Wednesday, September 29, 2010

We're always looking for ways to keep the kids motivated. Most of them come from homes where there is a lot of confusion, making it difficult to stay motivated in school. All of them come from homes where education has not been easily accessible. Therefore, a lot of the parents are illiterate or haven't gone very far in school.
Vision of Destiny really desires for these kids to succeed. We've been rewarding those children that perform well.
This past term we rewarded quite a large number of children. For the older children in high school, anyone that was in position 20 in their class or better was given some pocket money to be used at school. It wasn't much, but for children who normally get nothing, it was a motivator.
For the kids in primary school, we gave out new toothbrushes, toothpaste, and fun colored pencils. You may be asking yourself how are toothbrushes and toothpaste motivating????? Remember, these kids come from extreme poverty. These items are a luxury. For the child that was first in his class, we bought a watch.
For the kids at the nursery school, those that were number 1 in their class were given new school bags. All children that scored 80% or better on the final exams were given fun colored pencils.
The kids were excited to get their rewards and those that were very close to being in the category that received the rewards assured me that next term they would be given.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Brothers By Circumstance

This is Shafik......... And this is Joseph........

Two boys that have been made brothers by circumstance.
In January, Vision of Destiny was registering children on the waiting list and admitting children that have never been to school into the newest Baby (K3) Class. A man came to register his two boys, Shafik and Joseph.
I've heard all kids of stories, both truths and lies. This man came in and his story was that the whole family was HIV+ and these boys were twins that had never been to school. Now, I'm not a complete idiot, so picked up immediately that he was lying. He was truthful on part of his story. The lady that he had brought with him and he himself really are HIV+. They were able to present proof of this.
However it was very clear these boys were not twins. First, they are not the same size. It's clear that one is several months younger than the other. Second, one has a Christian name, the other a Muslim name. Thirdly, in Uganda twins are given specific surnames. In this case, the boys didn't have these names.
They showed us where they were living and it was apparent that the boys really did need help. They were admitted into the school and as we got to know the family and gather more information, the story became more and more clear (although it is really a muddy story).
We found out that the boys were indeed really not twins. They weren't even real brothers. The father had two wives. One the mother of Shafik. The other is the mother of Joseph. All members of the family live in a single room house. This means that the two cowives live under the same roof, in the same room!
Shafik is actually the stepson to the man, but the mom is currently pregnant with her second child, the child to this man. The cowives absolutely HATE each other and no amount of counseling seems to help them in their situation. They torment not only each other but the child of the cowife, meaning that each child is mistreated by his stepmom.
Money is scarce and the meager earnings of the father have to be stretched to cater for his ever growing family, as Joseph's mom has another little girl younger than Joseph and Shafik's mom is currently pregnant. So, although these boys are smiling in the picture and can frequently be seeing playing happily at school, their lives at home are really miserable.
Imagine living in extreme poverty: a single room (that is every room in the house from kitchen to bedroom) shared with multiple family members, possibly one meal a day, no electricity, no running water, toilets which are far from the house, etc. and to top that off living with a stepmom that wishes you dead.
They have hope in that they are part of the sponsorship program. Possibly their adult lives will be different. Maybe they will grow up to be responsible, educated young men, able to get jobs that pay enough to support a family. Maybe what they are learning in the daily Bible lessons will help them to choose to have only one wife and to be commited to a strong family life.
That is the hope that Vision of Destiny has, that each child in the program will grow up to have a different life, a life that is impacted by the love of Christ, with the knowledge to choose something different from their current living situations.
It's alll possible through sponsorship. Joseph is sponsored. Shafik, although in the proram, is still waiting for a sponsor.........

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Brighter Future

Meet Juliet!

And Innocent!
And Ronnie!
These three belong to a family that is involved in the Vision of Destiny sponosrship program. Ronnie attends school at the school which I run and Juliet and Innocent attend a school nearby.
Vision of Destiny continuousely has a long waiting list. Their mom added them to the waiting list early this year. When doing interviews to admit the incoming K3 class for 2010, Ronnie was identified to be eligible.
Late last year, their father learned that he was HIV+. Instead of going to a nearby clinic for counseling and treatment, he decided to take his own life and hung himself. He left these three children as well as a wife and baby under a year old. The wife is not well educated and is unemployed. Survival became a challenge for the family. They were often left outside to sleep when landlords would chase them from their home for lack of rent payment. Meals were scarce and far between. Juliet was sent to live with an aunt in hopes of the burden on their mom being lightened a little. None of the children were attending school.
During first term there was space for Ronnie at my school although he wasn't sponsored. The older two, at that time, there was little that I could do.
In March, a visitor came to help around the school for about a month. She was taken by their story and went back and got a sponsor for Ronnie. She also found a sponsor for Innocent and Juliet, making it possible for them to return to school during the second term this year.
We have been encouraging their mom to have herself and all the children tested for HIV. Please pray that she will find the courage to do this and if any are found positive that she will be willing to use the lifesaving medications which are available for free here in Uganda.
You see, in Uganda, school is a privilege and not a right. Many children are left out of school for lack of money. Even though the government has set up a free school system, there are hidden fees which mean that it does little to help families put their children back in school. Although these schools don't charge tuition, there are development fees, lunch fees, uniforms to be bought, school supplies and shoes that are needed. So, many families still can't send their children to school. And for those lucky enough to be able to send their child to school, these schools are often overcrowded (having 100+ children in a classroom with only 1 teacher), lack infrastructure (children study under trees), have teachers that don't come to school every day (meaning children have to go back home), or have school only two hours each day (meaning children leave primary school without being able to even write their name or read a simple sentence).
So, Vision of Destiny steps in to help these families. All children are sent to Christian schools that have a tradition of high performance.

Children like Sozzi Peter are now attending school. His father died in a motorcycle accident a couple of months before he was born, leaving his mom with little ways of supporting or educating their child. Currently, Sozzi Peter and his mom live in a local church. I use the word church very loosely. It's known more for its cultlike practices such as proclaiming the water taken from a well inside the main branch of the church is the blood of Jesus. Members are taught that when they drink this water or bathe with it, they are blessed with special blessings. There are many other such teachings in the church. Although this child is not yet sponsored, he has been attending my school since the beginning of this year where he is being taught the Bible and given two meals each day. Pray with me that the truth that he is being taught at school will one day be a light to he and his mom and they'll be able to break free from a church with false teachings.

Brandon is another child not yet sponsored but still blessed to be attending my school. I met Brandon through his elder sisters. Their father had died when Brandon was a baby of AIDS. Their mom is an alcoholic and the family lives in a bar. The mom drinks away what little money she manages to earn. The eldest sister was left in charge of finding ways to get food. Often I would find her along the streets, very dirty, begging for food. I got to know her a bit and her mom let me take her and the other sister back to school. I put them in a boarding school since they are girls. I figured it was safer than leaving them to roam the streets at all hours of the night. At that time, Brandon was still to young to start school so their mom had to find ways to fend for herself and Brandon. Then this year Brandon was able to begin K3 at my school.
It's been a challenge for him. Since his sisters are not there to look after him, he's often left with neighbors and even one time was left alone (which led to his spending the night at the police station). Please pray that their mom will come to know Christ and learn how to be there for her children.
So many times I look at the need around me and know that I can only do a drop in the ocean. But, at least for the few children that are in the sponsorship program, the future looks a bit brighter (despite the challenges at home).

Friday, September 3, 2010

Another Jackie Story

So, this morning I'm sitting here on my computer with Jackie sitting in the chair next to me. Remember, she's my constant shadow. I wanted to get some work done so asked her if she'd like to look at a book. She chose to look at our Bible for kids. She was looking at the pictures pointing out to me Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, etc. (So much for getting a lot of work done!)
As she's continuing to look she tells me, "God died for our sins, all of them. When we die, we are going to live in his home, heaven, with Him."
She continues to blow my mind. She's only four but seems to have a deeper understanding of the things of God than most children and certainly a large number of adults.
Then she told me that when she gets to heaven she'll get to see Mercy, one of her classmates that died in May.