Teaching work in Uganda rewarding

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The hardest thing Sarah Reid has ever had to do was refuse a little girl a drink of water in a poor village in Uganda.

“Despite the 27-degree heat, water is rationed because it isn’t as readily available as it is here, she knew she could only drink at certain times of the day and yet she kept asking me for a drink from my water bottle – it was so hard,”she said.

The deputy principal of Rosebank school was recalling that poignant moment from her recent trip as part of a group of nine supporters of the Fountain of Peace Children’s Foundation who had travelled to Uganda to install a water-capture project at an orphanage-run dairy and chicken farm.

In the group were four from Balclutha: Mrs Reid and her daughter, Kristin, Mrs Reid’s long-time friend and fellow teacher from Kaitangata School, Ruth Baldwin, and her husband, John.

Children from Rosebank School had helped Mrs Reid raise money to build a water-catchment system in the village of Rwenjaza, about three hours’ drive west of Ugandan capital Kampala.

“We take water for granted, but they have to travel great distances each day to draw it from wells to feed their stock.

“Our project was to help build a water-harvesting scheme to capture precious rainwater.”

‘It was amazing to see the fruits of our fundraising labour become real bricks, mortar and plastic spouting,” she said

“Our efforts meant Alex, the local Ugandan dairy herd and poultry farm manager, no longer has to make 20 trips a day carrying two 20-litre containers just to bring enough water for the herd of four cows and 200 chickens.”

Mrs Reid said harvesting rainwater would also help the babies’ home become more self-sufficient and sustainable, as the milk and eggs produced were food for the babies’ home and nearby family homes.

Mrs Reid said the babies might be orphans or at-risk babies referred to the foundation by medical practitioners.

“They stay in the babies’ homes till 3 and then move into family homes staffed by local women.”

The Kiwi-funded family home in Rwenjaza is a three-bedroom brick home for up to eight children and their new mother.

“Then when they are old enough they attend the nearby primary school where Ruth and I also helped out.”

The whole operation was created by and staffed by Ugandans with assistance from the UK and New Zealand.

This was the Balclutha supporters’ first trip to Uganda and Mrs Reid’s impressions of a colourful, vibrant and friendly country were echoed by the Baldwins.

Teaching science at the village school was the goal of Ruth Baldwin, a passion she fulfilled at Kaitangata School.

Mrs Baldwin was keen to fly with Mrs Reid to Uganda.

“I needed to see where the money was going to, and see how effectively our donations were being used,” she said.

Mrs Baldwin taught three classes each day there. Each class had 58 children aged 7-12.

“After the lovely facilities we found at the orphanage and family homes it was a bit of a shock to find the school had only dirt floors, no electricity or lights, only one old blackboard per classroom and the teachers were issued only five pieces of white chalk per day.

“Despite their lack of resources the children had the neatest writing I have ever seen.”

Mrs Baldwin’s skill was introducing the children to science using local materials.

“The reactions of their faces when they found they could make the experiments work themselves instead of just sitting there watching the teacher was priceless.”

She said Uganda was a very poor country and educational materials were mostly non-existent.

“Seeing the wonder in their eyes as you let them be creative was just amazing.”

She said the simple act of letting the children hang their art and science work on the classroom wall for all to see and then take it home to their families with was a novelty.

The two teachers conducted a professional development seminar for local teachers which 56 attended.

The Kiwis gave 450 school uniforms and 24 pairs of gumboots to the children.

“We all had to take only the bare minimum .. to allow the group to carry all the uniforms and gumboots on the plane, but it was all worth it.”