First Trip; First Impressions

Since Mustard Seed Academy began in 2009, I thought about going to visit Uganda. In February I decided to make it a reality. My main goal was to meet Eria, the boy I had sponsored for many years. He is now an S-4 student, and I worried I’d lose track of him after graduation.

I was lucky to make the trip with Elaine Griswold. Her experience made everything easier. On the drive from Entebbe to Lukaya, the observations came fast and furious. I was struck by tiny mud houses with no doors, unpaved roads, the number of products sold along the road, chickens running wild, goats and cows tethered right beside the road eating grass in the heat, and people everywhere! Maybe unfairly, I concluded when you have no job, no money, and no hope you have children.

After getting settled, it was time to go to the school. At first, the small children were shy, but once one decided to approach, everyone joined in. They wanted to touch my white skin, but then they rubbed it like they might be able to rub off the color!

Most children are smiling as we expect from pictures, but some hardly ever smile. You wonder, how awful their young lives must have been? The older students go to school from 8 am to 5 pm. The younger children only an hour less. Made me wonder why our American school days are so short. I found the teachers to be smart and dedicated. Students are attentive and interested.

One thing that stood out to me was how soft-spoken and gentle the children are. You can hardly hear them when they speak. They like school and are lucky to get to go to school. The students are so cute in their school uniforms, and while it is 80 degrees every day some of them wear sweaters! I’ll never understand that.

After the first week, I started to notice how nice the grounds were at the school. Colorful plants, green grass, and many crops are being grown. The program of growing crops is expanding as there is a never-ending need for food. Many children get their only meals at school.

Talking to the children was my favorite thing to do. Eria told me he knew what I looked like from Facebook. I had no idea. They have some access to computers (until the school was recently robbed). I was asked about skyscrapers, earthquakes, food, and clothing.

I learned that so little means so much in this country and how grateful the children/adults are for everything that is done for them. I could go on and on about my trip: shopping in the market, art classes, 5th-grade field trip, the nursery school (oh my!), meeting some of the graduates of Mustard Seed.

I certainly am more grateful for everything I have. I wish everyone could make a trip to Uganda, but I know that is impossible. Know that every penny you give is being used, and every penny you can give is needed. Elaine, thank you for letting me tag along on the trip of a lifetime. Kathryn and Dana (Hiscock) it was so nice to meet you. Most of all thanks to you all, plus Professor Joseph, for opening your hearts to all these children.

– Susan Harper