In March, 2018 my husband Mark Saker, Diane Reiner and I set off on my second trip to visit the 19 kids I now consider family.
Five years ago, I was lucky enough to get involved with the children when my second grade classroom began Skyping with them and exchanging pen pal letters each year. I will forever be grateful to Ruth Pelham of “The Music Mobile” for my introduction to Diane as it has truly changed my life.
While in Uganda, the three of us had a lot of quality time to work on some business with Ronnie, Director of Jajja’s Kids, Africa and his staff. I especially connected with Jeff who tutors the children after school and teaches art classes at the house.
We reviewed educational reports and noted successes and problems that each child may be experiencing. Given my education background this was very interesting as Uganda’s education system is quite different (and very rigorous I must add.)
Many of the children are in school from 6:30 am until 7:00 pm! I found that quite surprising. Even after such a long day, the children are diligent about “revising” (studying) before they leave for school each day.
I met with most of the children to review their progress reports and discuss ways we could help them and every child talked to me about how important school was to them and their future. Mark dreams of becoming an engineer, Davis wants to be a pilot and Daphine would like to model one day. The children all have hopes, dreams and ambition. It was overwhelming to think about the impact this program is really having on them.
We were able to have some fun with the children on this visit as well. One of the highlights was taking all 19 plus five staff members to see the movie “Black Panther” at the local mall in Kampala. It was in 3-D so it was a double treat. The children had never been to a real movie theater before, so it was really something special to experience this with them.
After the movie we treated them to an African buffet at a restaurant called 2K. The children tried a little of everything and we all went home with very full bellies!
We were joined for several days with Elena and Greg Mosely and Danielle Palleschi. The Moselys are the founders of Operation Unite in Hudson, NY, and have several projects in the region of Palissa, Uganda. They are amazing people.
Danielle brought the dye materials for the kids to make their own shirts. What fun they had creating their own designs. Everyone really enjoyed the project.
This year Jajja’s Kids partnered with Albany Girls Acdemy, Albany. We did an art exchange with art teacher Renee Reh. Her students sent amazing pieces of art depicting life in America. Then, Jeff and I worked with the kids in Uganda to create art to bring back with me.
Their pieces were beautiful. They painted typical grass huts, women carrying bananas on their heads and scenes of village life. What a great way for students across the world from each other to learn about each other.
In addition to the art exchange 7th graders from the Academy wrote pen-pal letters to the kids in Uganda. The children enjoyed answering the questions, telling the American kids about their lives and creating beautiful cards for the girls at the Academy. We hope to continue our partnership next year.
It was really a pleasure getting to know the Ugandan staff better this year. These are wonderful people who care deeply about the children and are helping to create a brighter future for each child.
I enjoyed my one on one talks with each and every one of them. Sometimes, we are so focused on the children we forget that this program has enriched the lives of the adults as well.
This organization has given the staff hope for their own families and improved their quality of life. I am so proud to be part of such a grass roots organization. I can’t wait to visit again, as soon as possible.
I miss the kids already!
Susan Fowler, Sponsorship Coordinator, Jajja’s Kids, Inc