2020 was a year like no other! For Hands4Uganda (H4U), this meant major leadership changes and a critical review of our functional organization. At the end of 2020 the Board of Directors and volunteers met for three days to evaluate H4U operations and our strategic plan. Our goal was to ensure best practices and the long-term sustainability of Rock of Ages Community School (ROA) despite uncertainties such as the COVID-19 pandemic. I am pleased to share with you the next few stories listed in this blog and featured in our July newsletter – each article a story, a prayer answered, and a testament to how our God always provides.
Sponsorship is the lifeblood of H4U. It is through this funding – your continued monetary support of these students – that we are able to do what we do. We greatly feared a decline in sponsorship as the pandemic created financial uncertainty for so many. While we continue to strive for 100% sponsorship of the students at ROA, I am pleased to share that we not only maintained but grew our sponsor support over the past year.
Many have asked where their sponsorship funding has been going throughout the COVID-19 pandemic while the students have not been attending school. Through your continued contributions we have been able to ensure ongoing salaries for all faculty and staff. Medical visits by students and staff to the nearby Health Clinic have increased by about 50% since the beginning of the pandemic, many reporting COVID-like symptoms and seeking a COVID test. Healthcare for all students, faculty, and staff are covered through sponsorship dollars. In addition, food has been periodically delivered to all students and families with the aid of local officials ensuring COVID-19 protocols are followed. Thank you for making these things possible!
Finishing touches at the new school facility were completed so that when students are able to return all areas of the building are fully functional. Additionally, a two-story chicken coop, hosting 300 egg laying hens, was built in order to supplement the student food program. This coop will be tended by the 6th grade class as they explore agriculture and animal studies throughout their education.
We were able to bring the Primary 7 students on campus in October of 2020, provide them with all the necessary school and living materials needed to create an environment in which they were able to safely continue through their last year of primary education. These students lived at the new ROA site until March when they took their final national exams. We are so pleased to share another Primary 7 class has passed the PLE and all students are eligible to join Secondary School in the coming year. We are incredibly proud of the dedication and bravery it took on the part of both the students and staff to get these graduates where they are today!
With the secondary COVID lockdown beginning in June, due to increased transmissions of COVID-19, students have been forced to once again stay home. We continue to work with our Ugandan team to do what we can for the students and their families during this difficult time and to push forward towards a hopeful reopening in January, accorinding to the most recent government press release.
The last thing I want to share with you is a change in the way we reserve funding for continued support of ROA and overhead costs of H4U. With our sights set on how to provide continuous and stable financial support to ROA, despite the ever-changing times, we have initiated a 20% reserve of each donation. This percentage is then broken down to 10% saved directly into a fund entirely for ROA and the remaining 10% is used for the overhead costs of H4U. While we are a volunteer-based organization, the 10% overhead holdback helps us with day to day operations, such as software, mailings, and wire transfer fees, along with other services necessary to maintain the organization.
It is my hope and prayer that you can truly see the difference you have made in the lives of the students, teachers, and faculty at ROA – especially throughout this past year. Thank you for your continued dedication to them and allowing us the opportunity to serve in the best way possible.