A year of inspiration working with incredible children in Uganda

A year of inspiration working with incredible children in Uganda

From Christa Preston

Supporting the education of children with development disabilities, including down syndrome, cerebral palsy and autism, in Entebbe, Uganda

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Update #3

over 8 years ago

Todays story of generosity - food
Contrary to popular opinion things aren't any cheaper in Africa, in fact many things are more expansive (I'm looking at you $7 jar of peanut butter). Instead people here just get by on less. A typical days food is a cup of porridge for breakfast, posh (flour and water dough) and beans for lunch, and matoke (like unrippened banana but tastes like potatoes) and beans for dinner. Sodas and cakes are of the highest regard and the rarest of treats. However, whenever I am invited to someone's place to visit the sodas and cakes make an appearance. On Monday a friend invited me to visit the local university, at which she i a student. She showed me the campus and introduced me to some friends. In typical college style we decided to skip class and just hang out (in their defense it was pouring). 5 minutes after I sat down a plate with two bananas, a cake, and soda were put in front of me. No these hadn't just happened to be their either. One of the girls went out in the rain to get them. As they put this feast of treats before me they asked what I wanted for lunch. Um…this isn't lunch?! To put this in perspective, this is like running out for a plate of the good cheese to give to a random visitor, in your college dorm…o and the good wine too. No offense but you show up in my dorm you're getting cereal, if your lucky.
Sharing food is also a must here. Anytime I give a cookie to a child that kid will take one small bite then start breaking that cookie apart to hand out to their friends. It's actually incredible to see. Again, perspective here, think sharing one crackers worth of foie gras (and I'm talking in SF where it's banned), shared amongst 5 or 6 people. Can't say I'm that generous. Sorry folks.
The teachers do the same. Any little treat that one brings to school is shared amongst all the teachers. Sure some times this means I'm forcing down bitter greens but last week it was sweet bananas - oooo yum. In fact, the day of sweet bananas I went to visit a teacher friend's home and was treated to a second one. One of the only 2 she had left and she insisted that I had to eat it as I was a guest in her house (well 200 sq ft room, but that's a post for another day). To top the week off I was gifted with a sugar for the sole reason that I had not had one in Uganda. Now I'm not talking 12 in long thin Hawaiian sugar cane, I'm talking two inch thick, 3 foot long sugar cane (complete with lesson on how to mini-machete the crap out of that thing). Something like that could cost about 6,000 shillings ($2), which may not seem like much, but then again the teacher's only make 300,000 in a month. I'll let you put that one in perspective yourself.

Those with little give generously.

More Info

The Children's Welfare School in Uganda was founded with the mission to develop the unique abilities of special needs children to allow them to become independent self sufficient members of their community. The curriculum is a combination of foundational education (math, writing, etc.) and vocational training. I have had the privilege of volunteering at this school for the past three months and I am amazed everyday by these children and what they can do. However, the school's resources are limited and the children's needs are severe. 

What we need:

1) Teaching resources: The teachers at this school are attempting to use the same resources to teach these children as every other child in Entebbe. It is not only difficult for the teachers, but nearly impossible for the children to learn this way. This past term I introduced foam shapes to my class and the difference was noticeable from the start. I would like to provide these teachers with the basic tools required for these students to learn. 

2) Vocational training resources: The vocational training initiatives at this school are limited by the resources available. Farming requires seeds, jewelry making requires beads, for baking we need ingredients. The structure for a mushroom house exists but requires a small fund to complete it, purchase the seeds and pay for the initial training. Solar baking equipment is available for purchase in the US (to bring to Uganda). This would eliminate the issue of cost and unreliability of electricity. All of these initiatives have the potential to become self funding (i.e. selling the necklaces to fund bead purchases) after an initial investment. 

3) Games: Educational games allow the students stimulus during free play. Games also allow for peer education, which will be an essential supplement to the current education of these students. For many of these students 8 hours in a classroom is impossible. Education through play is a key solution plus these kids deserve the chance to have fun!

By equipping these teachers with resources specialized for this level of special needs the education of these children can be drastically improved. Simple supplies, such as beads and baking ingredients, can ramp up the vocational training and ensure these children will be able to thrive when they leave the school.  I’ve set a goal of 12,860,000 Uganda Schillings ($5,000), of which

$1,000 - Complete and supply the mushroom house

$2,000 - Bring in supplies from the US designed for special needs education. 

$1,000 - Supplies for the vocational training programs (cloth for tailoring, beads, baking supplies, etc)

$1,000 - Coloring books and other toys for the children because they freaking deserve it!

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Christa Preston posted a new update:
over 8 years ago

Those with little give generously - part 2

Todays story of generosity - food
Contrary to popular opinion things aren't any cheaper in Africa, in fact many things are more expansive (I'm looking at you $7 jar of peanut butter). Instead people here just get by on less. A typical days food is a cup of porridge for breakfast, posh (flour and water dough) and beans for lunch, and matoke (like unrippened banana but tastes like potatoes) and beans for dinner. Sodas and cakes are of the highest regard and the rarest of treats. However, whenever I am invited to someone's place to visit the sodas and cakes make an appearance. On Monday a friend invited me to visit the local university, at which she i a student. She showed me the campus and introduced me to some friends. In typical college style we decided to skip class and just hang out (in their defense it was pouring). 5 minutes after I sat down a plate with two bananas, a cake, and soda were put in front of me. No these hadn't just happened to be their either. One of the girls went out in the rain to get them. As they put this feast of treats before me they asked what I wanted for lunch. Um…this isn't lunch?! To put this in perspective, this is like running out for a plate of the good cheese to give to a random visitor, in your college dorm…o and the good wine too. No offense but you show up in my dorm you're getting cereal, if your lucky.
Sharing food is also a must here. Anytime I give a cookie to a child that kid will take one small bite then start breaking that cookie apart to hand out to their friends. It's actually incredible to see. Again, perspective here, think sharing one crackers worth of foie gras (and I'm talking in SF where it's banned), shared amongst 5 or 6 people. Can't say I'm that generous. Sorry folks.
The teachers do the same. Any little treat that one brings to school is shared amongst all the teachers. Sure some times this means I'm forcing down bitter greens but last week it was sweet bananas - oooo yum. In fact, the day of sweet bananas I went to visit a teacher friend's home and was treated to a second one. One of the only 2 she had left and she insisted that I had to eat it as I was a guest in her house (well 200 sq ft room, but that's a post for another day). To top the week off I was gifted with a sugar for the sole reason that I had not had one in Uganda. Now I'm not talking 12 in long thin Hawaiian sugar cane, I'm talking two inch thick, 3 foot long sugar cane (complete with lesson on how to mini-machete the crap out of that thing). Something like that could cost about 6,000 shillings ($2), which may not seem like much, but then again the teacher's only make 300,000 in a month. I'll let you put that one in perspective yourself.

Those with little give generously.

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Christa Preston posted a new update:
over 8 years ago

Those with little give generously

I am a skeptic when it comes to the generosity of others, especially from those that don't have much themselves. Sometime I'm sure I'll tire of always being wrong out here, but it hasn't happened yet.
Todays story of generosity - time.
Well I accepted a mission on Tuesday. One of the teachers showed an interest in re-instituting the jewelry making training that used to take place in the afternoon at school. As it turns out the only reason this hasn't been happening is that the school ran out of supplies. O how I love easily solvable problems - especially with funds that have been donated thus far from you wonderful people back home!
My mission - find beads. Sounds simple enough but nothing ever is when Kampala is part of the equation.
Well, per usual, I was pushed out of the mitatu at a random stop and began wondering around. I found myself lost in the largest maze of a market. No luck.
Finally escaping I tumbled on to a main street and resumed my search there. Still no luck. Asked for direction and hands pointed in opposite directions. Disheartened but determined I tried one more shop.
There I met Maria, who knew of the bead shop! O sweet glory finally! One hiccup - she couldn't explain how to get there so she would take me instead. Hesitation hit first, skeptical of what this "assistance" would cost me but that was quickly overcome by desperation and off we set.
Well this angle took me on a chase for half an hour, which included asking 5 more people and picking up a second guide. Fortunately I had a nice tour of the city so that's something. Fighting through traffic and crazy bodas I barely kept up with my guides but then suddenly we were upon it. What a glorious site is was. An entire shop of the most beautiful beads of all shapes and colors. Outstanding.
With a final word of advice on how to haggle my guide turned to leave. Confused I followed her out. Didn't she want anything. Couldn't I give her something for her troubles, a necklace, a bead, a soda for crying out loud you left work and took me all over the city. Her response "No, I'm a Christian, I had to help and I can't accept anything." Seriously, this girl was out of school and trying to get by working at her mother's failing bookshop and she wouldn't even let me buy her a soda. Think of what I would have missed because I was skeptical. Because I'm selfish and wouldn't give the time to play guide. Yet she did, with no hesitation, question or rewards. As I learn everyday here, those with little give generously.

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Christa Preston posted a new update:
over 8 years ago

Welcome to Africa

Landing in Africa I was drained and disoriented from 30 hours of travel, but I had arrived. The last leg had been rough and as I stepped off the plane I saw the distant storms we had traversed still brewing to the west. But above me the sun was shining and a faint rainbow could be seen at the edge of the storm. I took it as a good omen for the trip and headed to get my bags and visa. Fortunately, after a bit of waiting, all my bags arrived and I had my visa, good omens abound!

Robert, founder of the orphanage I stay at, was there to pick me up and took me on a short tour of town. It takes about 10 minutes to drive all of the town but the contrast within it is unbelievable. The nicer homes are made of stone, with iron bars on the windows, completely fenced in, with iron gates at the only entry point. Some even have guards posted outside. Barely two blocks away the homes switch to metal shacks and huts. I am not quite sure what I was expecting before I came here, but the metal shacks were the first shock. Maybe 200 or 300 square feet, and home to a family of four or more. We skirted these homes for only a brief moment then it was back to the center of town, where we passed on internet cafe and a hotel with a pool (that costs $200 a night!!). I'm not sure who could afford such a hotel, and if they could why they would come here, but we can apparently pay to swim there if we'd like.

Upon arrival at Malayaka House there were 10 children playing by the garage. Each one stared as I stepped out of the car. There was a moment of caution. I thought, "who can blame them, with so many people coming in and out of their lives," but before I'd finished the thought one of the smaller girls, maybe 4 or 5, ran right up to me and gave me a hug. After 30 hours of traveling, and the goodbyes with friends and family so fresh, I could have cried to have been so quickly accepted by this little girl. But before a tear could be shed, there was a troupe of children on me, hugging my legs, climbing right up my back, and thus I became an "Auntie."

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