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 Health  Uganda Project #14409

Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH

by Arlington Academy of Hope, Inc.
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH
Empowering Youth in Rural Uganda with AAH

After starting the Arlington Junior School and watching it provide quality education to rural children in Eastern Uganda for more than 15 years, the Arlington Academy of Hope (AAH) was frustrated that it could help only 50 new students per year.  Annually we received more than 400 applications for the 50 school slots.  We decided to help students in surrounding government schools with a ten point program for improving their educational offering and general condition of the schools.  AAH collected funding for schoolroom supplies, subsidized lunches and primary leaving exam preparation.  We were fortunate to partner with Marymount University in Arlington to provide teacher training for the teachers.  For several schools we were able to build new classrooms, kitchens and latrines and upgrade the schools' physical plants.  The assisted schools had to meet certain requirements to qulaify for the aid.  They must have an agreement from the parents that all the students will attend school 100% of the time.  The teachers must commit to 100% attendance.  English must be taught in every grade starting with Primary 1.  The parents must commit to provide a lunch for the students to the degree they can (AAH will subsidize the balance.)

We now assist 24 schools affecting close to 20,000 kids.  We are beginning to see that the primary leaving exam scores for these schools are rising.  Every school has improved, and a couple of schools have scores that are superior to Arlington Junior School!  One school's scores moved up 70% in the second year in the program.

As a whole, the schools in Bududa, Manafwa and Namasindwa Districts have now begun to move up in their annual primary school national standings.  We are very pleased with the results so far.

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Teen volunteers introduce Blast Off to Learning!
Teen volunteers introduce Blast Off to Learning!

Now in its 15th year, the Arlington Academy of Hope's Reading Challenge continues to nurture a transformative culture of reading in the students of the Arlington Junior School in Uganda. With this initiative, and the ongoing encouragement of the outstanding teachers at AJS, we are inspiring our students to become life-long learners.

According to Head Teacher Sarah Sabano:

Students have found pleasure in reading books because they are fun to read. Books help them to learn                                 more vocabulary, get new friends and stop boredom. This year’s theme is Blast off to Learning. Everyone is excited              to read more and more books.

On the day of the reading challenge launch, our students participated in numerous activities: naming the planets,              reciting proverbs and poems, singing songs, and even staging a talk show based on the reading challenge. They                  had fun competitions a book search, word puzzle, spelling bee, tongue twisters, dictionary use, skits, arranging                    words to make sentences and other fun activities.

The Reading Challenge is yet another wonderful example of how The Arlington Academy of Hope welcomes the hearts and hands of our beloved volunteers. The program was introduced to AAH by founding board member Holly Hawthorne, principal of The Arlington Traditional School here in the U.S. Former ATS teachers Lorraine Gandy and Lois Grubb have been graciously donating their time and resources for years, authoring and printing original content for the reading challenge activity books each year. Cynthia Margeson - also a former ATS teacher and one of the first Head Teachers for our primary school in Uganda - has been intimately involved in the Reading Challenge from the beginning. This year Cynthia orchestrated a used book sale to raise money for Uganda-bound books.

And finally, this summer's Reading Challenge was successful due in large part to the enthusiastic participation of this year's Teen Trip cohort. This dynamic group of 14 young adults, the largest group of teen travelers to date, traveled from the US to Uganda and spent more than two weeks teaching in classrooms, volunteering in clinics, visiting students and their families, and helping to spread the love of reading to yet another generation of life-long learners.

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The Beatrice Tierney clinics were established in 2008 to serve the students at the Arlington Academy of Hope, a well-established school and scholarship program in eastern Uganda. Quickly the clinics became the main source of primary health care in two communities serving over 20,000 patients each year.

In addition to the daily load of patients, one clinic has a maternal and child health unit that serves women and babies. It delivers over 300 babies each year. The other clinic provides treatment and support for over 70 HIV+ adults and children. 

The clinic nurses regularly visit Arlington Academy of Hope school and schools in the surrounding communities to administer immunizations, Vitamin A and deworming medicines to keep the children healthy and focused on school. The clinics also meet the special needs of students, e.g., fitting a prosthetic arm and leg for a young boy; providing special glasses and skin creams for albino children; and addressing the health needs of handicapped children who survived severe landslides in this mountainous area.

 Does it have an impact on their academic achievement? For the past 15 years, 100% of the AJS students pass their national primary leaving exams in a district where the average pass rate is 12%. The young man with the prosthetics and the albino students attend the school.

           The clinics provide an extra bonus to the community: employment. At present, we have 4 nurses, a laboratory technician and a midwife who are graduates of the Arlington Academy of Hope and are working at our two clinics. The clinics also engages community outreach workers to provide health information to families in their homes and through group meetings.

 The clinics support the community in so many ways: improved health of the students and their families, care for special needs children, healthier and stronger learners through better health care and preventive services and employment for students who have risen through the education system and have returned to their communities.

Happy 10th Anniversary to our amazing clinics!

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In a country like Uganda, where young leaders are not yet a prominent fixture in the country’s public offices, young people are still finding ways to be politically conscious and active. AAH scholar Joshua is a young person finding ways to make contributions towards progress in his community in every way he can. Recently, the second year law student ran for Guild President, the head of student government, at Uganda Christian University – Mukono.

Joshua has always had a service-oriented streak. In 2017, he tackled the issue of a broken water well in his hometown which we featured on our blog.  By mobilizing the community, securing donations, and recruiting those with the right skills, he fixed the broken water well in just a few short months, a task that would have taken the government much longer to sort.

When running for office, Joshua’s strategy was based on engaging with the student body as much as possible — “via clubs, societies and classes, talking to see what kind of benefit my leadership could bring to them.” The election was on November 3rd, and with 874 votes, Joshua ended in second place. However, he does not feel diminished and still believes in student leadership. For him, “it is about service and the opportunity to mobilize and understand the struggle that many people are passing through.  Student leadership is important to address challenges across academics, security, welfare, and infrastructure,” he says.

While he may not be a part of this year’s student leadership cohort, that will not stop him from serving. “Young people are facing a lot of challenges, and we are the ones who will have the solutions to those challenges,” he says.

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Some say that it takes a village to accomplish many great things, and in the case of the Arlington Junior School pupils, the saying rings both literally and metaphorically true. In late August, schools from around the region convened at Bududa Secondary School for the regional singing competition. AJS earned a spot at regionals by placing first in the zone, sub-county, and district level competitions.  

This year, both the pupils and the staff exhibited an extra level of passion and commitment. Music supervisor Teacher Edith led the weeks of training before the competitions and recruited some of the best trainers the district had to offer. Teacher Diana led the kids in drama, poetry, and storytelling; Teacher Frank who had previously trained the first place regional winners for three years running also shared his skills as did Teacher Wellbon, a civil engineer with an infectious passion for the arts who has trained students to reach nationals for four years running! During the rehearsals, Teacher Wellbon could be seen swinging his arms as he directed the singers and instrumentalists to one of the most memorable performances of the competition. 

Over two days at regionals, students engaged in singing, dancing, acting, poetry recitations, and instrument playing.  Their weeks of training saw them emerging with a second place win! Their scores across all the categories qualified them for the national competition.  Given their fifth place placement in last year’s regionals, theirs is an amazing accomplishment.

The community trooped out to offer the students support including Head Teacher Sarah, Teacher Amos, and others. “We are confident in their capacity,” one of the teachers said. Well predicted, indeed. As the students then took a rest and soaked in their well-earned win, the staff had their minds on nationals. Of it, Teacher Wellbon says, “We cannot underestimate other schools. They are preparing, but we are preparing.” Call it a victor’s joy, but the pupils were more optimistic. “We are going to smash the competition!” many of them repeated, gleaming. 

And smash it they did!  After a hectic ten-day finale at nationals, AJS returned with tenth place, a step up from their fourteenth place position last year! AAH Program Director Milton Kamoti congratulated the team and thanked everyone for their efforts and contributions, stating that the efforts to give the students access to better trainers paid off. Teacher Edith also expressed joy at the outcome and gratitude to all the hardworking students who are now headed home to enjoy the term holidays.

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Organization Information

Arlington Academy of Hope, Inc.

Location: Arlington, VA - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @AAHUganda
Project Leader:
Shannon Bryant
Executive Director
Arlington, VA Uganda
$450,772 raised of $521,526 goal
 
1,381 donations
$70,754 to go
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