2023 End of Year Update photo.

A Note From H4U Chair

Sponsors and Donors, 

I am pleased to present to you our end of year newsletter! 

But first, I would like to share a heartfelt “Thank You” to each of you for your continued support. Without our student sponsors and donors, Hands4Uganda would not be able to facilitate the needed funding for the continuation of Rock of Ages Community School. Your support has affected over 400 children this year alone. Your donations have not only provided access to an education, food, water, and medical care, but also the exploration of sports, arts, and special interests. This year we were proud to support the ROA initiative to provide more opportunities for students to play, discover, and compete in a variety of individual and team sports as well as artistic activities.  You can read more about this under “Sports, Arts, and Extracurricular Expansion” below.

Although we have a shared love for ROA, the H4U BOD members are spread through multiple states including Texas, Arizona, Montana and Idaho. At the beginning of this year we gathered for a three day meeting in order to connect in person and discuss the future of H4U and our support of ROA. We hope to see this program continue into the distant future as we have seen, firsthand, the impact of the facilitation of your donations on the lives of the children we serve at ROA. From this meeting the idea for an H4U Endowment Fund was shared and this year our members have worked diligently to establish this fund to ensure that we and our donors have an opportunity to ensure the support of this school, long after we are gone. 

We look forward to the opportunities for service and connection that 2023 may hold. We feel incredibly blessed to be entrusted with this work and we thank you for your prayers and financial gifts that have made another year at ROA a success! 

Blessings on your holidays and New Year, 

Ariane Shaver 

Hands4Uganda Board Chair

A School Grown Meal

Primary students Harvesting Vegetables from their Garden.

If you follow us on social media, you know that students have a variety of agricultural lessons throughout the year including gardening, cattle rearing, and poultry farming. To celebrate the students’ knowledge and work in these areas throughout the past school year, students partook in a school grown meal. On this day students were served chicken, a much-loved lunch special, from chickens that were hatched and tended to by students on campus. They also had posho, a corn meal side dish created from corn that was planted, grown, dried and sorted for milling on site. Lastly, they enjoyed a handful of fruits and vegetables harvested from the school garden. Students were all smiles as they devoured this well-earned, celebratory meal!

Drop Everything And Read (DEAR)

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” ― Victor Hugo

Each Friday students participate in a schoolwide activity, referred to as DEAR which stands for Drop Everything And Read. This is a Rotary International initiative to enhance children’s literacy skills. For one hour each Friday, students visit the ROA library room, choose books to take back to their classes and share in quiet reading time. For younger students, teachers will read or distribute small picture book sets for children to follow along. During this trimester, local Rotarians visited ROA to explore the schools library, donate additional books and reading materials for students, and participate in a Friday DEAR hour. This visit was accompanied by both local TV and radio, featuring the ROA library which is one-of-a-kind in the area!

Aquaculture Update  

We continue to look forward to the completion of the Fly Fishing Collaborative Aquaculture Farm. While we had hoped for this project to be completed by the end of this year, our ROA team, volunteer, and the FFC team have been working diligently to ensure the appropriate power supply and backups will be in place before any fish are brought on site. While the infrastructure for the farm was completed this year, tanks are in place, and plans have been laid for the garden expansion, a consistent power source to ensure the continuous movement of water through each tank has been a struggle to secure. 

A generous donor (and electrical engineer by trade) has helped us to create a plan for solar power that will tie in to a back-up generator and city power. With this system in place, we should never have to fear the loss of power to the pond pumps which would cause a loss of all stocked fish. Now that this hurdle and been overcome, we look forward to a project completion early in this coming year!

Sports, Arts, and Extracurricular Expansion 

The teachers and staff at ROA have worked diligently to expand opportunities for students to partake in arts, sports, and extracurricular activities throughout this past year. Research shows that allowing children to explore through play helps them to perform better in the classroom. We were pleased to support the ROA initiative to increase opportunities for students to play and explore a variety of sports and artistic expressions this year. 

Each term’s activities focused on a different category of sport or art. Through the first term students focused on track and field events. Second term brought ball and team sports including volleyball, netball, woodball, chess, and an all-school favorite- football (soccer). 

Third term’s focus was primarily on arts and performance and students partook in a variety of music, dance, and drama lessons, showcasing their talents at the end of year school celebration! 

Student of all ages participate in these activities, competing against their peers in individual sports and performances. However, this was the first year that ROA school teams have been able to partake in district competitions throughout the area! 

In addition to the school wide expansion of arts and sports, after school club opportunities were also presented by teachers and staff. Current clubs and extracurricular groups include Tailoring, Writing, Debate, Scripture Union, and Umeme. A school favorite is Umeme  which is Uganda’s leading electrical distribution company. Students learn about electricity, safety, and even get to attend a field trip to the local power plant! 

As opportunities for students continue to grow, ROA needs equipment and supplies to facilitate student involvement. If you would like to donate towards these items, please donate through our site here and add a note of “extracurricular needs”.

Expanding Educational Opportunities 

As this year comes to and end we will see a third class of students complete their Lower Secondary Education. ROA graduates are supported through Secondary School at four separate locations. Due to a lack of funding as well as staff H4U has been unable to provide opportunities for lower secondary students to continue through an upper secondary education. After much discussion, prayer, and planning we are pleased to announce that beginning in 2024, ROA lower secondary graduates will be able to continue in their education if receiving a score within Division I for their final exams! We are anticipating four students from the 2023 class will meet this requirement and pray that God will provide more funding opportunities for future students to continue in their education!

Securing a Future

As mentioned in the opening note from our board chair, H4U has established an endowment fund. The Hands4Uganda Endowment (H4UE) offers opportunities and structure to those who wish to provide financial support for H4U's mission through charitable giving. The purpose of the endowment is to enable H4U to continue to maintain financial stability through scholarships and offset school overhead (e.g. utilities, maintenance, curriculum, and other costs associated with the operations) of Rock of Ages School. Through this endowment fund, the committee seeks to provide a perpetual source of income supporting education programs for Uganda youth.

If you are interested in donating to the H4UE, please reach out to Andy Benscoter with any questions at andy@hands4uganda.org.

An update from Rock of Age Program Director, Betty Wasswa

I greet you all in the almighty name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

I thank the Lord for His continued provisions of both life and different resources.

Today marks the second month since the start of the new academic year of the institution. The pupils have reported and it's back to the normal classroom business.

We have retained most of the the staff members, except for a few who have joined the governmental education system. We have three new teachers that have joined us, Teacher Sharon, Teacher Agnes, and Teacher Victo.

On the other hand, we have retained many of our pupils and all have moved to new classes. The biggest percentage have returned expect some that changed schools due to circumstances beyond our control (like moving to another area).

In these past weeks, we have registered a total of 347 pupils altogether, though more pupils are still expected to report in the coming weeks.

As we start this term, we hope to integrate the normal curriculum with hands on skill training to give our learners a cutting edge and awaken the entrepreneurial skill in them.

This term we will run on the following program.

January 30Opening of Term 1
February 18Celebration of Rock of Ages Graduates
February 27-28Beginning of Term 1, I Exams
March 27-28Mid Term Exams
April 1Checking of Pupils Progress
April 24-25End of Term Exams
May 5Closure of Term

Beginning of term Exams are to be done and are ongoing. The is vital to the studies and academic progress of the children as Ethel's evaluate them since they are coming from the long holidays.

As the new term resumed, trainings and preparations were made for the Graduation Celebrations that took place on 18th of February, and it was a successful event! This compensates the activities that were meant to take place towards the end of last term. But due to the Ebola outbreak (in Uganda), the celebrations were postponed to this year the everything was okay health wise.

This celebration was the first event that was held at the new school premises that was a function used to connect and build bonds between pupils, parents, and teachers. It was a joyful function! The theme emphasized on the cultural backgrounds of the various tribes (of Uganda) and their cultures.

The biggest need that the school may have this year is for another building. So we pray that the Lord may further provide and we will get a well built Kitchen and Dining Hall, together with dormitories (for the P7 classes) because at the moment we have fun out of space in the forms.

Furthermore, I would like to appreciate the support and the grace that the Lord has enabled to put this team together with Rock of Ages, Hands4Uganda, and you, our supporters.

Betty Wasswa
Founder and Director
Rock of Ages

A Year in Review

July 2022 Team

In July, Board Chair Ariane Shaver, Directors Mackenzie Gorham and Adam Conley, and an H4U volunteer, Malori Starks were the first team to visit ROA since the completion of the new school facility! Due to COVID-19 this was the first time since 2019 that a team has been able to travel to Uganda. While visiting ROA they were able to provide over 200 new books for the ROA library, school supplies, teaching aids, earrings, and ear piercings.  Additionally, basic first aid techniques were taught and information on the importance of mental health was shared. 

The team spent a lot of quality time with Betty and the ROA team to better clarify needs and goals for the students and the school. One of the joint focuses for H4U and ROA as we move into the new year will be to enhance communication between students and sponsors. We look forward to a new system that will help you feel more connected and up to date with all the happenings at ROA and H4U! In addition, the team had the opportunity to work with the Fly Fishing Collaborative to move forward with the aquaculture project! For more information on the beloved “Fish Farm” check out the section labeled “Aquaculture Update” below. 

School Improvements 

While the school building was completed at the beginning of January 2021, many finishing touches were needed to truly make the school as functional as possible. We have been chipping away at these small, but significant, needs and are excited to share our progress! 

New desks and bookshelves have been placed in all classrooms creating more space for students and storage of their learning materials. 

Chalkboards and bulletin boards have been installed in all classrooms for teaching aids and displays. The school walls are made of concrete and in order to preserve the structure, no nails or tacks are allowed to be pushed into the walls and tape is only a temporary solution. The display boards provide a much-needed space for learning materials and a more visual and fun learning opportunity for the students! 

New walkways have been installed in the school courtyard and ROA is working to allow for grass growth in open areas over the winter break! 

Additional needs for classrooms still include storage. Eventually we would like cubbies and additional bookshelves to be installed in all classrooms to aid in classroom organization and cleanliness.

Struggles of Secondary 

“The mission of Hands4Uganda is to make a positive difference in the lives of the children and youth of Uganda by assisting them in achieving their highest potential through a faith-based education”. And from the very first graduating Rock of Ages class, we have done our best to ensure these children are able to continue in their education through secondary school. As many of you may know, Rock of Ages does not have its own secondary school which means all students who graduate must transition to a new school. Secondary programs are boarding schools and the cost is nearly 3x the amount needed for primary sponsorship ($80 vs $30/month). In addition, none of the secondary funding aids any ROA programs as all funding from secondary sponsorships is used directly to cover secondary student fees. 

We have been so incredibly blessed to bring 99 children through the ROA primary program and are proud to have served 84 ROA graduates who are in secondary school this past year. Unfortunately, this program has placed a large burden on Hands4Uganda funding as only 20 students in the secondary program are currently covered by a full sponsorship, i.e. $80/mo. Over the past year we have covered tuition fees for secondary students from our holdback funds and generous, non-designated gifts to the organization. We are concerned that with the increasing size of primary classes that we will soon not be able to handle the financial burden of the secondary program. 

We feel that providing a secondary education to ROA graduates is vital to our mission to help these children reach their highest potential. Only 26% of all Ugandan students complete their secondary education and we want ROA students to be a part of that number! We ask for your prayers, and if possible, financial support so that we may continue to fund the education of these deserving students! 

New Land

As we have continued to develop the new school facility, it’s become apparent that additional land for Rock of Ages will be needed for the full vision of the ROA campus to come to fruition. 

An unexpected piece of land and an unexpected gift came together in God’s perfect timing to help us begin to address the issue of space! This new area comes with the added benefits of two large chicken coops, an incinerator, and water well with a working pump! The chicken coops bring a great opportunity for the expansion of the ROA agricultural program. The incinerator will allow for ROA trash to be properly disposed of. Currently and traditionally within the village, trash is piled in a hole and then constantly slow-burned. The trash pit is unsafe for students and we are so excited for an enclosed incinerator that will create a more appropriate and safe solution to on site trash disposal! This new area will also provide space we can utilize for the aquaculture project and planting, leaving more space on the original school land to add much needed structures to the ROA campus.

Aquaculture Update

Following two years of vetting and planning, the Fly Fishing Collaborative (FFC) team solidified their plans for an aquaponics project at Rock of Ages Community School! In fact, the FFC project lead, Alyson W., visited Rock of Ages in July while the most recent US team was there! Alyson spent a lot of time with Abdu Wasswa and Julius Dungu who will be heading the aquaculture project on site. They toured a variety of aquaponics, aquaculture, and fish farming practices in the area, even visiting an older FFC project built in Kenya! 

Through their experiences, discussions, and the establishment of the overall goals for this project the aquaponics project was officially changed to an aquaculture project. Simply put, aquaponics uses an enclosed system of water to grow fish and plants together through circulating water. An aquaculture system uses water, first sent through fish tanks, and then through a drip system to plants rooted into the ground, to provide an ecosystem for fish and then nutrient dense, year-round, irrigation to plants. 

Using an aquaculture system will allow for a high density of planting for fruits, vegetables, and greens. These plants along with the tanked fish will be used to supplement student lunches and surplus will be sold for increased income for the school. The amount of food created through this project is estimated to support a student population of 700 (ROA maximum capacity with the completion of the school campus). With the current student population close to 350, there will be a healthy surplus available for sale to supply extra income for the school! 

As you can imagine, a project of this size does come with many costs. While our initial estimates for the project were around a $20k contribution from Hands4Uganda, the actual needed amount is $40k. We ask that you consider donating to this project as 2022 comes to an end so that we may move into 2023 with the funding needed to finally make this project a reality for the ROA campus! For additional information on this project check out the FFC blog HERE.

Goals in the New Year 

Following the completion of the FFC aquaculture build, the next “big project” we look forward to working on with ROA will be the Multipurpose Building. This structure will include the school kitchen, event space, library, administrative offices, and boarding space for the P7 students. We hope to begin working on this three-story building in the summer of 2023! 

Students at lunch time. There is currently no seating available for students other than in classrooms which they are not allowed to bring food into (unless it is raining). The next building we are hoping to start in 2023 would have a complete "lunchroom" area for students to enjoy their meals.

One of H4U’s focuses in working through our mission with ROA is building a sustainable program for the students of Mbiko.

When COVID-19 caused the global shutdown, we braced for the worst. We assumed many of our supporters, certainly out of work and unsure of what the future held, would possibly cut their charitable funding. We strategized how we would be able to continue to support ROA at the level that was needed once school resumed, assuming that we may lose a large portion of our donor base. We thank God that He and you never failed us.

For each sponsorship we lost, we gained another. And while our overall donations were smaller than they had been in previous years, many doors opened for us that have led to the ROA campus becoming more sustainable. With solar panels powering the campus, and the aquaculture project coming together which will not only provide regenerative food for students and faculty but a reliable resource for additional income for ROA. 

The next building, which will include a full kitchen, will replace the current kitchen space, pictured in the distance with the wood fire used for cooking school lunches.

In 2023 we hope to grow the infrastructure of H4U as an organization. This year we were fortunate to add two new board members to the Board of Directors. We look forward to continuing the mission of H4U through a team of diversified backgrounds and specialties and a common passion for supporting the students at ROA. 

We hope to improve communication between sponsors and students as we know the impact these special relationships have on each of you, and the students. We are actively pursuing solutions to the setbacks that have been barriers to more regular communication and look forward to implementing these in the new year. 

Students playing during recess.

We thank you for your continued prayers and donations to Hands4Uganda. Without our amazing donors, and the gracious hand of God, none of this work in Uganda would be possible! We pray that you will continue this journey with us throughout the new year and we look forward to sharing more of our projects, stories, and the amazing ways God is using this organization to touch the lives of the beautiful children in Mbiko. 

We are excited to announce a small team will be heading to Uganda in support of Rock of Ages for the first time since 2019! We would love for you to take this opportunity to send your sponsored child some words of encouragement.

The team will be able to take one #10 business size envelope (4.125 in. x 9.5 in.) per student. If you would like to send a letter to your child feel free to include any items that will fit within this size envelope including letters, pictures, stickers, etc. 

All letters must be received by July 7.  

Please send to:
Ariane Shaver
Box 194
2608 N Main St. B
Belton, TX 76513

In addition, the team will be taking books for the ROA library. A list of books can be found on Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/hz/wishlist/ls/1JEJFIDRMDM4T?ref_=wl_share . We will be happy to include a “Donated by” or “In Honor of” or etc. note on the first page of any donated book. Please indicate your request at Amazon checkout under “Review items and shipping” where you can choose “Add gift options” and create a note with the message you would like to have included. 

Thank you again for all of your support, 

The Hands4Uganda Team

I greet you in the name of our lord Jesus Christ and hope this finds you well as we continue serving and fulfilling the Lord's work. Allow me to pass my sincere gratitude as I appreciate the support and sponsorship that you have given to Hands4Uganda for Rock of Ages School. 

May the Lord richly bless you. Webale Nnyo and Mukama akuwe O’mukisa

At the beginning of this year i.e. January 10th 2022, the government officially opened schools. It was joyful and exciting but the road wasn’t smooth. With your prayers and support, we have pushed and came to the end of the first Trimester.

Among the various things that have transpired in this term, below are the challenges and how we have managed to cover and work around them with a way forward.

First and foremost, there was a loss of interest in education. Depending on most of the learners' settings, the community where they live, one could say it takes courage for a child to stay home and not indulge in peer pressure. The prolonged stay out of school led to formation of many groups which didn’t have a good influence on young children and some lost the love for being in school and didn’t want to return.

This also came about when learners outgrew their classes after two years of staying home. Some students felt they were too big for some classes considering their body sizes and had to be convinced and counseled to be in those respective grade levels.

There is also a challenge of increased prices in the market for most of the scholastic and food items that are key to the feeding of the learners at the school. There is fluctuation of food prices which has also been a challenge to the school as we try to sustain on the amount of funding that has until this point been enough for support.

During the Covid -19 lockdown period, most of the parents lost their jobs and resorted to personal small businesses (i.e. selling vegetables or second hand goods). This made most of them move to places that are cheap in terms of renting, yet they want their children to still attend Rock of Ages.

The quickest and cheapest means of transport is boda-boda which in turn is the most dangerous and not recommended for ferrying school children. In that way we greatly fear we may lose many learners. We have realized there is a great need for a school bus to help maintain the children who turn out to be coming from farther than walking distance.

As a school we have mobilized and started career guidance and counseling sessions that help motivate and inspire learners to actively stay in schools. We have a program that is family based with the purpose of mentoring learners with the parent's love and participation in education.

We are adjusting and empowering our learners to a holistic education whereby we are skilling all the learners for a better and complete education to run concurrently with the national curriculum and among these are:

We are integrating our learners in income generating activities that will help in ensuring that they have skills to support their families and among these are:

While we have a long way to go, we have come so far. Once again we do appreciate all our dear Sponsors for the support. 

May the almighty bless you, 

Betty Wasswa

Sewing is a very useful skill for people of all ages!

We have been posting about "Skilling The Children", which are Saturday afternoon classes where students come to Rock of Age Campus in order to explore a variety of skills. Sewing is an area of growing interest amongst male and female students!

Last week we shared what Teacher Betty lovingly calls "Skilling the Children".

Today, on pi day, we are excited to have more pictures from the baking class! While pie is not a very common dish in Uganda, students learned how to make banana muffins, daddies, half cakes, and chapati!

While ROA exists to provide a formal education and support for students, life skills are something that we strive to provide for children of all ages!

Each weekend Betty and a rotation of teachers participate in what they call "Skilling the Children". Students are welcomed to campus on Saturday afternoons to practice a variety of skills including hair styling, sewing, baking, and chicken rearing. Students are able to choose what activity they would like to participate in for each session and all enjoy baked goods at the end of the day!

Stay tuned for more information on each activity Betty has organized for the students at ROA!

We have BIG NEWS! Rock of Ages Community School now runs on SOLAR POWER!

Last year a very generous donor approached us about the possibility of providing a solar power system for ROA. With his professional skills as an engineer, he worked closely with our Ugandan team and a nearby solar business to create a system that can support ROA electrical needs and is scalable as we continue to grow the campus!

We thank and praise God for this awesome donor who put so much time into this system, out of his love for children and learning, and for this sustainable gift that will help offset operational costs for ROA and provide reliable electricity throughout the building! Having electricity readily available brings so many more opportunities for in-classroom tools and we cannot wait to see what God has in store next!

New gate to prevent curious little finger from pressing buttons and touching batteries!

Due to age, humidity/uncontrolled climate within the school building, and for sitting open for so long without students in their seats many classroom desks became cracked and damaged.

Many preparations were made by faculty and staff for students to return to ROA following the COVID-19 closure and it quickly became apparent that desks needed to be a priority. Unfortunately, almost all student desks needed to be replaced. New desks for P4, 5, 6, and 7 were moved into the building as classes resumed and they are so much more sturdy and durable! Plus the students seem to be excited about them too!

We continue to work on funding for new desks for our younger primary students and preschool classes. These students are currently using the best of the older desks and our preschool children continue to use the same tables that have been in use for the past 7 years. If you would like to make a donation towards the purchase of new desks, please click "Donate" in the upper right corner of this page and under "Donor Note" simply type "for desks" and we will ensure your amount is designated.

Thank you for your continued support and please enjoy the photos below!

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