Off we go to another reading day. It is dawn and the sun is just rising. We are on the road to Jinja, one of the most toured cities in our country, Uganda. Our journey is filled with beautiful sceneries starting from the heart of Jinja town to Bujhagali village, a few kilometers away from the town.
At our arrival to Bujhagali village, all we could see were lit up faces of joyous little children, parents and grandmothers from different villages ready to spend a day with us. As we waited for the others to join, Judith Akello, a Programme Associate at Phoebe Education Fund for Orphans and Vulnerable children (PEFO), showed us around the facilities of the organization. One could not stop to appreciate the fantastic job PEFO had done to develop their community right from the community library to the poultry farm, and to the homes built for vulnerable grandmothers.
What caught our attention most was how vibrant their community library was. It not only accommodated children of all ages, backgrounds and socio-economic context but also, young youths with interests in computer studies. By the end of our tour, all the stakeholders had arrived to start the event.
With a prayer, we started the first session of the day. Each member of the enjuba team introduced themselves and gave a glimpse of what they were to do that day. Before the breakout sessions, Rodney Ssewanyana who is part of the enjuba team warmed up the children with a little game where they spelt words with their bodies. With oozing excitement, the children quickly ran to the break out sessions that were according to their classes. The parents and grandmothers also gathered together to have a parenting talk with one of the enjuba members.
Within the children breakout sessions, we carried out the spelling bingo and race games as well as read alouds where each child received their own book. It was not hard to see the hope in some of the children’s eyes after receiving their first storybook. This continued to vividly confirm the several responses we received in our baseline survey that none of the children respondents had ever owned a book in their life and yet 100% of the children respondents said that they enjoy reading.
This was not any different from the 3 other communities; Kakindu, Kasawo and Salaama where we also carried out reading days in the months of April and May. The books were not only given to the children but also to the parents where they received parenting books in their session. The parenting session comprised of talks around building positive parent-child relationships, fronting children’s education as well as supporting them in all ways. However, we couldn’t help but notice the high number of grandmothers in Bujhagali village during the Parenting sessions. We then got to find out that the grandparents were mostly or wholly the care takers of the children; explaining why only 13% of the children respondents shared that they live with both their parents.
To add to the children’s parents and grandparents’ smiles and hope, over 200 solar lamps were given out to each family in the community of Kasawo, Mityana district by our partner, Let There Be Light International with an effort to allow the children read at night. And because of your generosity, 758 books were given to children and 204 parenting books were given to the parents and grandparents of those communities; for that we thank our donors.
The everlasting smiles on the faces of the children and parents whenever they receive the books and lamps even amidst a global pandemic are what keep us going!