Real Partners Uganda and Tree of Life Ministries:
Where We Are Today (cont. from home page)
Mustard Seed Teacher Dorcus and her Primary 2 class are housed in temporary buildings
.........While RPU funds a variety of projects in the community, our main efforts support the Ugandan leaders at Tree of Life Ministries (TOLM) in establishing a sustainable learning community that serves both vulnerable children and the adult population. We work especially with women, who struggle under grinding poverty in this community. Nursery and primary schools formed Mustard Seed Academy when it opened in 2009. In 2013 a secondary school was added with its entering (Senior 1) class in February. Its 53 full and part-time employees serve 520 students, 90% of whom come from families too poor even to send their children to "free" government schools. The school is operated entirely by Ugandans at Tree of Life Ministries and provides comprehensive care (feeding, health care, clothing, and loving supervision) to complement a strong academic program. Over 60 of MSA children are now boarding at Rapha's House because they have no other place to go. After just four years of operation, MSA won second place for overall school quality in a local contest among 18 area schools. And in November 2012 the first MSA primary school graduates topped the entire District of Kalungu (of 250 schools) in performance on the Ugandan national Primary Leavers Exam. The 2013 graduating class did the same. See the article on the Home Page. Despite the successes of the past years, MSA still lacks full licensing, because we lack permanent facilities for all sections. However all that is about to change. (See related article At Last, Permanent Homes...)
Sponsorship for children (270) and teachers (12) at MSA is provided by American families, civic organizations, schools and churches. The number of donors to RPU totaled over 500 at the end of 2013, up from 40 when we began the work in 2005. Grants from small foundations provided an additional $125,000 in 2013 to support MSA and other TOLM projects.
Over the roughly 5 years MSA has been operating, Tree of Life Ministries has managed to purchase two pieces of land near the Lukaya town trading center close to the homes of MSA students. A 2.5-acre Nursery Campus has six buildings constructed using an environmentally friendly technology called Interlocking Stabilized Soil Blocks (ISSBs). They are the first of their kind in the area. A 13-acre campus site was purchased during 2011-12 and development of permanent primary school and secondary schools has begun already. RPU and Tree of Life Ministries was very pleased to partner with Engineering Ministries International in producing the master plan for the campus, and EMI will continue to be a construction partner.
Rapha's House, a home for orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) who board at MSA, was completed there in 2012, and now houses over 60 students who have no functioning home.
Over the seven years that RPU has worked in Uganda, our Ugandan non-profit organization has assembled a team of people who share a vision, not only for providing excellent education and comprehensive care for OVCs, but also for related projects that move TOLM toward sustainability. The team includes Ugandan teachers, support staff, administrators, a farm manager, and a social worker at Mustard Seed Academy. A new medical treatment centre, Tree of Life Children's Clinic opened in March 2012 to serve the students and staff, and moved in January 2013 to a permanent space on the MSA Nursery Campus. It is staffed by two full-time nurses.
A social worker serves both the students at MSA and girls supported by our affiliated Nancy's Girls Program. The Agriculture Committee works to improve the nutrition and health of our school community. In 2012 Tree of Life began producing nutritional supplements (from Moringa plants) and Artemisia, an herb that has anti-malarial properties when consumed regularly as tea.
And parents are engaged directly through an active 12-member PTA Executive Committee, while four community leaders, including two women, serve on the TOLM Board of Directors. In the US, a lawyer, two scientists, a social worker, a business man, and several educators serve on the RPU Board (see About the Partners...)
A unique aspect of the projects supported by Real Partners Uganda is the collaboration between Ugandan leaders and American Board members in decision-making and implementation. It has resulted from our continuing efforts to empower Ugandans and develop working relationships within the community over a period of years. The relationships are manifest in frequent communication, careful financial management at both ends, and strict accountability and transparency in all things supported by RPU. This kind of relationship across cultures is extremely rare in situations where Ugandans run the day-to-day operation of a project supported by foreign funding. In a country where corruption is a way of life in many sectors of society, we have established, with some persistence, a working, collaborative system that ensures good stewardship of resources.
Work on the Nursery Campus has proceeded rapidly during 2012 to nearly complete the master plan thanks to generous grants by several foundations. Late in 2011 a grant from the U.S. Embassy's small grants program PEPFAR has allowed us to begin constructing a Campus Life Center. With a successful campaign to "Raise the Roof" organized by volunteer Ken Bennett in 2012, a second stage has been completed, and we are using the facility. (see: At Last, A Permanent Home...), hosted it first major event in October 2012 with the wedding of Tree of Life General Manager George Kateregga (see A Wedding for the Ages...).
At this point in our history (February 2014), the urgent need for RPU and Tree of Life Ministries is to raise funds for operations of the school and capital development of the primary and secondary school campus. An estimated $250,000 is needed to complete Phase 1 construction of classrooms and offices, a kitchen and infrastructure (electric service, a well and pump, a water collection and management system, and waste management facilities).
When completed the two Mustard Seed Academy campuses will serve about 120 pre-schoolers (3 levels) and about 500 primary children (7 levels with two classes in each) and up to 280 secondary students. The two campuses will also be sites of community outreach with continuing education course and a clean water station for local villagers who lack access to town service.
We envision Mustard Seed Academy as a community learning center that demonstrates technology for developing countries and models innovative strategies that can be learned by children and adults to address challenges of poverty in the broader community. We have a good start in implementing the vision. TOLM agriculturalists are growing the herb Artemisia to produce tea that is anti-malarial and immune boosting. Drinking the tea, which is bitter in taste, was achieved through the very successful Child to Child program implemented this year by long term RPU volunteer Kristen Pettet.
We are cooking with stoves that cut regular fuel use in half and reduce air pollution even more dramatically. Our teachers are starting to use active learning methods in the classrooms to teach the higher learning functions of application and problem solving. Together, all of the initiatives described above will enable Tree of Life Ministries to make substantial progress toward the eventual goal of an faith-based learning community that is totally self-funded.
With vigorous, well-supported programs in place and with a team of specialists in Uganda and the United States, RPU and Tree of Life Ministries are ready to construct the second permanent campus with supporting infrastructure to become a model school that serves poor children and the broader community. Want to help? Click here.....