hindi!

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The TWSB Expedition team then went our separate ways to orient ourselves with some of the areas we will be focusing upon during our time here:

Preliminary talks between UBC Economics researcher Nick and the community leaders were held regarding the potential addition and feasibility of a school bus for HPS and their students.

 

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A select few of the older HPS students were led in an art exercise, as well as introduced to the goal of creating a reading book with Storywriter Mala Kumar. We will be using their artwork with the help of Artist Ruchi Shah, and will compile their illustrations to create a book about the Himalayan Public School that will be published by Pratham books.

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The technology that guides the water catchment system was tested pre-installation when we return to HPS after the weekend.

From there we called it a day at HPS. We saw the students off and returned to our guest house with a strong orientation over how we will proceed with our projects, and how to adapt our preparations prior to the expedition.

Today was exhilarating! It was a treat to see our projects from the April expedition being utilized. It was such a positive interaction to speak with the headmaster, Dinesh, and school founder, Brig Mohanji and hear their perspective on the mission they initiated.

We have one day over the students' weekend to gather ourselves before a full week with HPS. Our task list is high, our goals are ambitious, and our team is motivated. The teachers and students have generously welcomed us with trust, and we will return the gesture with purposeful and committed research and collaboration.

Such a thrilling first day at the school, and we're excited to hit the ground running on Monday Morning!

Stay tuned!

India Expedition: Day 1 - July 6, 2018

14.5 hour flight to New Delhi
(A break for food and regroup in New Delhi)
6.5 hour train ride to Uttarakhand
3 hour bus ride to our guest house in

Loading the bus for the road up to Uttarakhand!
Team and supplies pre-train

You know something is special about a trip when 11 people keep on a smile throughout that entire journey, lugging supplies, books, materials, (not to mention our personal luggage). Of course it helps to indulge in the fantastical flavours of new Delhi food and drink, as well as the the mind-bending scenery and unique sites as we traverse through Northern India toward the Himalayas. Our long journey up to Uttarakhand reaffirmed our purpose as we saw dozens of students walking on their way to and from school in their uniforms

5 researchers

3 editors and storytellers

1 professional Artist

2 teachers and literacy data collected

Team on a break mid-route

Our small but talented team arrived at our guest house in Uttarakhand, 30 minutes from the Himalayan public school which we will visit on Day 2 to begin our collaboration with the heads of school, teachers, and students.

 

 

You can feel the excitement in mountain air. We are surrounded by beauty near the Himalayas, and our Indian experience so far has only been one of wonder, taste, and comradery between our budding group and the locals we have met along the way.

Keeping the smiles going!

 

We are looking forward to what Day 2 brings. Stay tuned!

 

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Why Does Anyone Volunteer?

Everyone who has followed our story knows how the TWSB India Team quickly formed and within months had helped to raise awareness through our first ever Access In Motion Walk and first India Expedition. 

The India Expedition was something I had thought about when I first volunteered in Uganda with TWSB, owing to the similarities in the two places. That one thought, Aaron’s drive, and all the right people enabled us to fast-track the initiation here. The India Expedition was something I had thought about when I first volunteered in Uganda with TWSB, owing to the similarities in the two places. 

We met the most helpful individuals to start off – Dr. Sushil who locally heads another non-profit in Uttarakhand who introduced us to Mr. Pankaj Wadhwa, who in turn, helped us find the right schools to partner with.

Something you should know about Uttarakhand- every person there understands the importance of Education and the ability to access it. And in Uttarakhand, we found Himalayan Public School, a small private school with a big personality. Brijmohan Joshi started this school with 30 students eight years ago, and today, his vision and passion have grown the school to 150. During our very first visit to the schools, Aaron and I felt strongly about partnering with this team of hardworking people.

We had found the right place, the right partners, and were now looking for the right workforce - people who would understand that this project was our first in India, that there would be challenges and that we will need all hands on deck. The power does lie in working together.

One could plan all they want, but the success of the project depends on what happens in the field. We were fortunate to find the most reliable team members to join us from five continents, ranging from students to dentists to business owners to researchers. Digi-Aid even joined us, the winners of "Search for Jugaad," to integrate their research work with our reading programme.

It was a diverse group with one goal - to empower access to education. Nobody needed to know the same language to connect with each other. Everybody pushed their boundaries, and it was beautiful to see Expeditioners integrate and become one team with the community. The students at the two Himilyan Public Schools were as enthusiastic as we were.

We constructed water catchment systems at HPS Suyalgarh and HPS Chopra. We were able to collect the distance data to help determine the impact of a School Bus. We conducted art workshops with Ruchi Shah, a brilliant book illustrator and now, our art director! We have plans for the art pieces created by the students.

Most importantly, in our first expedition, we were able to install one of our Solar Power Classrooms and reading technologies. However, before implementing the tech and classroom, we collected data to better understand our impact. 

 

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I don't think we quite understood the impact the projects had on the entire community there until the very last day.

But any effort that is initiated but not followed through doesn't hold for long.

Our projects at the Himalayan Public Schools have only begun and we are excited for what the future has in store. 

So, WE ARE GOING BACK - July 6th- 15th,2018! And we couldn’t be more excited!
We will be post-testing to see the results of our executed projects, building a library and water catchment system, continuing with our art initiatives, and so much more. As a bonus, we have the opportunity to work together within the scenic hills of Uttarakhand!

So, why does anyone volunteer?

Most people have an underlying need to feel better about themselves.

A few may try to make the surroundings more conducive to ensure the future generations have it better.

A handful, however, can work with others and create opportunities for communities that need them.

Our goal is to try and be part of the ‘handful.’

Let’s remember, individual evolution brings about communal evolution.

-Sukriti Sachar

India Exedition: Day 8 - April 11th, 2018

Today marked our last day with the two Himalaya Public School branches, Suyalgarh and Chopra. Through transportation, nutrition, and curriculum, TWSB aims to empower educational attainment. And today was all about understanding the importance of our projects.

There could not have been a more benefitting conclusion to this Expedition than the compilation of student’s artwork into a book, soon to be published by Pratham Books in collaboration with The Walking School Bus. This will be one of three children’s books highlighting stories of students accessing education around the world.

Our work came to an end with a beautiful and emotional farewell as we joined the school community in Brijmohanji’s home for one last goodbye. Teachers delivered speeches in Hindi and Danesh, the headmaster, shared his sincere gratitude and appreciation for the furnished solar-powered classroom and water catchment systems we collectively constructed. There was not a dry eye in the room as he spoke.

Following the celebration, the team traveled to the guest house to collect belongings and thanked Manoj and his team for their gift of hospitality. We then departed for Bhimtal, a town nestled in the hills and famous for its picturesque lake. 

We concluded our final evening together reminiscing, dancing, and laughing with the lake in our view. 

This rewarding day will stand out among our many memories.

India Expedition: Day 7 - April 10th, 2018

Just 350 km away from Delhi, in a village that barely has 100 homes, a team of 20 volunteers partnered with the Himalayan Public School. What we have been able to achieve in a week’s time along with the local teachers is nothing short of spectacular. 

At HPS Suyalgarh, the solar-powered classroom is all set up and the SiMBi reading program is up and running. The students and the teachers were very eager to begin using the program. It was wonderful to see and hear them reading along with the passages recorded by volunteers around the world.

A few members of the team embarked to HPS Chopra to set up the water catchment system, and to compile the information from the children’s questionnaires regarding their commute to the school (e.g., distance traveled, means of transport). These questionnaires have provided invaluable information and will help TWSB facilitate their transportation requirements. 

The HPS Chopra students were proud to show off their academic skills while working on the Polaroid activity, and they were excited to have personal pictures taken of themselves. Students verbalized and wrote down their family members, what they want to be when they grow up, some of their favorite foods, and more. This activity provided our team an opportunity to further our meaningful connections with the children as we found we had many similarities. Following the activity, the worksheets with the students’ pictures were hung on the classroom walls for all to see.

After our visits to the schools, several members of our team went for a swim at the Dhokane Falls, while others chose to hike near our guest house.

India Expedition: Day 6 - April 9th, 2018

We sadly had to say a tearful goodbye to three of our amazing team members: Aaron, Ishita, and Suneeta.

The new members were excited to finally meet the children. It was wonderful to experience the children’s morning assembly, where they sang community songs and the national anthem on a beautiful sunny day atop the mountain. We then broke off into our individual groups in order to address each aspect of the day’s work.

The water catchment system was completed today, as was all the pretesting for the reading capability project.

One of the highlights of the day for the children was the Polaroid activity led by Sukriti, Shruti, and Mahima. None of the children had ever seen a Polaroid before and it brought out their naughty spirit and made for some beautiful and funny pictures. They also enjoyed sharing personal dreams and aspirations, such as what they hope to be when they grow up and their wishlists. 

Shari was also able to use her skills as a speech-language pathologist to assist some children with communication needs.

All in all, it turned out to be a very special day at the school.

After a long and rewarding day, the team enjoyed our evening playing board games and having some good laughs.

India Expedition: Day 5 - April 8th, 2018

 

This was a very special day as it was the first day that our new team joined us at HPS Suyalgarh. We were greeted by an enthusiastic team of teachers, who had graciously taken the time off from their personal day to join us to train on each aspect of the Expedition. We met with the teachers in small groups to review the SiMBi application, the solar classroom, Raspberry Pi, and the water catchment system. 

Further, we were able to gain a better understanding of the challenges that the teachers and staff are facing. It was incredible to witness how the teachers embraced each aspect of the Expedition and how they were excited to implement the changes into their classrooms.


Following this productive morning, the team was able to take a breather (and some chai, of course) at the beautiful symbolic Chauthi Ki Jaali, a stunning lookout point where we enjoyed a breathtaking sunset.

By: Shari & Sneha

India Expedition: Day 4 - April 7th, 2018

Today was incredible! While we were saddened to say goodbye to three of our astounding team mates: Dan, Sonja, and Philli; we were overjoyed to welcome Sneha, Shruti, Nishit, Varsha, Pavithra, and Kush to the group. 

At HPS Suyalgarh, Tushar, clicked (as they say in India) photos with his camera, capturing the raw and real moments of the school community. He involved the students and taught them to say “GoPro take a photo.”   

We accomplished a great deal today in the Solar Power Classroom. Sukriti and Aaron were tenacious in working with the locals to install the roofing and the solar panels to power the technology within the classroom. Kishan set up the Raspberry Pi intranet systems on the computers. These systems are equipped with an abundance of educational material for students and teachers, including modules designed by Kishan and Ishita. 

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The students were immediately curious and could not resist peaking their heads in to see what was going on. We were happy to share this experience with the students. They definitely beat us in the smiling competition.

Although the heavy down pouring rain required our team to adjust our afternoon plans, we were thankful to retreat to the guest house, bond as a group, and you guessed it, drink masala chai.  

India Expedition: Day 3 - April 6th, 2018

Aaron, Sukriti, Dan, and Tushar left for HPS Suyalgarh early in the morning to oversee the delivery of the solar powered classroom. The remainder of the team arrived after breakfast to see the shipping container already in place and continued the previous day’s projects.   

Dan and Emma began preparing the space for the water catchment system with the help of the school’s founder, Brijmohanji. Before establishing the school 8 years ago, he worked in agriculture. He offered his vast knowledge to demonstrate an innovative method for working with available materials (string, sticks, stones) to accomplish this task. Together they dug, leveled the earth, and measured the diameter for where the water catchment will later be placed. 

The bricks for the water catchment system’s foundation arrived and the team applied the Ugandan way of tossing to transport the bricks from up on the road down to the ground near the classroom.

Brijmohanji and his wife generously invited us to share a meal in their home. The vibrant house was built over 200 years ago and has been passed down from generation to generation. We were thankful for the opportunity to be a part of their daily lives as we assisted in the preparation of the chapati for the meal. 

We were immensely grateful to deepen our connection with Brijmohanji today – after all, our work is grounded in collaborative relationships.

Following the day’s projects, we hiked to a nearby waterfall and went for a swim to relax and cool off.

Our hearts are full. 

India Expedition: Day 2 - April 5th, 2018

April 5th, 2018:

This morning, we ventured for the first time to Himalayan Public School (HPS) Suyalgarh and began our day with introductions and an orientation of the school. Needless to say, we were eager to begin the projects. 

With the support of Ishita and Sunita, Shari conducted the reading pretests with class 5 and 6 students. These pretests measure students’ current reading levels and will better our understanding of literacy rates as students use SiMBi over time. Geared towards improving student literacy, SiMBi is an online reading resource that teaches students from kindergarten to high school using a combination of phonics, sight words, and fluency drills. 

Sukriti and Kishan administered distance surveys with various classes for the purpose of comprehending the journey students take to get to and from school each day. 

Ruchi, accompanied by Philli, Sonja, and local self-taught art teacher, Mahima led students in an art project. The students huddled around Ruchi with genuine engagement and concentration as she explained their task. Moments like these are invaluable to teachers and Mahima is really quite lucky to have the opportunity to teach these students every day. They drew imaginative patterns in wax crayons and applied watered down paint to allow their crayon designs to emerge. These pieces, in addition to others created in the upcoming days, will be collected for the book Ruchi is producing in collaboration with TWSB and  Pratham Books.

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Philli captured the student’s artwork. Her sincere interest in each student allowed them to feel proud of the work they accomplished – this was very apparent by their smiling faces as they lined up to take a picture.

After a day of hard work, the team stopped for chai and returned to the guest house where we were welcomed with another tasty traditional meal. We concluded our evening dancing to popular Indian music and watched the lightning storm in the distance over the hills.

It was remarkable to see months of effort finally come to fruition.

India Expedition: Day 1 - April 4th, 2018

Let the 2018 April India Expedition begin!

We awoke early in Delhi to ensure our team would arrive in time for the 6 AM train heading northbound towards Kathgodam, Uttarakhand. The experience allowed our team a dynamic opportunity to think on our feet and really work together for the first time to navigate the station’s fast-paced environment. Looking out the window, we witnessed the landscape’s changing scenery. On the train, our team prepared for the literacy pretests, the baseline data necessary for our research. 

After six hours, we arrived in Kathgodam, loaded our bags and supplies onto the top of the bus, and began our journey into the beautiful and breathtaking hills. We, of course, stopped for a chai break along the way and tasted one of Uttarakhand’s favourite foods, Maggi, a noodle dish rich in local spices. Coincidentally, our bus passed the shipping container that will house the SiMBi solar powered classroom. This was by far a highlight. 

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After three hours of windy, mountainous roads, our team arrived to the Guest House where we were greeted by Manoj and his team. Their warm welcomes and delicious meal have made us feel right at home. 

We ended the night in celebration of Sukriti’s birthday and reminisced about our long yet successful travel. We sat around the fire place, sipped masala chai, and went to bed in excitement for the following day’s projects to begin.

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Race to the Start line! The supporters who fuel The Walking School Bus.

March 31 is the final day to join TWSB at the BMO Vancouver Marathon and receive a charity discount!

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As we approach the BMO Vancouver Marathon on May 6, The Walking School Bus is gearing up and is on track with the goal to run alongside 100 of our supporters which will enable us to purchase a school bus!

At The Walking School Bus, our biggest strength is in our underlying value for diversity. As a research-based organization, we apply this virtue through collaboration with experts in a range of fields; from economics, cultural studies, nutrition, mathematics (linear programming), engineering, and more. This challenges us to ensure that the research we initiate is holistically and wholesomely thought-through and enacted to achieve access to education. Our inspired researchers maintain this same value, enabling us to take full advantage of the range of experts we collaborate with, as well as applying a similar collaborative approach in the communities we work with abroad.

Our communities in Uganda and India share this same virtue. We take pride in working with interfaith schools that prioritize their communities working together with the goal of unified education. The results of this unique schooling element has led to students receiving phenomenal results on national exams, the uniting of previously disparate communities, and the achievement of higher rates of economic prosperity in communities. This, again proving the unique power of diversity in achieving access to education.

Much like how The Walking School Bus approaches its operations, in anticipation of Team TWSB’s participation in the BMO Vancouver Marathon, we have taken the opportunity to highlight the diversity in our supporters. Earlier this year, TWSB launched ‘Our Stories’, a campaign to exhibit the many supporters who have joined TWSB in its mission and who share the belief of collaboration to achieve access to education. We have chosen to highlight some of the individuals who have been our fans, collaborators, researchers, advisors, and most importantly, our friends. Because as The Walking School Bus continues to work alongside and empower communities, we can only do so through the support of the multitude of talented individuals who energize our operations.

The Our Stories campaign has been an outlet for us to share and highlight some of the incredible people who have joined this movement. They have chosen to run and fundraise with us, to keep the successes of our projects a reality. Learn more about Our Stories and see how talented individuals working together have exhibited empowering the next generation through education: thewalkingschoolbus.com/bmo.

#RunWithUs! March 31 is the final day to sign up with TWSB and receive a charity discount! Run for a cause and join us at the start line!

#RaceTo100 #InspireResearch #InspireEducation #InspireEmpowerment

The Walking School Bus - India has received Charitable Status!

The Walking School Bus is proud to announce an incredible milestone in our operations:

TWSB - India has received its charitable status accreditation! Since our initial integration of including Indian volunteers for our Uganda expeditions 2 years ago, to having an official registered entity in India, it has been quite an exciting journey!

This is an incredible moment for TWSB India and TWSB as a whole. The accreditation allows TWSB to solidify its presence in India, and most importantly, enact our objectives and projects with the support and name of an established entity. The projects that have been so successful at the schools in Uganda, will now be extended to, adapted and implemented in Indian communities with limited resources.

While this news is extremely exciting, the process to get to this point was not so simple. The Indian government tightened the process of registering a non-profit to ensure that their actions are in line with government NGO objectives. The rules of incorporation, banking and taxation were made to be much more stringent.

While the process may have been tedious, it helped us to solidify our position over how we move forward with our operations in India. With such a milestone, it becomes easier for TWSB to enact its Indian projects and incentives. Most prominently, we are better able to involve more Indian volunteers, students and researchers, to continue furthering our research-based agenda. With this accreditation, TWSB’s mission in India is further legitimized and it better positions our teams to work at a grassroots-level and make even more of a tangible impact!

Here, it is important to acknowledge and give extreme gratitude to Sukriti Sachar and her team in India who have worked so many hours and have committed endless energy to this process. Without their undenying commitment and motivation to this important project, TWSB has taken a gigantic step forward in increasing access to transportation, nutrition, and curriculum for students in India. Looking forward to what comes next!


Learn more about how TWSB has evolved from its presence in Uganda to India here!

Expeditions: Finding Meaning Through Impact

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Last year’s Uganda Expedition was a 10-day journey to remember. Looking back, attempting to pinpoint the most meaningful aspect of the trip is a difficult feat…

Was it when we were bonding with students from Yonatan Netanyahu Memorial School?

Or having a soccer tournament with students from Semei Kakungulu High School?

Perhaps, when we were working alongside local builders and community members to construct our solar powered  classrooms? 

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Was it gifting our first school bus to students from Hadassa and Semei Kakungulu?

How about when our fluency-testers were working with teachers and students to better understand the impact of our reading program as well as implementation through the solar power classrooms?

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Maybe in the construction and preparation of our community gardens? What about the installation of the chicken coops to add nourishment to our communities?

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We noticed one consistent theme among these various projects.

IMPACT.

We worked with local communities to not only create a positive impact but also to establish mechanisms that can be sustained by the communities themselves.

Our work is inspired and led by our Think Tank, a team of talented researchers committed to improving access to education through our three-pronged approach to transportation, nutrition, and curriculum. Because making an impact isn’t just about the building of a classroom or adding a water catchment system.

We make an impact by carefully applying our projects with guidance from our researchers, and then assessing their usage and implementation over time in collaboration with our communities. In collaboration, we ensure that we maximize impact by working alongside community members to research, understand, and implement our holistic and research-based approach.

It was seeing this impact that was the most meaningful aspect of the trip.

In preparation for our upcoming Uganda and India Expeditions, we continue to apply the same philosophy in anticipation of an impactful journey ahead! We are looking forward to reuniting with our friends and evaluating the progression of last year’s project implementations. We are also very excited to implement some new research-based solutions in more communities.

The growth of The Walking School Bus over the last year has been truly remarkable. From the expansion of our projects in India to the growth of our team in Vancouver, and to the response from our communities in Uganda. These successes provide the motivation to continue growing and expanding, and especially to continue making an impact with our research. We’re excited about what’s in store!

Learn more about our upcoming Uganda and India Expeditions!

Giving Tuesday is November 28th: Help Us reach our goal!

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Giving Tuesday

This year, The Walking School Bus is proud to be a part of Giving Tuesday. Giving Tuesday is the movement that celebrates giving back. Every year, many enjoy the benefits of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Giving Tuesday gives us the chance to reflect on where we can give back to make the world a slightly better place.

Thank you for being part of something big!  Giving Tuesday was celebrated in 98 countries, was endorsed by impactful people and organizations worldwide, and generated millions of dollars for charities of all shapes and sizes.

Our community came together this Giving Tuesday and helped us raise $800. With this money, we will help complete the construction of our next Solar Power Classrooms in Uganda and  India.

Thank you to our generous supporters!

July 2017: Day 8

Today was by far the most rewarding and emotional day on this expedition! It will stand out as a vivid memory for our whole team and communities we work with for years to come.

The morning started with the team taking a 15-minute stroll from the guest house to Hadassah Primary School, one of our participating schools who will be benefiting from the school bus.
An automobile painter met us at the school were he expertly free hand painted TWSB logo onto the bus as well as the names of the three recipient schools.

The children were overwhelmed, as where we, and they serenaded us in gratitude in both English and one of the local dialects. Hadassah's music program came in 15th place out of 15,000 schools in Uganda and the performance they put on for us, complete with a dance and warrior costumes and headdresses was more moving than any Broadway production. We all joined together and danced around the bus, grateful for the benefits it will provide. 

Sadat, the head of technology at the school gave a moving speech about the importance of education and how literacy starts from the teachers. He thanked Aaron and TWSB for providing a robust online library through the gifting of SiMBi and access to an abundance of knowledge through the gifting of an application called Rachel that is loaded onto our Raspberry Pi intranet systems.

Following the gifting of the bus, we went straight to Mbale, a nearby city and bought a bicycle for John. The team then gifted this bicycle to John (Yonatan Netanyahu Memorial School's Math Teacher). All of us, John included, were overcome with emotion as we understood the positive impact this bicycle would have. John hopped on the bicycle, expertly rode it around, then came back to the group, hopped off the bike, and picked it up above his head! 

The aim of TWSB is to empower access, and today was all about providing it and understanding its importance. Giving the bus was an incredible experience that will help an entire community and giving John his bicycle will notably change his life. It was a special day.

Today marks the last of our working days in Uganda and we have had a truly incredible experience. We're already coordinating upcoming projects and trips with our Uganda team and we cannot wait for our upcoming expeditions. 

July 2017: Day 7

Today was an early morning. We woke up at 6 am. to experience one of the defining moments that inspired Aaron to create TWSB - students journeying to school.  

One of the sources of inspiration for the founding of TWSB was when Aaron experienced students journeying to school. Many of them walk up to 8 km and when they arrive at school there is often no food. As we drove in the new bus, we passed hundreds of children gripping pens and pencils in hand.

Today, something truly remarkable occurred. 
While watching the myriad walks of life journey to school, Aaron spotted one of the teachers, John, from Yonatan Netanyahu Memorial School. John has one leg (his right leg) and was walking on broken crutches. We stopped the bus and offered John a ride to school. While driving to school, he told us that the 4km's takes him over an hour each way and it was incredible to understand that our work will ensure John is better able to access school (Johns story has a truly surprising ending that we will be sharing in a follow-up post.)  

When we arrived at Putti Village, we got to work immediately. Micah, Elliot, and Eli spent the first 3 hours collecting bricks and mixing cement so that they could construct the base of a water catchment system.

Liz, Sarah, and Micah each taught classes to the children and interviewed many inspirational residents of Putti Village.
Michael took hundreds of pictures and conducted and filmed countless interviews as well.

As we were getting ready to leave Putti, John approached Aaron and explained that he appreciated the offer to always have a spot on the TWSB bus but he did not want to take any spots away from students and wondered if TWSB could purchase him a bicycle. 
Initially, Aaron and the team were confused but John explained that with one leg, he was able to ride a bicycle. He ended up borrowing a bicycle to demonstrate and even gave Aaron a ride!  The team decided that they would work to purchase John a bicycle.

It was a truly special day that showed us the importance and impact of our work and the team left Putti in incredibly high spirits. 

July 2017: Day 6

Today, we were provided with the opportunity to walk through the Peace Kowerma Coffee fields. Peace Kowerma (Delicious Peace) was founded by JJ Keki, a member of the Abayudaya, after he witnessed the atrocities of 9/11 while visiting New York. There are Christian, Muslim, and Jewish coffee farmers and there the interfaith collaboration in the fields has brought a greater sense of prosperity to their communities.

Walking through the coffee fields led us to a beautiful rock that forms a natural roof structure over looking a valley. JJ shared with us how that this rock acted as a synagogue for the Jewish coffee farmers when they were forced to hide their religion when Uganda was under the leadership of Idi Yamin. We sat beneath the rock while JJ recounted the story and then climbed up the rock to marvel at the beauty of the valley below.

We finished the afternoon in Mbale, the closest city to us, where we purchased much-needed supplies for the following day.
The rest of the day was spent doing research and prep work for the days to come!

July 2017: Day 5

 

Our morning was monumental and we’ll always remember it! 
The bus that TWSB has been working to provide to benefit three schools: Yonatan Netanyahu Memorial School, Hadassa Primary School, and Semei Kakungulu High School picked us up from the guest house and dropped us off at Putti Village! 

A year and a half of work, research, fundraising, and legal documents have gone into this bus so when it arrived at our door step, we were speechless. 
The two drivers: Isaac (School Bus Driver) and Shabyan (Taxi Driver who operates the bus when it is not driving students to generate revenue) picked us up smiling the whole way. It was a joyous occasion. 

Compared to the bus we were in yesterday, which struggled up the muddy, windy roads, riding in our very own, significantly newer bus made us feel like royalty. 

We arrived at Putti to children whose happiness mirrored our own as they understood the positive effects that the bus will have on their lives and community. 

We quickly got to work laying more bricks. We finished building the remaining two walls which completed the construction of the main supporting walls. 

Liz ran an educational planting workshop during which she taught the children how to plant seeds and made a beautiful mural that explains the process. Additionally, she came close to completing the building of the compost bin and planted tomatoes, onions, and green pepper. Liz’s work is helping to ensure that the garden fulfills it two goals: 

  1. To improve nutritional diversity and help provide students with much-needed iron through growing crops such as spinach and dodo (a leafy green). 
  2. To improve agricultural best practice by integrating agriculture into the curriculum. 

Micah put her teaching skills to use and developed a lesson that aims to improve primary (grade) 1 and 2 students' literacy skills. 

Aaron continued teaching the teachers how to use the SiMBi app most effectively as well as how to use the other incredible content on our servers (intranet systems) such as everything on Kahn Academy Lite, TED, and much, much more! 

Sarah, Eli, and Elliott finished laying bricks for the classroom compound. It was a good day. 

Following a busy day and a delicious dinner, JJ Keki, Enosh (Spiritual leader of Putti Village), and Seth (Head of S.K High School) joined us at the guest house for a class (or two) of wine. We discussed our work and its impact and we’re feeling incredibly fortunate to be working with such incredible communities. 

'Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’
- Margaret Mead