When you visit Kibagare for the first time, even our most travelled and adventurous volunteers are taken aback by the slum life. Our ride in to St Martins travels by old school bus through the slum's main road-- a mixture of entrepreneurial spirit and community collaboration mixed with poverty, disease, dirt, malnutrition and addiction.
The gates open to the school; however, and we are greeted with the biggest smiles on the planet. I was particularly enthused last month when we visited by the overall health and well being of the students-- proud in their modest uniforms and always interested in their visitors and trying out their english. I saw right away that our SPONSORS were making an impact.
In Africa there is a lot of aid going in and trying different projects, technologies and solutions but like the old debate about teaching a woman to fish or giving her a fish to eat the most effective aid is that which seeks sustainability. Projects that build a future and do not depend on one individual or one grant or one decision.
At St Martins we are trying to offer a program whereby individual donors commit to the well being of an individual child. Using the salesforce platform we are connecting sponsors with their sponsored children in a whole new way. Even sponsors who are unable to visit will now be able to interact, see, feel,mentor and share life experiences with their sponsored children .
We were lucky enough on this visit to recharge the STEM movement inside St Martins. We partnered with an amazing social enterprise CAMARA.org and LITERACY PLANET in order to bring e learning and connectivity to life at St Martins. We all had a chance to participate in the teacher training and interact with the highly motivated students to bring this project to life. Walking into the 40 station primary school lab and watching the kids with their refurbished computers, new headphones and literacy planet software interacting in a way we had not seen before was so moving, tears build up in our eyes. Its been hard to provide text books to the school so now opening up the possibilities offered with e learning was like creating a window to all of life's possibilities.
Nothing replaces visiting St Martins in person. You will find Saints among the dedicated staff and angels among the students. You will be impacted by the demanding schedule by which the high school boarding students live-- up before the sun and studying and productive studies and chores all day. You will be moved by a home visit to one of the families of the smaller children from the kibagare slum. It will awake senses in you that you did not know you had.
My family making a home visit with primary headmaster Sister Emmah. Sister has an amazing capacity for love and care. While taking care of a school of 750 she still manages to take time to care for struggling parents and needy community children.
I can absolutely promise that If you are lucky enough to visit when the staff feeds the entire (almost 2000 strong) child community of the Kibagare slum on a hot saturday morning you will find it to be the most rewarding two hours of your life. (see photo below from the meal our volunteers passed out and our team member Zahid Jiwa-- otherwise known as simply " Z"and family donated)
Mostly, you will be HUMBLED by the hard work and dedication among the staff and students. You will be ENERGIZED by their smiles and their appreciation for even the smallest of gestures or advice on your part. You will be MOTIVATED to take their stories home with you.
Be part of this OHANA. Sponsor a child today. Visit when you can. Share their story.
St Martins champion and sponsor since 2012