End of Year Newsletter 2023

Uganda boys praying.
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.

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