Saturday, Feb 1, 2020

After spending the last morning together with the Shareword Global team, I was anxiously awaiting Vincent to come and ‘pick me’ (Ugandan English for pick me up). He said he might be bringing his son, Eric and his daughter, Jane with him so I kept checking the parking lot for their sweet faces. I was in the front talking to one of the many new friends I met these past weeks, the doorman named Alex, when I saw Ed (my father-in-law who was the one to invite me and bless me with this trip) walking through the parking lot holding hands with two familiar faces. Jane and Eric saw me from a distance and ran to greet me, hugging me like you would any friend or family member you haven’t seen for a while. I held back my tears, but how often do we get to cry tears of joy?

I introduced Vincent and his children to the team and we took a lot of photos and then loaded the van (having to put my heavy bag through the side door because the back didn’t open) and headed off to Kassanda, a smaller village about two hours drive from Entebbe. It is hard to describe in words my feelings being back here so soon. Everything was so familiar that in a sense, I felt I was coming home while at the same time deeply missing John and his large presence being with me and the safety I feel with him. I wanted him to be there with me to reminisce and joke about the scenes, the funny signs, and the massive potholes and beat up roads that we travelled on together for so long. As we turned off the tarmac towards Kassanda, a road I have travelled many times in a van and now also on a bicycle, the roads got worse and I laughed inside about the speed at which the people drive and the wonder that their vehicles are not in the shop 100% of the time.

Because Vincent had to hire (rent) the van from a man in town, we took the day to drive to the places that were too far to walk. Our first stop was our new school, Kassanda Seed Academy, where my friends, Jacob and Jimmy, were frantically working to complete the latrine before school started on Monday. I was so impressed with the tireless work these people do with no complaining, even when the weather does not co-operate, and things are delayed. The latrine was so deep it would take 10-15 years to fill!! The new buildings, although still temporary, were such a HUGE improvement over what were there that I just kept shaking my head in disbelief. Vincent had taken out a loan to have the money to get everything ready in time. The school still has so many needs and we are going to have some meetings about what to prioritize. Things like textbooks and teaching supplies are desperately needed, but practical things like more metal sheets to separate the last classrooms, fencing materials to keep the children safe (a government requirement), and doors that lock so that things do not go missing in the night. I want to thank all of you who have been watching this story unfold on Facebook and given your own resources to make this happen for these vulnerable children. I cannot tell you how much it means to them, their caregivers and their teachers.

Despite all the needs, we were able to give the students new jump ropes, soccer balls, toy cars, and a dear friend from the past who always made people laugh and brought joy to others, very appropriately donated money for a swing set and other pieces of playground equipment (not yet purchased) to bring joy and laughter to a place that could use more of both.

After visiting the school, we went to the farm that Kassanda Children’s Aid oversees (you might remember pictures of it from before) and I cannot believe how prolific the harvest was! There was so much matoke (a type of banana eaten as a daily dish) and so many pineapples that Vincent says they no longer need to buy food and can sell the extra to make small money for KCA to help other vulnerable women and children. KCA was able to purchase the neighbouring plot of land for a very good price that has a little house on it for a security man to stay in to make sure the harvest is not stolen in the night (sadly, a very common event).

After the farm, we went to visit the woman whose house we were moved to build after meeting her last time and seeing the level of poverty and suffering that she and her grandchildren were living in. Wow, wow. I cannot believe it was the same place (see the before and after pictures below). Last time we met, I could not get this woman to smile despite many tries. This time, I got to see what her beautiful smile looked like. Upon seeing me, she immediately went down on her knees and started to cry, which is something rare for Ugandans to do – they do not show emotion like this in public so when it happens, you know there is something deep happening. I went down on my knees with her and just hugged her, helpless to communicate how proud I was of her and her resilient spirit and strength. She invited me in and the conditions that were hard to fathom before had now changed. The concrete floor was clean and organized, the roof was protective and strong, the bedroom with the new mattresses and covers (donated by another donor in the States) was colourful and cozy and the door on the front locked. This woman humbles me like no one else ever has. I gave her children and some neighbouring friends some toy cars made by one of Ed’s friends in Lynden, WA and what a hit. I don’t think they have ever had a toy before. What a significant life event to see this woman and her children again, but smiling this time.

I was dropped back at the hotel and after wrangling my bags around in a tiny room with no fan, I asked about wifi so I could tell people at home that I had reached Kassanda safely. The hotel did not have wifi but I was told I might find a network up on the patio. Because I have stayed here so many times before, I am quite comfortable and have not experienced anything scary happening to me, but I have always had someone else with me. I went up the patio and sat down like I belonged despite the place being full of men drinking and quietly saying, “muzungu, muzungu” and staring at me. One of them came over and I could smell the alcohol on his breath as he told me his name and asked to take a picture. “No, thank you! I am trying to call my very tall husband who knows where I am so no thank you!” I said it as a joke, but it was only to cover up how suddenly vulnerable I felt. I needed to hear John’s voice so I just bit the bullet and took my phone out of airplane mode to call him. I take for granted how much of my strength I get from him and it was good to fill my cup and I was feeling much better after our hour-long conversation. It’s amazing to me how much I needed to hear about the weather at home, the trials he has faced while I’ve been gone, the fact he bragged about only using three plates the entire time so far and hearing about the Superbowl hype. We decided again that three weeks is too long for us to be apart.

Something that lasts….

So, from the very beginning of this project, the question of mine (and others) that has always been in the back of my mind and sometimes waking me up at night is, “What happens when the trip is over and the school year is done? What will the kids do without your continued support?”

It’s haunting, and those of you who have walked this road with us from the beginning know how deeply this has weighed on our hearts and minds.  The transition home has been a difficult one as we have deepened relationships, seen our friends living in poverty (but with extreme gratitude) and experienced the wealth in which we live and often take for granted. I know it’s now been five months, but things are still strange for us. It’s hard to explain.

But now I am beyond excited to tell you that we have an opportunity to do something in Kasanda that is more permanent and will hopefully help Ugandan orphans far into the future. A school came up for sale in the Kasanda District and after asking many questions and discussing options, we (along with a couple other anonymous, generous donors) have decided to purchase the land that the current ‘temporary’ school sits on that serves about 100 students and employs approximately nine teachers, one cook and a gatekeeper. The school is for students from Nursery age up to Primary 4, but our hope is that once it’s in the hands of Kasanda Children’s Aid, it will grow to serve more students because it’s in such a poor (but strategic) area. We do have twelve students from last year that get to continue their education as well as money still coming in from amazing people to continue to support students in need. Our hope is to move most of the sponsorships to this new school so that it is easier to manage and can be overseen by people that we know and trust.

I will be returning to Uganda in late January for three weeks to do some work in Entebbe, and then staying to visit some of our previous Get Schooled children. I will also use this time to visit the school’s property for the first time, meet the students and teachers and assess the needs going forward. I know that the school building itself is not sustainable (as you can see from the photos), but over time, our hope is that others will join us and contribute to make this school as good as we know it can be under the care and guidance of Kasanda Children’s Aid.

Please rest assured that if you gave money to our project up to this point, the money you gave is still going directly to support student school fees and not the purchase of this land. If you feel lead at all to give anything specifically for this school – in the form of teacher salaries, new building costs, student desks, school supplies, playground toys such as soccer balls, netball nets, etc., just please contact me and I can help you sort that out!

Stay tuned for more information after I return home with some news, photos and a better idea of how we can continue to support vulnerable children in the Pearl of Africa. We deeply appreciate you all!

Final Thoughts

Well, we made it to the airport. We are no longer the center of attention, our bikes and bags are checked all the way to Vancouver, we said sad goodbyes to our friends who now feel like family and hopefully we have good movies to watch on these long flights. Man, our arrival to Uganda on June 4th feels like a lifetime ago. I keep having flashes of scenes in my mind of time both on and off the bikes, faces I remember, places we’ve slept and yet I have no idea when they happened, where I was or any details of the days. Most of the time in Uganda I didn’t even know what day it was. How nice and weird is that?! I’m glad we have this blog to review over time to remind us of our time here.

Vincent, Jacob and Vincent’s mother, Jan, picked us up at the hotel around 11:30. Just before, I couldn’t resist getting my one last chipati for the road. I will miss those. We crammed the bikes and all the bags into the back of the van, taking up the two rear seats completely. Jacob insisted that John take the front seat and sat with his big legs crammed up behind the passenger seat without complaint. As we made the trek to Kampala to pick up Jacob’s family to come with us the rest of the way, he was telling Vincent some kind of story in Luganda that was getting a crazy reaction from Vincent, so of course, they had to fill us in. It turns out that on Saturday, while Jacob was doing work to prepare for the final celebration, he came upon an old woman who had bound a child’s hands and feet together with rope and was making him sit at the cooking pot and help her. He could see that the poor child’s circulation was being cut off and watched her hit the little guy (about six years old) with a big stick. Well, I hope you have sensed Jacob’s heart for children by now and seen his size. He was having none of this and intervened on the child’s behalf. He swooped in and grabbed the child and slung him over his shoulder as the old woman grabbed her stick and tried to hit him with it! Like in the movies, he grabbed the stick in mid-air and stopped her cold. So she did what only a desperate woman could do… she BIT him on the arm! What?! He showed us the huge bite mark that was all puckered and will definitely leave a scar. There is a picture below (and a video) of him showing his wife and daughter which John forced him to do because Jacob didn’t even tell Vincent about it until days later and we wanted to make sure she knew. He took the child and carried him to his nearest relative as the woman turned out to be the child’s grandma. He and Vincent were laughing and Jacob was acting it out, the whole situation seeming like no big deal. But both Vincent and we told him that a human bite can be very serious and spread disease so he plans to go get tested for anything unexpected, and also for HIV. How sad and somewhat unbelievable picture of life here – on all counts. The child’s predicament. The woman’s reaction. The possible result. We told him to keep us posted on his diagnosis.

On the way Vincent also got a distressed phone call from his daughter, Jane, who was one of the main dancers yesterday. She had made quite a few tips with her dancing (as this practice was described in our last post) and I guess someone at school just couldn’t resist and stole the entire ‘purse’ from her. Poor thing. Because we hadn’t brought any money to the party and so couldn’t give tips, we gave Vincent a few thousand shillings to replace some of what she’d lost (the equivalent of about 80 cents). Her dancing was worth much more, of course, but we were running out of shillings and wanted to still pay for lunch.

We went to see Jabob’s house, meet his lovely wife of twenty-three years and one of his children, a delightful, intelligent, talented and outgoing eighteen-year-old named Victoria. He and Florence got married when Jacob was seventeen and she was only fourteen. We hadn’t met anyone up to this point who had been married for that long to the same person. He was very honouring to her and kept telling us how hard she works and how much he appreciated that she lets him go away from home to build houses for people who don’t have one, serve the church by leading their music program and be Vincent’s right hand man and heavy lifter. We sat on the couch in their ‘living room’, one of two rooms in their brick and mud house. There was a three-tiered bunk bed also in the room along with all their kitchen wares, thermoses and pots. A ratty sheet hung over the bottom bunk as Vicky’s only privacy. You can see a picture below of me, his wife and daughter standing in the room that serves as the living room, kitchen and bedroom. He kept telling us how blessed he is and how thankful he was that we came to his house. Vicky sang us a couple songs and I could see that she loved to sing and share her beautiful voice.

So then all seven of us crammed into the one seat in the van to go to Entebbe where the airport is. What a difficult joy it was to just immerse myself in these last moments in Uganda and live like they do on a daily basis. No personal space? No problem. No one else seemed bothered by the close quarters so I just rested in that and tried to ignore the sweat running down my back and our legs all sticking together in clammy warmth.

We wanted to take them out to a pizza place on the beaches of Lake Victoria, somewhere we knew they would never go. I was wearing a tank top and John, shorts and a T-shirt. The breeze felt wonderful after being in the hot van. But Vincent, his mom and Vicky were so cold that they went to get jackets and coverups they had left in the van. We laughed at the difference between us. The pizza was so awesome, but most of them had never had pizza before and Vincent didn’t even know what it was. Vicky on the other hand, like all other teens I know, loved pizza and played a game on my phone the entire time. John had Vincent almost convinced to give it a try, but then he bailed out and they all stuck to familiar food: pork with rice, fish with rice, and chicken with chips (aka fries). Mama Jan must have thought her rice needed some sauce because she added a ton of ketchup, not really knowing what it was. The process of ordering was hilarious as they joked with the waiter about the unfamiliar things on the menu. They laughed out a story where Nelson (not with us only because there was not enough room in the van) went out with some North Americans and didn’t know a single thing on the menu so he just randomly pointed at something and ended up with a small mound of sweet potatoes while everyone else enjoyed their full meals. They thought that was hilarious.

After lunch, while everyone was just visiting, Vicky asked me to go for a walk with her so we slipped out and slowly strolled up the road. She has been the only person who has asked me about myself, my hobbies, my children, and deeper questions of what the trip was like. Her English was really good and she hopes to become a surgeon someday. Right now she can’t even afford a small phone to replace the one her brother dropped and broke when he was playing a game on it. I know she and I will get to spend more time together when I come back. She has great potential and deep desire, but like most people, the lack of resources seems too much to overcome for her to achieve her dreams.

It was a bit of a fiasco getting the bags and bikes out of the van and into the airport. Everyone wanted to help and bags were falling off the carts and into the road. They wanted pictures of themselves pushing all the stuff and honestly, we just wanted to get checked in so we didn’t get stuck in middle seats on the plane. The goodbyes were hard, but that’s a good thing. The ties are tight and this project and future plans have bound our hearts together over the long distance that separates us. It’s hard to leave knowing what they all have to go back to, but these men and their families have critical roles within their communities and we are overwhelmed with pride in them and thankfulness for what they have done and continue to do.

So now we start our thirty-hour journey to Vancouver where John’s parents will pick us up and keep us for the night. We can’t wait to see Hannah the next day, see her new place and get some strength from our girl. Then we head home to see Dylan who has killed it this summer caring for our place and earning man points. Wow, I miss them.

Thank you all so much for coming along on this crazy ride with us, for sending kind and encouraging emails and messages, for praying, for giving. All of your contributions have been noticed and deeply appreciated both by us and the students. Even the frisbees, given from the students from the Christian school in Nelson, were huge tokens of love and they had to be given out carefully to avoid the chaos and hurt that can come from wanting something so badly and leaving empty-handed. We hope you have all felt that this was your trip too. In truth, we couldn’t have done it without you.

Your generosity has made it possible to pay some fees for next year as well, but as of now, we don’t have enough for all of the Get Schooled students to continue in 2020. And now that we’ve been around the entire country and seen thousands of kids on the streets who should be in school and the actual reality that it’s not a lack of effort or work ethic, but a myriad of other issues including HIV, addictions, death, disease, domestic violence and broken families, we can assure you that without sponsorship, education is impossible. If you sponsored a student this year and would like to sponsor a student or continue your sponsorship from this year, please email me at getschooled50for50 We will send this year’s final tuition payment in August which will take them to December And we will be in close touch with our team on the ground and provide accountability and encouragement to them to make sure your donations are used well. Education can and will change the trajectory of these kids’ lives and I hope their stories have opened your eyes to their needs, but also the gratitude and humility in which they receive your gifts. I think all of us can say that, to some degree, we got schooled.

P.S. This has become a good platform to reach a lot of you at once with progress updates, needs, and random thoughts and feelings that need to find a voice. Any future posts will be for that purpose. And now that we are off Ugandan soil, life will be just a little bit less interesting. ❤️


Happy Birthday To Me

Ugandans know how to throw a party. Our friends stayed up until 4 am to set up the tents and chairs in a garden venue we had rented and it looked truly amazing. The weather even cooperated!

When we arrived, most of the guests were already there. I scanned the crowd (of over 400) for the sweet faces that were my motivation these past two months and there were about forty of the Get Schooled students there, their teachers and caregivers, people from the church, local dignitaries, the mayor, and locals of all ages who just heard there was a party and were curious. The program was well-planned with singing, dancing, speeches, traditional music using ankole horns, cake, a huge lunch and an hour-long ‘skit’ about family life to wrap things up.

The theme throughout the entire day was gratefulness. The people of Kassanda wanted me to tell you all how very grateful they are for what you have done for them and the children. It was expressed over and over and over again. It was so hard for them to believe that so many North Americans have heard their stories and actually listened and done something to help. The idea that people from abroad would leave their lives for two months to come over and bike around their country just because they cared about the people of this nation humbled them so much that they had a hard time expressing it in words. But they sure could express it through song and dance. Their songs all had words of gratitude and told of how they are “fresh and clean” and “want to win.” A few of the school groups had prepared a number of songs in advance, choreographed perfectly, of course. It was the freestyle dancing that I really loved. People in the crowd would dance up and give tips to the dancers who they appreciated the most and some kids left with a small wad of cold hard cash in their pockets. Had we known about this tradition, we would have tipped every single one of them, including a tiny but talented toddler and a woman who must have been in her 70’s who weren’t even part of the program. She was dancing in her chair the whole time and then she would slowly dance up to the group waving a bill worth 1000 shillings (25 cents) and wait to see who was dancing with the most vigour, skill and heart. I want to be like that when I’m old. Even the babies where dancing and each group, including the moms, the dignitaries, and the teachers all had songs that they got up and danced to together. I was even pulled up at one point and danced with the District Commissioner while the crowd cheered and laughed. It’s time like these when I have to just forget about my comfort zone all together and embrace the moments I know will not happen again.

My speech went really well, according to John. They had the Get Schooled students grouped together so it was easy for me to talk directly to them about resilience and how much they motivated me on the trip. I was sure to relay how all of you have read their stories and been moved to give because you believe in them and care about their futures. Vincent spoke as well as a few other local leaders and head masters. I was really proud of Vincent and happy that he could share a report of all the things KCA is doing in the community in such a public way. He believes it will go a long way to influencing other public investment. The district leaders explained that they chose not to spend money on education last year in their region. But today the leaders promised that the money would stay in this district for vocational schools because they see that there is something now on which they can build and they trust the local efforts on the Get Schooled project. Our project helped them see the desire for education in the district and the governor challenged the crowd to also make sacrifices as, he acknowledged, all of our donors have done. So this party was critical to connect those who have political power to the issues on the ground and demonstrate to them that the money will be spent properly. It went a little sideways when the mayor started using me as an example to the women to stay in shape. And that men need to avoid “dirty ugly” women ….Not sure where he was going with all that because of the language barrier. But he did promise us specifically and the audience that his office would ensure that the money you donated will not go to waste and he would add to the efforts. He was deeply moved and extremely thankful for your sacrifice.

The huge birthday cake that even had my name on it, compliments of Lisa Dengel (thank you again), was amazing. They chopped it into small pieces and I got to serve it around to make sure everyone got a bite. The governor presented us with certificates of thanks from Kassanda Children’s Aid and some African art as a gift that I hope makes it home in one piece.

They had big pots of food, but only certain people were served hot chicken served in banana leaves and given utensils. Most guests, including the parents of the Get Schooled students and all of the children, were given only rice and beans and ate with their hands, some of them needing to use a cafeteria tray instead of a plate. The mayor was served first and then other distinguished guests. Later, Vincent, despite our protests, brought us up and skipped the line to make sure we got our plates of beans, potatoes, rice, squash, g-nut (peanut) sauce, greens, and chicken. Everyone lined up and just patiently waited, including all the children. It felt very uncomfortable eating a huge plate of food while those behind us had not been served yet, but when we tried to go last, they were hearing none of that so we didn’t argue. We ate the meal in humility and shared our chicken with a young girl that was not expecting to get anything to eat. She immediately shared with others around her and had a special but shy smile.

After lunch, I was visiting with Vincent’s children that had come from Kampala for the day. I really enjoy them a lot and feel like I’m really getting to know them better each visit. I had seen a few of them before we started biking but hadn’t seen his sons yet, Stephen and Eric, so it was a fun reunion. I was kneeling as we chatted and a young man nearby (who had just come in to see what was going on) asked what I was doing. “Talking with my friends,” I replied.

“But why are you on your knees like that?”

“It’s a sign of respect, isn’t it?” I asked.

“But you’re older than them!” He argued with a confused smile.

“Oh, yes, but these are my heroes right here. I can still learn from those who are younger than me.” He didn’t really have an answer to that but he stuck around the entire day and seemed to really enjoy himself.

And I wasn’t lying. These kids really have become little heroes to me for all they have been through and still endure. I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday celebration and the people of Uganda continue to impress me with their humility, sense of humour, giant hearts and generosity. The last year and a half of training, fundraising, praying, giving, planning, John’s recovery, and all 2200 kilometres came together today in one massive, crazy, loud, sweaty, crowded and deeply meaningful party and it is more than I could have ever asked for or imagined.



More Video:

No Struggle, No Reward

When I was little, I went horseback riding with my cousins up near Grand Lake in Colorado. I asked for an old horse because I wanted to go slowly because I had no idea what I was doing. I admired my older cousins because they seemed so outdoorsy and comfortable around horses and I wanted to be like them so I kept my fear to myself. I survived the trek out, away from the stables and was getting rather comfortable as my horse did, indeed, seem old and slow. Well, then we turned around to come back. I know my memory might not be the best because I was so little, but I remember my ‘slow’ horse taking off running as fast as her old legs could go, knowing she was heading back home to the comfort of her own space and maybe a sugar cube or a carrot for a treat.

That’s how I feel right now. Not the old part so much as my body feels pretty good, but knowing the simply pleasures that await me when I get home, I want to run as fast as I can. My kids. My mom’s voice. Brushing my teeth using the tap. My own bed. Popcorn. The lake. A toilet that always works. Heck, toilet paper that works. Hamburgers. Hot showers. Different clothes. Hair products. Reliable internet. Good soap. Doritos. Season 3 of Stranger Things. My favourite riding trails. Anonymity.

But there are also things I will deeply miss: Smiles and nods from everyone I see, the different view of the stars, spending quality time with John without distractions, time to read, the smells of campfire and roasting meat, my friends here, bird choirs, the Ugandan accent when they speak English and chipati, the local flatbread that you can buy anywhere on the street for a quarter.

If fact, I grew to like chipati so much that I asked Cici, one of the hotel hosts, if they could teach me how to make it. She said, “Sure! Meet me here at 6 am because that is when the chef makes it.” 6? Well, ok. When else am I gonna get such a chance to see the inside of a hotel kitchen and what better time to see that reality than right before I’m leaving and don’t plan to eat in any more in restaurants? Chef Ronald was kind enough to lead me through the process and I was taking notes on my phone the whole time of the ingredients and amounts. I would ask him how much sugar to put in. Oh, “just a fistful.” Ok. And how much salt? “About a quarter of a fistful.” Ok. Two eggs. A seemingly random amount of water and milk. A huge cafeteria-spoonful of margarine. Grated carrots. A few blended onions with the carrot ends that didn’t get grated. And about twelve kilograms of flour. It wasn’t until he dumped in six bags of flour that I realized he was making about 150 pieces when I will need maybe four. I’ll have to adjust those fistfuls.

He expertly reached in and mixed it all by hand and then poured oil all over it and kneaded it again. His hands were so quick as he began cutting off pieces with a huge knife and rolling them into balls that were all exactly the same size. As he was doing this, the security guard came in with his AK-47 strapped to his back. He flirted with Cici, grabbed a banana and left. The other boys were busy chopping vegetables, peeling potatoes, making greens and helping prepare the hotel breakfast of pineapple, bananas and hard boiled eggs. I found it fascinating to see how they cooked over charcoal and their systems that all kitchens have, no doubt. I awkwardly just sat in a chair in the middle of the room.

When it was time to cook the chipati, they added way too much charcoal to the fire and the flames were leaping up around the entire cast iron flat skillet. I wondered how often they get burned cooking over open flames but it seemed like a dumb question so I kept quiet. Plus, the cook put a wooden cabinet door between him and the fire so I figured he pretty much had it covered. Ronald rolled out the pieces of dough thinly, and the other cook put them onto the skillet that had been carefully treated with a little oil. He drizzled it with even more oil before he flipped them until they were perfectly cooked. No wonder they are so good. The whole process took about ninety minutes. I know mine won’t taste as good as the ones I’ve had here, but I’m sure gonna try. And mine won’t have the consistent token piece of sand in them, I hope.

John spent the day dismantling the bikes and packing so I took the opportunity to stay out of the way and go see a vocational school nearby that is sometimes supported by the church we attended yesterday. There were two boys learning about electronics and how to fix phones, TVs, etc. Then there was a class of five girls learning sewing and tailoring skills. They had sewn some dresses out of cement bags to show potential customers the different styles that were available for pants, shirts and dresses. One of them wasn’t wearing her school uniform and seemed embarrassed by that when I showed up. She quickly got up, carefully avoiding getting her picture taken, until she had her shirt in and properly tucked into her skirt. Finally, there was a group of five young ladies studying theory for cosmetology. They were gregarious and fun. They only had a single dummy head between all five of them and one mirror. Obviously, their biggest need was supplies. No make up. No hair dryers. No scissors or razors. No wonder they were working on the theory. There were not enough supplies to do the practical applications.

These students are working to learn a trade after not being able to afford further secondary school fees or not passing their exams to move forward into the last two years of secondary. It seems typical that students complete “S4” (four out of the possible six years for secondary) and then drop out, looking for work because they know they can’t afford university. The girls in this particular school wanted to have a skill so they didn’t have to rely on a man to take care of them. It seems rather typical that a woman will get married and have kids and then be abandoned and can’t care for the kids because she has no skills. I admire these girls for being realistic, independent and smart. I told them that the next time I come, we could do some work in self defence and that got them really excited. I hope that becomes a reality. They insisted on walking me all the way back to my hotel, picking flowers for my hair and taking selfies. A policeman who knew them stopped his motorcycle to have a word and commented on their school uniforms not being tucked in. One of the sassy girls showed him that she was wearing a dress underneath so she couldn’t tuck. I liked her immediately. It was really fun and again confirmed my draw towards that age group.

I spent time this afternoon writing the speech that I’m expected to deliver tomorrow at the celebration party. John helped me come up with the analogy of the biking and how hard it can be to get over the mountains and hills in our lives but that if we don’t give up and accept a little push once in awhile, the reward at the top is always worth it. Because it will be translated, it gives me time to look at the cues on my phone as I speak, but I hope the message is not lost in translation. I also kinda hope there are not the 400 guests they are expecting. That’s gonna be super tough, but I want to finish strong and I can always sleep on the plane. We saved a bunch of our Get Schooled frisbees so it should be a good day. And I have to say a public thank you to Lisa Dengel from the US for providing a cake. We are grateful. Tomorrow might actually feel as hard as a 100-km-uphill-all-the-way day for us. But, as I’m telling the kids tomorrow – if there is no struggle, there is no reward.