Zaid and Lindsay (me) Aboud, the co-founders of Bridging Villages, made a huge life change in July of 2016, when we relocated to Uganda to better run the day-to-day activities of the organization. Over the past two weeks, we have been working closely with Nagadya Lillian Mugalula, who is the director of Mugalula Community School (MCS), in an effort to organize the child sponsorship program and to prioritize the needs of MCS in the coming year.
Together, we have decided that the goals for the remainder of 2016 are as follows:
1. Complete the land purchase for MCS
2. Get at least 25 students (including all 9 students currently in Primary 7 or higher) sponsored so that the nutritional program at the school will benefit all kids rather than only a few. Also, if all nine older children receive sponsor parents this year, they will be able to attend Secondary School at the start of the new school year here in Uganda, which is the first week in February.
3. Begin construction on the main school house, which will provide enough classrooms for every child to learn in a safe, clean and protected environment.
The kids are all so excited that we are here and that our programs will be rolled out in the very near future. We are greeted every day by smiling children who run from their classrooms to meet us and give us the biggest hugs you have ever felt. Over the past two years, we have worked very hard to ensure these children trust us and our intentions. They know that we will protect them and their stories and that we will never betray that trust. For this reason, you will never see posts or blogs detailing the horrible past that many of these children have faced. Rather we will focus on the present and the future. Every child at MCS has been given a second chance to achieve their dreams. All they truly want is to be able to finish their schooling so that they might have a life that is different from that of their parents. They want to be able to care for themselves and their families and to be able to make a difference in their country. So, we will bring you stories of hope and of joy. Yes, there will be tears along the way, likely from members of our board of directors, but every post, blog entry, picture, will always contain a glimmer of happiness and light, which is what these children exude.
Aside from MCS, we are also partnering with a rural medical clinic, Mirembe Health Centre III, which provides medical services to thousands of people in the greater Gayaza region (including community members from Namavundu, the home of MCS). While we have been in Uganda we have worked alongside the directors and health care professionals at the clinic to develop goals for Bridging Villages. Zaid, has already spent a few days over the past two weeks working at the clinic, assisting Doctor Lydia with her patient load, which has provided a birds-eye view of exactly how the clinic is currently functioning and potential opportunities for us to be able to offer assistance. More to come on this front in the near future.
The women's vocational program is developing slowly but surely. The women are hard at work making the bead designs for a local sandal maker. We are excited to meet with the women in the coming weeks and to begin discussions on what they would like to see in this program moving forward. Keep your eyes peeled at local markets within Manitoba and British Columbia, over the next year, where you will be able to purchase these gorgeous sandals and help to support a woman in Uganda in her fight to provide for her family.
Today, we will be spending the afternoon at MCS, celebrating a wonderful volunteer, Claudine, from France, who has spent the past three weeks working at the school and at Mirembe Health Centre III. She is due to head home on Saturday but she has left a large imprint on the lives of many people here in Uganda, including the little ones at MCS. She has truly taken the time to invest into the lives of these kids, and they won't soon forget her. Come back soon Claudine!!!!
On a personal note, the launching of Bridging Villages marks the fulfillment of a dream that my husband, Zaid, and I have had since we first met Lillian and her kids in 2014. We knew that as two graduate students, we had very little to offer, in the way of financial support, but we could do so much more. While we sent as much money as we could personally manage to assist in the development of MCS and the care of the 26 children that are in Lillian's care, we also began to realize that many of our friends and family members wanted so badly to help in whatever way possible. The decision to start a Canadian charitable organization was an easy one. We knew that if we could navigate through the unending red tape associated with starting such an organization, that the lives of so many people in Uganda and Canada would be changed. To be a part of a community like Namavundu, Uganda, is unlike anything we have ever experienced. We are a part of their family, and they ours. So, when our family was in need, we did everything we could to meet that need. Our family in Uganda needed a hand in ensuring that their children were able to fulfill their dreams, and our family in Canada needed a hand in experiencing the purest form of joy that is lived every day in the smallest villages of Uganda. Together, provided the bridge by which these villages across the world became connected, and we couldn't be more humbled or honoured to play our parts in this incredible story.