The entire MCF team and our beneficiaries at Rushakyi Primary School would like to wholeheartedly thank the first 50 donors who contributed to our project and helped us earn a PERMANENT SPOT on GlobalGiving AND the additional 38 (and counting) who put us over the top to fully fund our project.
Your generosity means that children at Rushakyi Primary School in Kabale, Uganda will have their first cup of porridge served to them on January 30, 2012 (the first day of the Ugandan school-year). It will be a celebration that goes on for 189 more days, where many of them will have their only meal of the day served at school. Living in abject poverty means that a meal a day is not a guarantee. Our program changes that.
EXCESS FUNDS: Excess funds will go toward outfitting a schoolroom to become a library- a plan that the school has had in the works for over 7 years! It will be the only school in the area that has a library. It will be named Piney Branch Library after their sister school in Takoma Park, Maryland. The Mpambara-Cox Foundation will supply books that were donated and shipped from the US.
WHAT IS THE PORRIDGE STORY? I wanted to share with you the genesis of the porridge program as a way to invite you into the lives of the poor children in Uganda and for you to understand the magnitude of your donation.
The story starts in my son’s 3rd grade classroom in Maryland in March of 2008. As a weekly volunteer, I was giving a spelling test to a boy that normally would have aced it. On this morning, the boy was not able to concentrate and did not seem to care about his test. I knew that there was something wrong. I gave up begging for his attention and pointedly asked, “What exactly is the matter, I know you can spell some of these words?” He told me he was very hungry. It was 10:30AM. I asked if he had eaten breakfast and he said that he had chosen not to eat what his mother offered because he “wanted to go to McDonald’s for an Egg McMuffin.” I told him that it would soon be lunch, but he had to get through the test. His final score was 4/20.
As I drove home, I could not help but think about how our American children take almost everything for granted - a meal, a toy, a book, a computer, an education. I thought about it all day and I became determined to see that somehow, I would get this young boy to understand that his world is full of privilege and that he should appreciate it because there are children his age on the other side of the world for whom breakfast is but a dream.
I decided that the most effective way to impart such a cross-cultural lesson in empathy was through peer-to-peer interaction. I also wanted to enrich that experience by giving him an opportunity to make a real difference through reciprocal programs that benefit both sets of children. The lesson would be to understand that they are interconnected as part of our shared humanity.
In May 2008, I traveled to my hometown, Kabale, Uganda to start a pilot program that connected kids. In the first school I visited – Kengoma Primary School – I found half empty classrooms, unmotivated teachers, a serious lack of scholastic materials and children falling asleep in class due to hunger. The situation looked overwhelming and intimidating, it was daunting thinking you could even do anything that would change such a dire situation. There was an even more immediate problem that I had anticipated, that hit me so hard - that the higher the grade, the emptier the room - the statistic that over 70% of students drop out of school by Grade 4. They leave school illiterate (without the ability to read or write).
After visiting 21 schools, I clearly saw the consistency in dire conditions and circumstances. I wondered what I could do to effectively help these children? I conferred with the teachers and my mother, and the answer became clearer and clearer: we had to start at the very beginning. We had to get the children to come to school, to attend class and to make it a habit. “Feed them and they will like school,” Alex the headmaster at Rushakyi Primary School said several times.
So, I decided to start a school-feeding program. We would serve locally grown maize as a porridge with added soy for protein, milk and sugar. This meal is a luxury to children for whom milk usually stops at nursing. The porridge would be served at 10:30AM daily to make sure that the children could make it through the school day. Using $700 that I had with me, I decided to run a trial for 2 months.
A REAL SUCCESS: The pilot feeding program was extremely successful! I was amazed to see the high levels of excitement at the school just on receiving the news. As word traveled through the village, people came by to watch the children eat their meal on the first day we run the trial. A simple cup of porridge had instantly created a delightful buzz throughout the school compound; it had ignited a passion in the children that spread to the teachers as well.
After that two-month period, there was no turning back. I pledged to start the program in July 2008 and run it for one year.
IMPACT: Within one month, enrollment increased from 196 students to 224 - the previous years had seen enrollment decline year after year. Attendance for the first time mirrored enrollment, children were happy to be at school, concentration levels went up, sick days dropped dramatically and parents started to encourage their children to attend school. Today, Kengoma Primary School and three other schools are transformed because of our unique porridge program.
A BRIGHTER FUTURE: Imagine that on Monday, January 30th, your contribution will create a delightful buzz at the Rushakyi school compound, there will be an energy that will last for an ENTIRE YEAR! For 190 days, the children will be served porridge at 10:30AM daily. We are taking them a step closer to meeting thier goal, "To provide a quality education for all.” The promise of another year’s funding for porridge program brings:
Our goal is to expand our school-feeding program to other schools. We have changed our page to reflect our desire to reach more children. Please continue to support us and note that we do not start a program in a new school until we have secured funding for an entire year. We just would hate to disappoint the students and the community. We are in it for the long haul.
Please ask your friends and family to support our efforts to make the world a better place, one school at a time.
Our next report will feature the first week of school at Rushakyi Primary School. You’ll see pictures of the children enjoying the porridge you helped provide.
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