Newsletter December 2022

Ugandan students sharing their thanks to donors.

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. 

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