WOW! We had a wonderfully productive 2 weeks in Uganda. My colleague, Sandra Thaxter of Small Solutions, Big Ideas, and I again traveled to Jinja to offer technology training sessions. This year, we took a different approach. We started Ventures For Good Tech Clubs at 6 schools. We also included the St. Francis Community Center and Kisime Island School.
The theme this year was the 3 C's: Communication, Collaboration and Confidence.
Our training sessions were held at the 6 schools: Main St. School (where we have established the Kabagezi Center), SDA, Spire Road Primary, St. Gonzaga, New Victory Primary School and Army Boarding School . We trained 10 students from 2 schools at a time for a total of 6 days of intensive training. We were able to expand our repertoire to include some makerspace activities as well as presentation skills, in addition to XO laptop and tablet activities. Scratch programming was a key focus and the students really enjoyed the animation activities. For the makerspace activity, we chose to have students make a simple machine out of cardboard, an activity found at http://steam.lesley.edu/kinetic-art-simple-machines/. Our objective was to instill a problem solving mentality into students and further challenged them to make pinball machines, again from cardboard. They rose to the challenge beautifully! Another key focus was to teach presentation skills. We had the students create slides using WPS that detailed their learning, their pictures and their hopes for the future. All children presented to the group, and some were selected to present at the First Annual African Children's Conference. We hope to grow this effort yearly inviting students from other areas such as Bungoma, Kenya. Other presenters included students who attended the Gayaza High School Farm Camp, sponsored by Ventures for Good. These students were the only primary school students represented and they demonstrated their awesome abilities in slides and pictures. Other presenters detailed the school projects in which they are involved: The Re-forrestry project and Helping Elders in our Community Project. 12 High School girls from PMM High School were recruited to mentor the after-school tech clubs. 2 mentors will visit each school each week supervised by a local teacher. We had a very successful trip and teachers and students are well on their way to integrating technology into Project Based Learning activities. As communication skills were emphasized, we hope that this year will provide numerous opportunities for students to document their learning, and present with confidence.
Two new projects will be initiated by Ventures for Good: Making Bricks and RUMPS. After the success of the farming projects of last year, we want to extend the skills set of students to other areas. Because Uganda is in such dire need of infrastructure and these students are Uganda's future, we started a project to have them beautify their environment with brick patios. Most of the area is currently covered in uneven dirt paths that shift and slide in the rain. This project will not only provide a paved area but will provide a way to sell bricks making it a self-sustaining project. The RUMP project addresses an urgent need for girls. Young girls stay home from school each month during their menstrual cycle because they are embarrassed. One of the teachers who is in charge of the girls at the Main St. School will be trained and will in turn train the girls to make menstrual pads that can be washed and reused. Projects such as this have had international impact and we are sponsoring its implementation in Jinja, Uganda.
Special heartfelt thanks to Chole Richard, our Ventures for Good Coordinator who managed all the logistics together with Julius Ngobi, the Kabagezi Center coordinator. These two teachers go well beyond their role to make our visit and training sessions run smoothly. There was an enormous need for transportation of students and prepared lunches as we wanted all schools to be hosts for our sessions. Everyone worked together to make the trip successful. All the teachers involved supported our work and are very grateful for theses opportunities.
Journal of visit to Uganda in 2016
Saturday Oct 1- arrived late. Kenneth, my long time Ugandan friend, and Jude, our driver, picked us up at the airport and took us to Landmark Hotel
Sunday- Jet Lag Our driver came to pick us up at 9 but we were sound asleep. We woke up at 10 forced ourselves to eat breakfast and Jude picked us up at 11:30. Just as we were about to leave to find a church, we met with Charles Wando and learned of SOMA, his company. We met his daughter Sasha and she reminded me so much of Jameson that I am going to set them up as epals. They look alike, are the same age, in the same grade and have ipads. Think of how they can grow up writing together on two continents!
Later, We met Esther to give her the money that Jim Metz, my Hawaiian friend that I met in Uganda sent. It was $2200 cash so I was happy to get that out of my purse. I took pictures and sent to Jim. He is a saint to get Esther started in a day care center.
Jude, the driver, took me back but then I remembered I should go to Mass, so Sandra, my companion, stayed behind while we found a Catholic Church. What a miracle. Got there 4 minutes before Mass was to begin at 4:30.
What a lovely Mass, took a short video, singing was so enriching! The priest, John, said we shall pray for each other.
Later we went walking in the dark to find the Italian grocery store. It was closed. We bought dinner at a local restaurant-shared a “local” dinner and went back to hotel. Soooo dark, we missed the turn, a bit lost but we dragged ourselves back to bed.
Monday- met with Joan Kajura from the ministry, invited Charles Wando but she was so late, he had to leave after 15 minutes. I updated her on my plans for this year which is to form clubs at the six schools. I wanted Charles to meet her because he is a computer programmer who wants to put the curriculum or Uganda on a tablet. She did her usual side step.
Then Jude drove us to Jinja where I will work for the week.
Tues- We met with Head Teachers in the morning and our regular group of teachers in the afternoon.
Told them of the new plan to work in the schools forming clubs at six schools supervised by the PMM high school girls
Wed- We met at Main St. School. SDA students joined us. 20 students and 2 PMM girls
Morning activity was introductions, icebreaker (telephone game), showing them camera on tablet to document their work, then Sandra did a Scratch lesson - animating their names (well maybe a letter of their name) 2 students to a computer
Lunch- prepared by host school- rice and beans
Afternoon activity was a maker activity - a simple machine out of cardboard and foam and decorations. It went well. We realized we had to cut the cardboard ahead of time, so we stayed late that night and cut the cardboard for the next day.
Thurs We met at Army Boarding School and St. Gonzaga kids joined us.
Lunch goat meat, rice and cabbage
Same activities as above
Friday- We met at New Victory in a make-shift room. The school had burned down a few months earlier (so sad) Spire Road students joined.
Lunch peanut sauce, greens and rice- best lunch!
Activities were the same but these students seemed to have a harder time. Might have been younger.
Saturday- St. Francis Community Center
Morning- younger children
Afternoon- older children, some mentors and teachers. Did the same routine morning and afternoon. Was not expecting to work the whole day but….
Introductions, followed by projected tablet where I showed them camera, word processor with inserted picture and then the gear game. Broke them up into groups of 5 to work the gears. They loved it. St. Francis mentors took lots of pictures and were smart. All were learning ICT but only by theory. This is really the first time they are getting their hands on a computer.
I had lunch there. Rice, some goat and sauce
I also had a big tour of facility. They service lots of HIV patients, kids, mothers. They have a labor ward and delivery center, a lab and they are building an operating theater. Took pictures, the HIV babies were so tiny and cute. About 25 children live there with their moms until they are good enough to go home or die. They have a doctor and a nurse on the premises. When an HIV woman is pregnant, they go to them, are given suppression drugs and they are able to stop the transmission to the newborn. 64 babies were saved!
Then I went back to Main St. School to try to make sense of the tablets I brought, making sure each one has the right software- WPS, Pocket Code, Pocket Paint and Lighbox Hour. Not enough time so we went back to the hotel for dinner.
Violet , our wonderful “concierge” at the hotel, visited and wants to help our project. I want to fix her up with Chole. They would make a good team. Chole is my coordinator here and he teaches at the girls high school, while Violet is a social worker part time and the “concierge” director at the hotel as well. Both so smart!
Sunday- We went to the Kabagezi Center (that Ventures founded) and worked on getting the computers ready for another round of kids. So many of the computers are malfunctioning. I guess that is to be expected when you buy refurbished ones (but the price was so good, it was worth it)
Then we went to King Fishery to relax. A very nice park on Lake Victoria. Had a nice lunch and relaxed a bit. Then it was back to the center for a bit more work.
Monday- began new lessons at SDA with Main St. School students coming along, as well as PMM girls- 2 to a school. Morning was about making good presentations. 3 C’s were emphasized: Communication, Collaboration and Confidence. At the end of teaching them how to make 5 slides, each child got up to present their work. It worked pretty well.
First slide- My Presentation with their name, school, grade
Second slide- What I have learnt
Third slide- a picture - hopefully of the work they did the week before, the simple machine or the Scratch programming. Otherwise, if they could not find their own tablet (some Tablets were broken), they took another picture of themselves. Mostly they said they learned how to take photos, use Scratch, operate a computer, etc.
Fourth slide could be another picture
Fifth side- My Future. Here they listed what they wanted to be. Most wanted to be doctors! Some lawyers, good child, good father, pilot, even 2 presidents and member of Parliament, priest. Engineer. Some wanted to be many- good luck for that.
Then back to the center to get ready for the next day. Sandra was so helpful with the XOs Bonaventure from Kenya camee for the afternoon and stayed until early Thursday afternoon
Tuesday- same as above but at St. Gonzaga with Army Boarding students joining in.
Wednesday- same as above but time was running out with New Victory joining us. The children also performed a wonderful poem- they were loud for that. I videotaped it, calling for parents teachers and all stakeholders to not leave them behind and saying they have new hope because of Ventures for Good and Small Solutions. It was performed by many more students in the ICT club (even though we could only train 10 from each school) It cut short the afternoon session on Scratch and Sandra was a bit upset about it but Gerald said the children had to go home.
Afterward we walkded over to the Blind Children’s area. I read them a story about sharing joyful music to cheer people up and gave them 2 keyboards and a lego type of building set. They LOVED them. We had a great time with them. Gave them lollipops too.
Back to the center
Thursday. We launched the FIRST ANNUAL AFRICAN CHILDREN’S CONFERENCE. I introduced, spoke of the 3 C’s Theme and laid out the agenda
Sandra explained about Scratch and showed a Scratch program done by the students (couldn’t find Patrick presented about the Gayaza Farming Camp and showed ppt and pictures - excellent
Then the students (2 were selected from each school) presented their work
Omar and Ibrihim from Main, Brian and Nicholas and Tracy from SDA, and 4 others from the other school.
We also had a presentation on the Elder project from SDA by 2 students -full of confidence
And the tree planting forrestry project from St. Gonzaga
Then the PMM girls presented some videos of an interview of PMM students who spoke about their school and then a skit they created about the Wrath of the Stepmother.
We closed the mini-conference!
Then in the afternoon, I had a session with the PMM girls teaching them more about the tablets. Each was “given”[ one to use in their mentoring of the 6 primary schools. We will develop a workplan with monthly goals and I will pay for transport once a week for the girls to rrive at their schools.. For Scrqtch they will borrow the laptops from Main Street and bring to schools.
I bought a smart phone for John, showed Francis how to reset the tablets and download WPS, SKYPED WITH ischool which was not possible (no power) so I called them on my iphone for about 45 minutes (afraid of that bill!) which turned out to be useless. They said we did not have to send the zedupads back because they are the same as the current ones, but they did not work to find the right lessons easily!!!!
Dinner at Park Villa with Chole, Julius, and John
Back to the room to sign certifictes
Friday- met with Chole to copy pictures from his to mine nd mine to his computer. Paid bill, driver came to take me to Kampala
Meetings with Dan Bwanika (urban planning) and fashion designer for future collaborations