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Apr 13, 2018

The Need for Light

7th graders at Matuwa with their flashlights
7th graders at Matuwa with their flashlights

As a fourth grade teacher at Tuckahoe Elementary School in Arlington, VA, I was first made aware of Arlington Academy of Hope by way of our mutual affiliation with Matuwa Primary School in Uganda. After learning more about AAH’s righteous intentions – their goal to improve the quality of life in rural Uganda and to transform poor villages into self-sustaining communities – I was compelled to become more actively involved in their cause. Their focus on schooling, healthcare, local development, and community outreach perfectly align with my own core values of education and empowerment. 

After visiting Matuwa, I was deeply moved by the culture of a people who present the world with great hope despite their many struggles. One pressing need quickly stood out in my mind: the need for light. Despite how frequently it is taken for granted in more developed nations, light is often denied to these students as a result of the lack of accessibility to electricity in most villages. The rainy season brings overcast skies and darker days, and standard electricity is not available in many of the districts our sister schools are housed. This limits working hours both inside and outside the classroom. Tuckahoe helped Matuwa install solar panels last year, and the positive impact was immediate and constructive. A seemingly trivial thing, light, had completely transformed a school. 

I set out to find a light source that would be appropriate for use in sub-Saharan, agrarian Africa. I reached out to Bigfoot Outdoors, an American company specializing in reliable adventure and survival products and secured a generous donation of 500 flashlights to send to our students at Matuwa Primary. The waterproof flashlights run on solar power and hand-crank capabilities, making them perfect for use in Bupoto.

Students can now read, study, and complete work without relying solely on the sun’s hours. These flashlights help eliminate the need for kerosene lamps, whose fumes are dangerous and costly. These portable light sources will make everyday tasks easier for the families who received one. It is a simple yet effective way to improve the living conditions of 500 families.

Boniface using his flashlight for homework
Boniface using his flashlight for homework
Jared charging his flashlight on his home's roof
Jared charging his flashlight on his home's roof

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Jan 25, 2018

Two AAH Women elected Student Body Presidents

Esther with one of her campaign posters
Esther with one of her campaign posters

In the world of student politics at universities and colleges across Uganda, the top spot is Guild President. This is an elected position which AAH students have run for before, but they have never succeeded until now! AAH students didn’t just win one top spot – they won two! And what’s more, both are young women.

Esther and Georgina were both elected to the top spot at their schools within just a few weeks and a few miles of each other. Esther attends the Uganda Christian University in Mbale (UCU Mbale) and Georgina attends Salem Nursing School, also located in Mbale. Both young women were experienced in student government from their secondary school days where both were elected prefects. 

I met with Esther on her campus and while finding a place to sit, many students called over to us to say hello to Esther and congratulate her. Esther is only the second woman to become guild president at UCU Mbale, but she was confident that she could win. “I felt that I was someone with potential.” She wasn’t worried about who her opponents would be plus she had the support of the extended AAH family on campus who helped her “so much, so much, all of them supported [her].”

Running on the platform “spirit of togetherness and integrity,” Esther used a positive message to try to bring together students of different tribes. Her team went into full campaign mode by branding water bottles, t-shirts, and, of course, banners and posters. They put on events, like a cododi dance (traditional drumming and dance routine) and attended school events like the sports gala. By making themselves visible and promoting her positive message, Esther took the lead.

Now that she has won, she is determined to see that she fulfills her campaign promises. One of her top priorities is getting water tanks installed in the student dorms for dry season next year. Esther also wants to stay true to her campaign slogan. “I want to see that the different tribes and different campuses come together.”

Georgina attends an all-girls nursing school on the outskirts of Mbale and became involved in student government during her first year. The previous guild president befriended Georgina and encouraged her to run for the role in her second year because of her strong leadership skills. Georgina used her previous experience in her main campaign message saying, “I am capable of making the environment as you would like it.”

Because Georgina’s school is small, only 158 students, she had to run a campaign that focused on getting to know as many students as possible and speaking to each one herself. She went from dorm to dorm speaking with each student to ensure that they knew her message and her goals. She also participated in debates where her previous experience helped.

After such a close race, Georgina knew she had to prove herself still. She immediately got to work on her campaign promises and goals, and when I spoke to her she had already accomplished one of them – only 2 weeks after being sworn in! Georgina managed to move the guild office to an unused office, rather than sharing an office in the main admin building with school staff.  Georgina also plans on having another set of washrooms built and adding trenches to help with flooding on campus during the rainy season.

Both Georgina and Esther were able to get to this point because of their own determination and a little help from fellow students and the encouragement of AAH staff. University Coordinator Sam is exceptionally proud of his students and hopes that their success will encourage our other students at other campuses across Uganda to run for student leadership positions. He hopes that Esther and Georgina are just the start.

Georgina at Salem Nursing School
Georgina at Salem Nursing School

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Jan 12, 2018

Arlington Academy of Hope in 2018

Sarah and friends at Arlington Junior School
Sarah and friends at Arlington Junior School

Hurray!  We've reached our goal for this project thanks to your support.  Thank you! 

Your contributions have provided so much more than an education. Our students learn the value and see the benefits of hard work, gain leadership skills that will last a lifetime, and build their self-confidence. Listen to the inspiring words of Kibone Sarah, a 10-year-old student in Grade 4 at Arlington Junior School:

“My opinions are treated with respect by other children. I have also learned to be responsible and smart at all times because we learn that good leaders should be exemplary. I have promised myself to continue in the line of leadership so that in the future I can become an activist for children’s rights and equality between men and women. Yes, I can!”

And the difference you are making goes beyond the walls of Arlington Junior School. You’re providing a bright future for children like Alex, who attends our outreach school in Bumwalye:

“Bumwalye has made me a more confident person through the various debate tournaments I participated in that were organized by the Outreach Program,” says Alex.

Although this project is closing, we have another project on GlobalGiving with the same goals, and we're still working hard to give the gift of education to students in Uganda.  The support we've received from this project and others will help us to accomplish our lofty goals for 2018 like:

  • Expanding our outreach efforts as we work with local university students from Marymount University in Virginia to provide onsite teacher training at both Arlington Junior School as well as several of our outreach schools. We also have big plans to connect more schools in Uganda with sister schools in the U.S. to increase the educational resources available. 
  • Expanding the size of our health clinics to accommodate the growing demand, increase the supply of life-saving medications, provide reproductive health services and sex education for women and girls in need, and provide outreach services in the community to ensure patients stay on top of their health.
  • Working with universities and vocational schools to connect our university and tertiary graduates with gainful employment when they graduate.

We cannot thank you enough for your support that makes all of our work possible! You are truly making a difference in the lives of thousands of children with your generosity. 

Thank you for all you’ve done to support these amazing students in their quest for an education! 

Marymount University students volunteering at AJS
Marymount University students volunteering at AJS
AAH Health Clinics keep our students healthy
AAH Health Clinics keep our students healthy
AAH students graduate from post-secondary studies!
AAH students graduate from post-secondary studies!
Outreach students at Matuwa Primary School
Outreach students at Matuwa Primary School

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