Day 24: Pictures of moments speak more than thousand words!

My final day at Child Africa, I can’t believe it’s finished, every time I think about it tears appear. In the afternoon the school organized a farewell ceremony. As always it was wonderful, although it’s been a long time since I cried so much! I don’t even feel like writing this blog after watching all the pictures of today…  450 pictures were taken this afternoon and every single one can make me cry over and over again! The lyrics of some songs the kids performed really broke my heart:

” Farewell teacher Larissa…”

” We will miss your smile every day…”

” Madam Larissa thanks for all your great support, we shall miss you…”

I received presents, letters from some children and many many hugs! Oh you can’t imagine how much I will miss these kids and everyone from school!

My attempt to say something quickly ended in tears…

So my final words were: come and give me all a hug!!! I nearly fell when they ran into me, so a “hug-queue” was organized… Too many tears, but I will never forget all those warm hugs…

The moment Catherine, Aria and Selinah were the next in line, I really couldn’t hold myself when I saw tears on their beautiful faces…

Many many thanks to all the Child Africa staff for taking so good care of me, I will never forget these weeks! Your presents and pictures deserve a special place in my room…

Unfortunately all good things come to an end… but I didn’t say goodbye forever I’m sure I will go back one day!

Much love to Child Africa Kabale, a piece of my heart stays here forever!!

Day 23: The “sunshines” who make my day!

Yesterday I forgot to mention the story of Moses. As I love drawing one of the teachers asked to make a portrait of him. As you can see, I gave it a shot (please use your imagination a bit, I’m not an artist ;)!) He’s so happy and personally came to thank me again yesterday by the house.

Today mid-terms, mid-terms, mid-terms… Luckily there was a great sunshine. After the first break many classes finished their exams for the day and had no lessons scheduled. The whole day I played, drew, chatted, answered millions of questions and had fun with the kids. My camera was all over the place as well, since my arrival I already snapped more than 1000 pictures!

Unfortunately the end of my Child Africa adventure is getting near, but I still had to complete a task for my father: “looking for a sponsor child”. My mom’s and Erik’s child, Catherine, was quickly decided from the start, but knowing there is just one of all these great kids to choose from is a very hard task. I wrote down a few names and verified with the office. One of them is not sponsored, Aria, coincidence or not, she’s the classmate and best friend of Catherine.

Both of them didn’t leave my side for the whole day. I’m sure they will make me cry tomorrow, today it was already hard to see their faces when I said I’m leaving on Friday.

I don’t know much about Aria’s background yet, but tomorrow I will raise all my questions to the office. I didn’t want to ask Aria too much, I find it sad when they tell me they don’t know their parents or one of them died. Until now, all I know is that she’s not at the boarding school, has 3 sisters, lives close to school and most importantly that she definitely can use a sponsor, as all of them, she also comes from a very poor family. I didn’t personally inform my father about Aria yet, he was too busy, but I’m sure he will trust me on making the perfect choice, right daddy 🙂 ?

In the afternoon the teachers attended a meeting so I needed to oversee all the kids. My attention was quickly lost when Aicha entered the school gate. She lives next door Child Africa, but whenever she and her friend get the chance they come and play with the kids. On the picture you can see Aicha, she has hydrocephalus (water on the brain). She’s such a cute little girl, all the children are always so sweet and helpful to her, it’s wonderful!

In the evening Mamma Saturday absolutely wanted to cook something for me and this time I wasn’t allowed to buy ingredients. I filled my plate until there was no space left, still Mamma Saturday looked as if it wasn’t enough. I forgot enough in Africa means when you have reached the top of a pyramid on your plate :)!

During dinner Mamma Saturday realized she also prepared a salad. Everything was so delicious that I wanted to show her my appreciation and went for a next round, which I regret now, I’m glad I don’t have to walk anymore tonight!

Day 22: A smile a day…

They say “A smile a day keeps the sadness away”, I couldn’t agree more with this very wise quote!

Yesterday evening when saying good night to my new “African family”, Saturday was cleaning the shoes of his boys, the twins. After having heard a lot of sad stories happening to children, it’s wonderful to see how responsible this father is. Many of the kids at Child Africa are being left behind by their families and dropped at their grandparents place. The twins don’t have a mother anymore (did she disappear or die? I don’t know) all I know is that they live with Mamma Saturday. Yet every morning at exactly 7am and evening at 8pm the father comes to take care of his sons. I wanted to give him a little gift and remembered a pair of men’s shoes in one of the boxes. They fit perfectly, he was so happy and immediately started to polish them. When Mamma Saturday saw the shoes she thanked me so much, hugged me and gave me a big kiss! That really almost made me cry. I’m starting to repeat myself… little things mean so much here, it still amazes me every day!

Today at Child Africa children were doing mid-terms. Instead of supervising, I went into the nursery section and made drawings to fancy up the classrooms. After lunch Catherine ran up to me and gave me a huge hug! That again touched my heart so much, I can’t tell how happy I am to see her with such a big smile. She really acts differently since the first time I saw her walking around at school. I’m sure my mom and Erik are contributing to this pretty smile on her face! Without me mentioning anything she wanted to have a picture with her sister, me and herself. When I get home, I will definitely frame it and search the best spot in my room!

Today I brought the last bag of clothes to school… Dividing among children is so much easier than among adults. It seems there was not enough for all of them, as some took more than 1 item. These kids know much better how to share! There was even one staff member who just took something and kind of ran away… Strange, very strange, but all the others made up for that. Look how proud showing off their new pants, shirts, sweaters and shoes! Don’t they look fabulous? 🙂

There was still a boys trousers left. I choose one of the deaf children to try it on. Although the pants was a bit too big, I just couldn’t take away his happiness when I saw that smile. Many thumbs up and a big smile can mean so much more than words!

 I’m glad to have seen all these happy faces today, I will definitely miss those! I also want to thank YOU for donating clothes! If you recognize some of your clothes on the pictures, many many many thanks to you!

Day 21: “Agandi” mid-term exams

The bad weather caught me yesterday, so this morning I didn’t have a lot of energy. Nevertheless I wanted to make it to school (at least for a while). A bodo-bodo brought me to Child Africa, with a huge bag full of clothes. Tomorrow I will take the last bag and then teachers and staff members can start selecting. They were very happy and most of them already personally came to thank me.

When I opened the school gate I saw many kids sitting outside and everyone looked serious and quiet.

I had no idea it’s a mid-term exam week… that’s Africa, they forgot to inform me. I wanted to join P4, P5, P6 and P7 classes this week, instead I will supervise the exams. When reading some answers I really felt like helping, unfortunately I am not allowed. However, when I saw Catherine’s exam, she left open 1 question: “You have 10 eggs, but someone takes away 2, how many eggs still remain?” I knew she was able to answer this, so secretly with my fingers I gave her a hint. Sorry teachers 😉

During the first break Elly immediately took my hand and wanted to show me his rabbit. I had to disappoint him when I said I cannot take my present home to Belgium. Then I found a solution, the bunny was officially renamed Larissa today and I made him promise not to eat Larissa and good care of her. He also asked me to write down all the names of my family, when Larissa will give birth the baby’s names will be: Catherine, Carl, Jari, Erik, Sophie, Veronika and Viktor.

After this, I informed little Catherine that my mom and Erik want to sponsor her, she said “Thank you” at least 10 times. Her smile got even bigger when she heard we will regularly sent her clothes and useful things. When I first met Catherine she was rather reserved and shy, they told me it’s because she’s having some troubles and concerns (and that on such a young age!). I’m so glad she is opening up a bit more, you should see her smiling and waving at me each time I pass.  She started talking about her activities over the weekend, she was in school and wore the skirt I gave her, then on Sunday she went to church and prayed for me. Although I don’t believe I still think it’s very very nice gesture!

The whole week there will be mid-terms, so today wasn’t all that exciting for me, until I met my friend, Engeneous. He is not taking part in any of the mid terms, he was just randomly running around and screaming sounds 🙂 !

I’ve spent 2 hours next to him trying to make him draw something else than just weird circles and lines. Unfortunately my mission failed. Time for Plan B, which was starting to talk “his language” Urgg Archh Urgg Urr. Mission failed again, but he was so proud showing off what we drew together and signing the kids that I was his friend.

During lunchtime I decided to go home, my eyes were itching and I had a stuffy nose. Now I’m doing better and totally ready for a new day tomorrow!

Day 18: A day of giving and receiving

Wonderful smiles, happy faces and grateful people. When I came to Uganda, I travelled with 3 bags full of clothes, shoes, games and balls. Until now everything was stored in my room, but today I felt it was a perfect day for sharing!

The Child Africa football team gathered and I gave them brand new footballs! You should have seen their happiness. Many thanks to the sponsor of these brand new balls, the kids and sport teachers loved it!

Some other clothes I divided among students. A skirt and pants to Catherine and her older sister, a short to a teacher, some cloves (Kabale is cold in the morning so don’t think this gift is useless 🙂 ) to two kids and finally a short to Brenda. But there is still a lot of stuff left in my room! It was difficult to give the presents to the kids, everywhere someone else is around. But the good thing is that there is no jealousy, they are all happy for each other!

After lunch we went with P5 and P6 to the city to welcome the Danish sponsor, Mark. He arrived with 15 other people by bike. With this initiative they are raising a lot of money for charity. They were all touched to see our students with placards, singing, clapping and dancing. Oh yes there were tears, even I still find it very touchy every single time!

On our way back to school, I walked besides Elly. He is a P6 student, he is a bit reserved, although he always comes up to me to ask about my country, football and my family! Today it was the first time I noticed his leg and his old shoes. I didn’t want to ask too much about his leg, but he told me that he had an infection, so he needed to be operated. He is not able to wear closed shoes, his leg and foot often swells. Then I started to ask him about his family, he still has both parents although they live outside the city, it’s too expensive for them to travel to town, so Elly never sees them. He always stays at school, except holidays which he spends with his grandfather, who is old and has very little money. I felt so bad and I couldn’t stand seeing him with these sandals, they were almost two sizes too small and totally broken.

After school I went with him to a market, we took a bodo-bodo together (moto-taxi) it was the first time Elly drove one. We stopped on our way to buy a soda and a banana, that already would have made his day, such a smile! But the story continues… at the market we found the perfect shoes. Elly wasn’t able to express his happiness, but his smile just said a thousand words!

After this wonderful day I am in need of a good meal. I decided to go to the “White Horse Inn” hotel. On my search for a bodo-bodo, a man came up to me on the street, he is a teacher in one the primary schools in Kabale. He saw me on the “Day of the African Child”event and told me how much he appreciates what I am doing! What a great compliment!

This whole day makes me feel so happy. As my title says “giving and receiving” I gave things but received so much more!!! When I’m looking back at the pictures of today tears are running down my cheeks ( which shouldn’t be happening cause I’m at the restaurant). Such a lovely day I will never forget, let’s hope my meal will be as good! Just ordered: “Tilapia Veronique”: poached fish fillet in rich creamy sauce, served with mashed potatoes and fresh vegetables”.

Great day to start off my weekend!

Day 17: Another day at Child Africa

It was a lovely sunny and rather relaxing day. The whole morning I made placards  to welcome the sponsor in the most enjoyable way! The kids from P3, knew that I would be coming to their class so they constantly came to ask whether I was ready. After lunch I entered their class, they were having Local Language and Literacy which wasn’t so interesting for me, instead I had some fun outside with others and went back for their last hour of arts.

I laughed so much with one of the deaf students. This little guy is the funniest guy I know. He always walks around school with a happy face and screaming out some random sounds. He also likes to hit other students, but nobody cares. Today he walked around with a stick ready to attack everyone who came his direction. I was sitting on the bench and enjoying the whole show. He is deaf -mute as well as mentally retarded, nevertheless he is always happy and smiling, it’s lovely to see! When I explained him (in my best sign language) that I wanted a picture of him, he scared  away all the students and was ready to pose!  Isn’t he lovely?! I tell other kids not to walk around with a stick or hit fellow students, this kid just cannot do anything wrong in my eyes 🙂 !

Today I also wanted a picture of Catherine, so my mom and erik could have a look at their “sponsor child”. When I called her, she came up to me and kneeled down, I really find it horrible when these kids do that, but that’s the way they are taught to behave. It makes me very uncomfortable! Erik and Mom say hello to your new daughter: Catherine 😉 !

When sitting outside, a teacher came up to me with THE question of today. Please read carefully it was so funny! “Larissa, did you ever act in a movie?” My answer was a short no. “Are you sure? Because once I saw a movie called Titanic and one of the actresses Rose (Kate Winslet) looked just like you. Are you sure it’s not you, because I think in movies the actors get different names”. I had to explain him that sure it’s not me and that names are changed, on top of that he still doesn’t believe that it’s a true story 🙂 !

As you can see every day there are funny stories to tell, I’m laughing so much here!

Day 15: Day of the African Child

This day raises awareness for the situation of children in Africa, the theme for this year’s event is “The Rights of Children with Disabilities”. Generally, children with disabilities are hidden in Africa, but today it was THEIR day.

Early in the morning the Child Africa Brass Band and all the kids nicely dressed in uniform were ready for the parade. All the teachers and staff members ordered a white polo shirt, with the Child Africa logo on the front and “We make a difference” slogan on the back.  Almost all junior schools and child focused organizations of Kabale joined the parade at the station. Everyone received paper hats “Celebrating the day of the African Child 2012”.

Our school’s brass band was the leader of the parade, we marched around the city and ended at the football stadium where a ceremony took place. There was a lot of talking and speeches in the local language, luckily the sun was shining so I could “daydream” a bit. More interesting were the shows, each school performed a dance or read a poem, which highlighted the disabled children. Blind, deaf, deaf-mute children performed as well, it was very touching to see and hear the words they spoke.

At a certain point a street boy suddenly took over the microphone and started talking in the local language. People explained me that he said that he’s disabled too, he doesn’t have any shoes and he can’t afford to pay school fees. When Julie heard what the boy’s story, she ran up to him and promised him to buy a pair of shoes, if I understood everything correctly she even invited him to join the Child Africa school. Isn’t that wonderful?!

Today I also did a (little) good cause: yesterday I saw that one of the children, Catherine, was having troubles with her schoolbag. I tried to repair it, but the zipper was broken, her schoolbooks fell out each time. I promised her to buy a new backpack, which I did today. You should have seen her happiness when I gave the present, she was even going to sit on her knees in front of me, of course I quickly lifted her up again. That would only have made me burst out in tears 😉 .

Tomorrow I will be in her class P2, let’s see whether those kids listen to “teacher Larissa” :)!

Day 10: RaLissa and the mouse

It was a lovely day in the nursery section, middle class, although I’m looking forward to the weekend. It’s been a very busy week, I woke up daily (except Tuesday) at 6.30 and was at school from 8am until 5pm. The whole day being followed, attacked and stalked by the little ones, trust me it’s time for a short break now.

The kids from nursery class are starting to remember my name, even though they pronounce it totally wrong. So meet “Ralissa” or “Lalissa”! It’s so funny, everyone, young and old has difficulties with the letter L and R. One time when the moderator during a meeting said “let us pLay now” I got confused, I thought what??? But when everyone closed their eyes I understood what he meant. The same happens in school: “kids go pRay”!

Even without this R and L confusing I need to concentrate hard to understand someone. They don’t really articulate properly or have totally different expressions.  Sometimes I ask to repeat, however to not make things awkward I’ve set my limit at 3 times, afterwards I just smile, nod and start a new conversation (no idea what is more awkward) 🙂 !

Scaring away the mouse is starting to become one of my daily activities. Now I can laugh about it, but a few hours ago I was sitting on my bed for almost 2 hours with a stick and the door wide open. When Amy saw me sitting in the room she burst out laughing, at least someone had a blast! Luckily it’s gone now, but I’m sure it’ll be back again, so I should prepare and man up a bit!

I didn’t take any picture today, for once I gave my camera a break. I’ve just put some pictures to pretty up today’s blog.

Day 9: Another day in nursery class

Today I was again in the nursery section, but this time in middle class. The kids were aged 3 to 4. The first hour they sang, danced and said rhymes. I was amazed how many songs they know and how confident they are singing solo in front of all the others.

Around 11.30 a meeting took place, normally it had to start at 10am. It’s incredible how most people have no sense of time, they all have cell phones and watches but I have no clue according to which country they set the time.  Anyhow, at the meeting parents and teachers were present, a new PTA (Parent-Teacher Association) had to be chosen. It was a total chaos, those parents behaved worse than their children.

After Julie introduced me to the parents, I was able to leave the meeting and very glad to go back to school, although a difficult task was waiting for me. I was in charge of ALL the nursery kids, more than 50! I really love those kids, but I can assure you, ALONE it ain’t all that fun. The problem is that some of them don’t know English that well. So I got some pupils from the older classes and together we managed to get those kids to sleep (more or less) 🙂

I could write so much more, but I’m exhausted. Every single minute I need to shake these kids of my body, run away from them, it seems I’m having a kid-magnet inside me :-)!

Goodnight for now, hopefully without a mouse in my room, Patrick is gone so I doubt anyone else is candidate to eat it!

Day 7: First day at school, nursery class

In the morning there was heavy rain, thunder and lightning. Kabale is known to have a lot of lighting, it actually was quite scary.  Mohammed drove me to school by 9.30, normally school starts at 8, but because I was in the ‘baby class’ I could come a bit later.

I was accompanied by a really nice teacher (I forgot her name, just too difficult to remember) there were 16 children in class, aged between 3 and 4. Some names of the people in Kabale are so peculiar : Pretty, Anxious, happiness, Lovely, Precious, Monday, Tuesday … Sunday, Confidence, etc. I think parents make too many kids that their imagination for baby names gets lost 🙂 !

Class today started by teaching the kids animal names, afterwards they shaded the apple we drew for them and finally we taught them numbers.

Around 1pm it was time for lunch, but before lunch the kids performed some dancing and singing for me. I enjoy it every single time!

 On the lunch menu stood: matoke (mashed green bananas) with a sauce of beans. The kids got a full plate although no fork, spoon or knife. So I don’t want to explain you what a mess it was. All kids baby/middle/top class (about 50 kids aged between 3 and 6) were eating with their hands. As you can imagine, their whole face was enjoying the lunch. I kind of lost my appetite, although when I looked the other way I enjoyed my food, luckily with a fork.

After lunch we played a bit outside and then the kids went to sleep for 2 hours. Not in beds, just with their heads on the desk. In the meantime I made some drawings for the wall ( a cow, a duck, a rabbit and a chicken).

 After meeting some other schoolchildren whom (without success) tried to learn me their local dialect, I walked home. On my way home I was thinking something was wrong with me (did I transform into a weird creature or was I walking naked?!) It was incredible how ALL people on the street were staring at me or wanted to talk to me. Is this how a celebrity feels 🙂 ? I was just laughing from beginning until the end! I literally think that I’m the only Mzungu (white person) in town, it was quite an adventure to get home, looking forward to more of those!