Uganda 17 November: Kampala
Stewart and Diane Mackie are here for the tenth time. Along with friends Chrissie and Jean, they have come to visit a school the Mackies have been supporting since they found it literally falling down amid a swamp on the northern outskirts of Kampala. They took us there to visit and see for ourselves what a little love, concern and small investments of money and time can do.
The school building itself, on first glance, is a project of hope; it has been raised slightly above the level of the swamp and is still under construction to make room for more students. Today the railing along the balcony is supposed to arrive so students can access the second floor classroom safely. They also have a new kitchen where the cook prepares large vats of posho, or maize porridge, over smoky fires. Children who had been on the streets, orphaned by HIV/AIDS, malnourished and sick now have a place that is safe and caring. While there are a few hundred children here already, for the duration of our visit there are children outside lining the fence and gate to see what’s happening in school. They want to be inside too.
That they cannot serve every child is difficult for the Mackies. Stewart says he thought that after ten years he would be hardened to the kids waiting at the fence, but with tears in his eyes he tells me, “they get me every time.”
What they see through the fence today is something like a festival. There are visitors at the school, and they brought a torch. The small brass band plays while children line up in rows by class.
With a brief introduction to the World Harmony Run and a briefer instruction on what to do next, the kids begin marching behind their classmate, Aliza, who carries the torch out front.
They march up and down the courtyard, each row in opposite directions, in step, band in tune. Not bad at all for primary school kids who are new to this kind of world. Soon though, the proud marchers surprise everyone. Rather than turning around when they reach the perimeter gate, Aliza leads the entire regiment right through the gate into the street, down the street to the paved road, down that road and around the neighborhood. As the band plays and 200 or so kids follow, marching in step, neighbors come out to their porches to see what’s happening. Their smiles and cheers tell of their pride in Outspan. They are proud of their children. There is joy in the neighborhood.
And the children here at Outspan have an opportunity made more rare by the quality of their education. The concern of their teachers and the students’ eagerness to learn has resulted in a 100% pass rate for those testing to leave primary school.
We are so glad to have been allowed to visit Outspan School. We want to encourage programs like this that create hope where there was none and demonstrate that each person has something special and valuable inside that can create beauty when it is brought forward. We were given so much by this visit, and I hope we gave the children something as well, that our short visit added something to Outspan's vision of bringing forgotten children back into the community and the world family.
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