Rising Star Through the Eyes of a First Time Visitor

Day 1: ferry to Michigan.. Spent time with Cammy planning “all in slumber party” trip for our leaders!

Day 2: road trip from Stef and Joel’s to Detroit!! Had the whole car ride with Stef!

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That was a rare moment and I enjoyed every part of it! Check in at the airport was chaotic… But chic fa la with Farrah and schu was a perfect fit to end chaos! Boarding the plane in Detroit to head to Amsterdam was hard.. I was nervous for what was to come, sad to leave my family but excited to fulfill a life long dream of serving in Africa

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(First time ever on a double decker plane)

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(Joel, Stef, Taylor and Lauren)

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(Mr. Ryan, Creator and founder of rising star school)

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(Farrah and Schuh)

The trip to Amsterdam was full of excitement… I was able to watch “12 years a Slave” which was the most TV I’ve watched in what seems like forever! Once we landed in Amsterdam I was in awe of the beauty that my eyes were fixed on! the land was lush and green.. It truly was a sight to remember! Something I never expected to see!!! The airport was under complete construction! The food options were slim, McDonald’s or a small cafe! I decided to sleep Instead.. Since I didn’t sleep on the plane. The floor was only concrete but for now it’ll do! I was able to sleep 2 hours.. Before boarding the plane for a 7.5 hour flight to Uganda! We arrived around midnight into Uganda! This was the first time I experienced purchasing a visa to enter into a foreign Land! $100, my picture and finger prints later I was IN! We collected our luggage and slept at airport view, a local hotel right near the airport!

Day 3: 8:30am wake up came quick after chatting with Farrah til 2 am! Once showered and ready to go.. We all sat to eat breakfast!

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(Airport view menu, African jams)

One thing that struck me was the hospitality of Africa! it is custom for them to serve you and that was hard for me. I’m not used to having some cleanup or cater me. For breakfast I attempted to eat eggs and bacon. The bacon was quite soggy which yielded very little food intake for me. At breakfast we with Ryan (director and creator of rising star school- where we are missioning at) we were able to pick his brain regarding his family (wife and 4 kids at the school), we learned several important things regarding the school  (dos and do nots), and we had a fun time talking about Joel and Stef reaching black diamond! At breakfast our taxi driver loaded up the taxi van and did a pretty amazing job! 17 suitcases later he managed to fit us and the luggage all in one van! I’d say that’s a Tetris pro for sure!

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A 2.5 hour car ride from our hotel to rising star school was one never to forget. The cities and residents here are not like the states. They live and operate very differently than us. Some live in huts put together by any material they can get their hands on. Other live in houses similar to the one in the picture below. Some houses were made out of mud and sticks.. The mud dries and becomes their protection. Laundry is washed by hand, hung to dry or laid on the grass to dry. Kids were bathing in mini plastic pools on their porch. LOTS of taxis and motor bikes, These two seemed like the most popular modes of transportation.

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Many people do not work.. Ryan said they work enough to feed their families and then waste the rest of the money by drinking or gambling. The housing is very sad in the downtown area. Ive seen several houses that had no windows, hut like living, very dirty, tons of rubbish piled inside their home. The river that we passed while driving to the school was full of garbage, plastic bottles, shoes, wrappers of any kind etc. the traffic was terrible.. Lots of stop and go. There was not one stop sign or light, so it truly seemed like survival of the fittest.. Drivers edition!

Mostly everything is run off diesel fuel so the smell at times was very over powering. The fuel was 2350 shillings for diesel and 3650 shillings for regular unleaded. The school

Is in a more secluded area, more country type living in the wakiso district. While driving up the road many locals were shouting at our taxi “hey mr. Ryan!!!” Most Are familiar with Ryan and his work in this community! Arriving at the school truly touched my heart! The kids ran to the taxi “MR RYAN MR RYAN!!” The joy in their eyes were bar none! One little girl in particular named Diana.. This little one mr Ryan and his wife Rachel adopted.. She ran to the taxi squealing and laughing with great joy to see her dad!

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Later Ryan informed me that Diana is always happy and is the school mascot because of her love and joyful spirit! Once we got out of the taxi.. The children flocked us with warm welcomes and hugs!

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“Welcome you are welcome here!” They were so sweet and friendly… Definitely made me miss my daughter back home! The school is home to about 100 children And an educational center for About 400 children!!

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(Classrooms for the children.. Each classroom is no more than 60 children)

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(A new toilet that is being built- the toilet is a hole in the ground you squat over)

The kids come from all across Uganda.. Ryan said some travel long long miles to get to the school! once we were shown our sleeping arrangements we had an assembly in one of the classrooms. The residential kids gathered together and we were able to introduce ourselves and they sung a few beautiful songs!

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You The joy these children had was truly incredible. They respected their elders and listened to every instruction given. They didn’t talk back or whine.. They did everything they were asked the first time! A room full of 100 kids ages 3-17 all cooperating was something I don’t see to often back home.

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Once the assembly was done we gave the kids all an Itworks bracelet that read hope, love and kindness on them. They also got a sucker which was a huge hit with them! Then it was time to play and get to know the kids!

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This is Kathi!! She’s 4!

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(Peruth was a super sweet girl! All the kids LOVED seeing their pictures.. Loved watching videos and were very curious how Sloan lived her life)

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(A few of the older girls.. Sharon, praise and Peruth)

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(Stef getting her hair braided.. Notice the sweet boy sleeping next to her)

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(Jovahn and angel)

Lauren a girl who came with us on this trip brought a bag full of soccer balls and jump ropes! both were a Huge hit with the kids! I played jump rope with several of the kids for a few hours! they giggled and jumped and jumped and jumped!! Several times I had to remind them where the line was for taking turns but overall they did amazing! two girls in particular were great at jumping rope, Whitney and madina!!

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(This is Whitney!)

The smiles on their faces when they jumped could light up the world! it’s amazing how some jump ropes and love can have such an impact!! Then it was dinner time.. One of the teacher rang a bell loud enough for the entire compound to hear it was time to eat! the kids had a plate full of rice and beans! They took their plates and went and sat wherever they could. Within a few minutes their food was gone!

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(The kitchen where the food is cooked and served)

The adults ate dinner in one of the school rooms.. Served for dinner was rice, pasta, cabbage, Irish potatoes and pineapple! The pineapple was all I ate and it was amazing!! So fresh.. I savored every bite of it!!

Once dinner was over a huge storm rolled in! It darkened the sky very quickly! We were not prepared as we Didn’t have our flashlights or head lamps to see! The school has very little electricity, so relying on flashlights is huge! In one of the classrooms  Lauren started a dance party with several of the kids which turned into a huge dance session!! All were praising Jesus with lots of giggles and smiles! the kids were singing and playing drums and had so much talent!!

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Once the dance party was over.. The kids said their prayers, divided and went to bed. The girls have a dorm separate from

The boys! We went to our housing arrangements and chatted for a while then went to bed as well!

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(The teachers quarters, where we all slept)

The beds are covered with mosquito nets, the windows have no glass on them, the “shower” is a cement room with a bag full of water, the toilets are simply a hole in the ground you squat over, there are chickens and goats roaming free.

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(my bed and the room I slept in)

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(The baby chicks were so adorable!)

Life is very different here… One thing I learned today is the children are so grateful and happy with all they have. It’s not about stuff but more about survival. And for them simplicity is key!

Day 4:

Woke up to rain!!! I forgot to bring a rain poncho. Had several visitors to our room this morning, greeting us with “good morning!” We went to Mr. Ryan’s office for a meeting and educational background to the school! A residential student is equivalent to $250/year and a student who walks on compound is $60/year!

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(Mr. Ryan’s office!)

Curriculum is from the African government..studying English, social studies (eastern African), math, science, religious education (from the government but school has options to choose Christianity or Islamic studies). Most kids will graduate from rising star and go to a secondary school (equivalent to middle school in the USA) which is 7 miles from rising star. The resident school children will walk from rising star to the new school daily!

Examples of an exam for 5-6 years old!

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Examples of 7th grade exams-

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(This is Steven.. In 7th grade who finished his exams while we were there. He also is the lead vocal in the choir and has an incredible voice)

Boarding students: wake up at 5am to start bathing, organize the dormitory.. Mop and sweep! 6-630 make their way to school, 6:30 is prayer, 7:30 is beginning school, 1pm is lunch, 345 is cleaning compound, 4pm begins extra curricular activities, 5pm the students go out for water, they study and do work more and in bed by 9pm! Students who live on the compound have a busy day!

Mumbai a deaf girl in the compound-

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After our meeting with Ryan we packed our bags and headed out for the safari!

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The taxi took us to Kampala first which is where we slept for the night and then in the morning head out to the game park for our safari! The roads In Kampala are narrow and very busy! Many animals roam the side of the roads! Children, huts, markets and rubbish line the roads throughout every city we pass!

 

 

 

Day 8:

Today we left red chili hideaway in Kampala to return back to the school! The taxi ride was about 2.5 hours because traffic is crazy in the city! We return to the school just in time for a huge rain storm to hit! The road we drove on to get to the compound usually gets washed out by water so it is good that we got there before the rain.

After settling again in our rooms we went around asking the teachers and staff what they would like to see at the school for improvements. Many agreed that water and solar panels were their first priority. The school does not have running water or flushing toilets or showers. So daily the kids are going out to fetch water and the walk is a half of mile there and a half of mile back carrying heavy jugs full of water. Some also said many improvements were needed for the nursery school or “baby school” as some students call it!

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This is the nursery or baby school! It is divided into two small classrooms.. One the baby class and one the middle class. Each room has two small windows, dirt floors covered in rock and not a lot of lighting.

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Benches and art work fill this middle classroom which is for 4-5 year olds.

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More art work, benches and plastic chairs fill the 4-5 yr old classroom.

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The teachers desk in the baby class.

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This foam mat is where 30 3 year olds take a nap.

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Educational display in the baby class

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Art work and corner view of the baby classroom. After viewing the classrooms we took a walk and went to see the “sick bay”.. Which is a place where the nurse station is.

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Some of the kids that walked with us to sick bay.

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Girls room in sick bay

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Boys room in sick bay

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After touring sick bay.. We came back to

The compound and hung out with the kids, ate dinner and then went to our rooms to wash up for bed!!

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(Schu washing up on the porch after the day)

 

 

Day 9:

Chickens, dogs, yelling oh my!! At 7:56 am the cook for the compound came to our door to give us hot water! It was an extremely nice gesture but we were all sleeping. After waking up we prepped for the day. We all wore our “wrapped in love” shirts today!

Once in the court yard I took individual pictures of all the kids on a Polaroid camera (it was Farrah’s camera)! It was so much fun and the kids loved the pictures. I was able to get some individual pictures of the kids I really connected with!

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Steven and ennuck

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(Diana makes my heart smile)

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(This is Sharon!! her and her sister Whitney are such awesome girls and stuck with me while at the school)

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(Some of the younger kids.. They loved seeing their faces on my screen)

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(Whitney and Sharon )

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(Steven is an amazing kid! he is in p7.. 12 years old and going to secondary school next year! He is a fabulous singer and leads the choir! He wants to be a doctor in the United States once his studies are done)

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Peruth was such a sweet girl!! Just an incredible smile.. So Shy and sweet!

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Peruth!

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Peruth and Whitney!

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(Getting our group picture!!)

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(The cooks son running around the compound)

After pictures we toured the dormitories of the girls and boys!! The rooms are filled to the max and the school is having to send kids away who wish to be residents at the compound. The rooms are packed but filled with order! Each room has a matron who stays with them to look after the kids at night.

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(Boys dormitory)

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(Girls dormitory)

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All the girls shoes lined up!

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The girls playing a board game on their porch.

After our tours we went with the some of the kids to fetch water! We had quite the walk. It’s 3/4 of a mile to get to the boar hole and well. It’s also 3/4 of a mile to walk home carrying a 35 pound jug. I walked down with Margaret and learned all about who she was and what she wants to do after studies! I decided to carry her water back for her to see what these kids have to endure 2-3 times a week! All children need to fetch their own water which is used for bathing and washing their clothes.

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The boar hole with several of the older girls! Note the jugs they carry.

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This is the well where the kids scoop

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Water out to fill their containers up.

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The girls carrying their jugs on their head.

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After gathering water we sat around and talked with Ryan! Worked on the vision he has for the school!