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. 

Are you on our email list? If you would like to receive our newsletter please email ariane@hands4Uganda.org to sign up! Already signed up but not getting our communications? Please check your spam folder and mark our address as "not spam". Still not getting our emails? Please reach out to ariane@hands4uganda.org for troubleshooting.

Hello Members,

Merry  Christmas and Happy New Year!

Thank you for sticking with us all this time. A lot has happened since the year began, good and bad, but still we appreciate all your resources invested in H4U. Especially your time. Thanks to all for organizing the Angel Tree Drive; it was amazing and made a difference!

This year our gratitude has gone ever deeper. Especially during Covid -19 when we had no hope, but with your generosity you made ROA a better place in Mbiko. Because of you, we managed to pay all the school expenses and tuition for High School students and others who have returned to campus. Thank God for all the provisions!

All schools had a break for Christmas and New Year Holidays on December 18 and are resuming January 18, 2021 after our presidential elections on January 14th. Please pray for a peaceful election- a lot is happening.
Once again I truly appreciate all your support during 2020 and can't wait for what God has in store for us.


Betty Wasswa
Founder and Director
Rock of Ages Community Scool

Hello from Uganda! My name is Ariane and I am the Program Development Manager for Hands4Uganda, as well as, the leader of this mission team! Joining me here in Uganda are two of my greatest friends, Anna and Brooke, and we are so excited to share our journey with you!

Anna and I arrived here in Uganda Friday night with all of our bags. This was a BIG DEAL. We were originally allowed only two bags per person on our flight. After contacting Delta directly by phone, and then applying for a baggage waiver, we were then given three bags per person. For those of you who sent blessing bags, you can imagine how many pieces of luggage 320 blessing bags translated to (nearly 16!). So a 6-piece luggage allowance between Anna and I was not going to work. We decided to take 6 each for a total of 12 (Brooke would have to bring the extra 4) and we would have to see what we could do.

I was quivering walking into the airport, unsure of what I would do if they said no to our mounds of bags and if luggage fees were too costly. How could I take blessing bags for some classes and not for others? I prayed and prayed, unnecessarily reminding God that He’s the one who put this whole thing into my head and if He wanted kids to get these blessing bags He needed to figure it out! Luckily, despite my somewhat regular sass, He remains faithful. Pushing our giant carts towards the ticket counter, over 600 lbs of luggage, a Delta manager caught my nervous eyes.

“Can I help you with something?” she asked.

“Hi, yes, we are a mission team headed to Uganda and...”

“Oh we have been waiting for you!” she exclaimed. “Come here to this desk and we will get you all taken care of!”

Unsure, Anna and I looked at each other. I began to explain that we had more bags than we had been allowed, and without asking how many, or if any would be overweight, our luggage angle instructed the Delta employee behind our special ticket counter to take care of us. She instructed them to check us in and put all bags through to Uganda, regardless of weight or how many. No charges required. Our check in person stood there looking at our mounds of bags stunned. He asked her if she was sure. She answered swiftly, telling him to do whatever we needed and then dismissed herself.

I held it together long enough to make it outside to tell my boyfriend, Jackson, goodbye. He had waited incase we could not take our bags and he would need to hold on to them. I let out an uncontrollable sob of complete relief, excitement, and nerves as I explained that we were taking every bag and were checked in. Smiling he reminded me that a little faith can go a long ways...

I tried to find the woman who had helped us before we went through security. Our luggage angle was nowhere in sight but my heart was full to the brim with gratitude and excitement. What a perfect way to start our journey.

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