We are no more than 100 feet from driving away from Putti Village and the feelings are indescribable. The immediate reactions were awe and astonishment as to what we helped create. Our team of 15, along with dozens of local workers built a solar-powered classroom in the middle of rural Uganda outfitted with tables, chairs, wifi and computers.
Putti Village is a place so poor with no future in sight for the local community. Some are fortunate to send their children to schools elsewhere and take small steps to try and offer a future of some sort to their children and families. I remember driving away from Putti Village with Aaron 8 months ago with heavy hearts wondering what we could do to offer more hope to the village. We knew we would be back and immediately began planning. We identified key areas to target: Literacy, Technology, Books, Educational resources, Tuition scholarships, Water, Food (Nutritional Diversity) And some fun! We spent months further developing our reading app, "SiMBi". It is still a work in progress but offers a comprehensive reading program beginning with sounds, words, sentences, paragraphs, and stories. The question became - in a world of billions of cell phones and technology, how can we incentivize reading through an available and free app.
We chose to do our work in Putti Village because of the relationship Aaron developed with the community years ago that we have nurtured and continue to cultivate. They have become our Ugandan family. There is a great deal of mutual respect. At the core of our work is a collaboration with our Ugandan leaders. We make suggestions for improvement based on their needs. The role of TWSB is to meet their needs. We endeavor to support the local economy whenever possible. We feel our approach goes a long way to strengthening these relationships and the trust they have in us and vice versa. We built another water catchment at Putti and a chicken coop at Semei Kakangulu High School. We passed out one hundred soccer uniforms and balls thanks to the generous and continued support of Stormtech. While the students appreciate our nutritional work, specifically the water catchment systems, the look on their faces when unwrapping the uniforms was truly beautiful.
Following the soccer game, the team got to work to ensure that the classroom would be brought to fruition before our departure. It wasn't easy but watching as the previously disparate pieces came together was truly a spiritual experience. Our 15 volunteers and Putti Village family sprang into action! Within 20 minutes, the container had become a beautiful classroom that the community couldn't believe belonged to them.
As our group entered the classroom and sat down at the tables and benches that we had helped build and sand. The magnitude of our impact settled in. After a brief tour of the classroom and ensuring that the subtlties: wiring, locks, wifi, computer passwords, and offline reading applications were all functioning, we left the SiMBi Classroom.
Ultimately, we were able to sponsor 17 students and pay for their tuition. We helped an additional 3 brothers who shared their story with us and we purchased their basic living necessities.
We ran book drives and school supply drives in Vancouver and carried 30 duffel bags with us. We built a library and filled it with children's books and school supplies.
Wow-what an incredible week!!! We are all tired, dirty, exhausted and above all happy. As I type this, I'm at a loss for the right words to open a window into our experience.
A HUGE thank you to all of our volunteers- you were all amazing. Each and everyone of you had your hand in all of the projects- whether it was sorting, painting, sanding, carrying bricks, mixing concrete, photographing, videoing, testing the students, teaching, or building - we did this together. Our group was supportive, shared resources, and kept each other going. These trips are hard physically and emotionally. We lived together in a guesthouse lacking many comforts- air circulation, water to shower, inedible lunches and power. The effect is cumulative. Yet, when we asked 6 teenagers if they would have preferred to be at the resort down the road, they all echoed the same sentiments... We like living within the community... We like the homemade cooking... We like living closer to the people we are helping... We like the authentic feeling... That is not an easy choice. However, it didn't feel right to these remarkable young adults to live with excess and luxury- the juxtaposition too great.
For all that we gave Putti Village, the gifts and lessons they showed us were far greater. They changed our lives in ways we haven't processed yet. Our hearts are full.
We thank you to all who donated, purchased supplies, an followed our journey with your incredible encouragement, love and support. It takes a village, or 2 in this case, to achieve what we were just able to do in a short time. We all have the power to effect change and improve the lives of people who have been marginalized whether local or abroad.
Stay tuned for our July trip. We were able to identify a great need and the wheels of the bus are already in motion. We will be back on July 19th!!
With so much love and gratitude,
Michelle and Aaron