This morning we set out bright and early to make the long walk to school with the students from Putti Village at the Yonatan Netanyahu School. The early morning sunrise was beautiful shimmering pink and orange as it rose above the mountains illuminating the trees on the horizon. All was quiet as we left Nabagoye Village except the sound of the crickets and roosters.
As we set off down the road, we began to see more and more students of all ages walking to school. Their walks were all different lengths ranging from 1 to 10 kilometers. The more we drove on, the more the roads filled up with students. Some kids walked alone, some in groups, most without parents, some with shoes, many without, a few with backpack. Seeing young children with no shoes or supervision is hard to digest. However, the scene isn't complete without realizing the hope and determination all of these students possess trying to get an education.
The need to gift these communities a school bus is apparent. It is also abundantly clear to us that it must be done properly and efficiently in order to maximize the benefit to our partnered communities. While on the ground here in Uganda, and creating new contacts, we have been able to do more due diligence than was possible from Vancouver. We learned that the bus we planned to purchase was purchased and shipped to Uganda from Japan. It was driven hard and we were going to buy it used. Since being here, we learned we can buy directly from Japan and ship the bus here for the same price as gifting them a well used bus. We have also formed a partnership with a local tour company, African Adventures who would like to help us monitor and evaluate the project. As such, we have decided to purchase the bus from Japan and return here in a couple of months to gift the bus. While we are all anxious for this community to have the bus, we must ensure that cost efficiency and maximum benefit to the community are of paramount importance.
With thoughts of the bus on our minds, as our van approached a fork in the road, we all got out to walk the final kilometre with the students. There are no real words to describe what we saw and how it felt to participate. With our TWSB shirts on, we felt proud to be a part of their journey and to realize the mission of The Walking School Bus: to help students access education.
While the agriculture/nutrition team set up, Michelle and Aaron went into Mbale to purchase supplies local style. We rode on motorcycles (on the worst of roads) and returned standing in the back of a pick up truck holding on for dear life with our supplies. After a tire falling off the truck and our piping falling out of the truck, we made it back to the village.
TWSB team was in full swing when we returned completing the work of yesterday's garden, chicken coop and art projects. It was satisfying to see the projects come to life. We'll be back on Thursday to see the chickens delivered!! Michelle had the opportunity to workshop with the teachers and share educational reading resources. They were so grateful and appreciative of all our time and energy!
We arrived at Putti Village at 7:00 am and left 12 hours later exhausted but satisfied and happy to see the difference we are making in the lives of the people here.
Written By: Michelle Gilman