Wednesday 24 April 2013

Rukoki School Integrated Sing/Sign Choir - By Bethan

Us westerners believe the myth that "all Africans can sing" or, better than that, "all Africans can sing in beautiful harmony".  Well I'm here to crack that myth.  I spent every Friday afternoon for the last month stuck in a dark unfinished brick room with smoke from the wood cooking fire billowing in, trying to teach 50 kids (25 at a time) how to sing together as a choir.  The children are a mixture of mainstream primary school children, some with physical difficulties, some with learning difficulties and quite a few deaf.  We are therefore sing-signing using Ugandan sign language.  The process of teaching is not helped by the 50 onlookers staring unabashed through the holes in the walls singing the line I taught ten minutes ago ad nauseum while I am trying to teach the next line!  I was not expecting much when the teachers said that we needed to present the songs to the rest of the school and the teachers. I took Gareth, Sam and Jonah along and told them not to expect anything amazing.  But then as we lined up in rows under the mango tree and the rest of the school organised themselves in any shade available I was suddenly pleasantly surprised by what came out!

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Testimonies and challenges from Acholi Quarter.

On Saturday we had our second graduation of skills trainees in Acholi Quarter. The last eight months have been full of ups and downs.  From day one this course proved more cohesive than the first one with generally much higher attendance and commitment.  Their team spirit was evident from their own initiatives such as printing their own t-shirts, forming a choir to sing and dance at their own graduation, pooling together to contribute to buying meat for a proper meal for their graduation ceremony, and many more of them having saved enough to make their own 50,000sh (£12) contribution to a sewing machine or toolset than the first course managed. 

That said, we've still had many challenges, especially with carpentry.  As a man I'm ashamed to have to say that working with Ugandan men is often more difficult than working with Ugandan women.  Last month we had to sack our second carpentry teacher, this time for consistent lateness and a failure to acknowledge that this was a problem, or indeed even his fault (the first one was sacked for drunkeness).  It's difficult to know which is the chicken and which the egg, but our problems with carpentry staff have been mirrored by the students.  Although the 3 young men who graduated last week have done really well and have achieved something they should be proud of, there were only 3 of them and we had started with 8 (on the first course 5 carpenters graduated out of 8).  In contrast we had 11 women graduate from the first course of 16, and 16 graduate from the second course of 20.  Life is tough in Acholi Quarter there is no doubt about it.  Shockingly high rates of domestic violence, HIV, early marriage, large broken families, educational failure and endemic poverty are precisely the reasons why Acholi Quarter is the place that most needed our help,  but they are also some of the reasons why opportunities such as that provided by the skills project can sometimes be lost on young men with too much else on their minds, or an inability to settle, focus and apply themselves over a long period.

Nevertheless the graduation was a great day for all involved and a positive day for Acholi Quarter as a whole, and mission work is more about a qualitative impact on individuals and their families and community.

Here are some testimonies from some of this class, in their own words:

"Thank you for training.  I have never seen love from my parents.  But you have shown me realy love of God and I have learn to trust in God from Fridays bible study.  Tailoring is going to help me after respecting and trusting in God.  I have learnt to design skirts, because I am youth I am going to help my friends mainly girls of my age." - Mabonge Juliet, aged 18.

"You have changed my life in a way of living.  I have become a new believer in Christ due to bible study on Friday.  Tailoring has become the skill I have learnt in my life for free.  I wanted long ago to do it but no money.  God bless the people who have paid for me this course in this 8 months. I know what to do." - Kunihia Moreen, aged 20.

"I had loosed hope spiritually and my mind never thought of what shall come and help me.  Since I came to the skill centre to do tailoring and business my life has changed.   Word of God on Fridays has encouraged me to bring back my senses and Tailoring am now doing to get income and more plan have come in my mind which I had never thought of.  Thank you bringing the Skill Training Centre, also the Director [Pastor Alfonse] for great encouragement he has done for me always." - Katusabe Oliva, single mother of 2, aged 20.

Prayer Requests:
  • Give thanks for the 19 men and women who graduated last week and pray that they will be able to capitalise on this new opportunity and the new hope it has given them to really transform their lives and their families.
  • Give thanks for BMS World Mission, all of those churches and individuals who fund BMS, and Tools With A Mission (TWAM), without whom this project could never have happened.
  • Pray for Muke Derek, our new and 3rd carpentry teacher, that he will outshine his predecessors and be a real example to the young men in his care, showing them how to become good and responsible men by example as well as by teaching them carpentry.  Give thanks for Zhile (tailoring) and Byekwaso (business) who have consistently delivered high standards.
  • Pray for the new class of trainees who started this week on the final BMS funded training course. Pray that their families will be understanding and supportive and that the onslaught of challenges facing those in Acholi Quarter will not prevent them from benefitting from this opportunity to transform their lives, both practically and spiritually.
  • Pray for KBAC-DC and Nyakasanga Baptist Church as we work to plan a sustainable future for the projects in Acholi Quarter after the BMS grant finishes in November 2013.