In this issue:
- MSA Pioneer Class
- Rags to Riches: Hamdan Class of ’17
- Greening the MSA ‘Green Campus’
- Student Wish List
- Mandi Bray—Newest Volunteer
- When Is a Chicken More Than a Chicken? —by Kathryn Hiscock
Since Mustard Seed Academy began in 2009, I thought about going to visit Uganda. In February I decided to make it a reality. My main goal was to meet Eria, the boy I had sponsored for many years. He is now an S-4 student, and I worried I’d lose track of him after graduation.
I was lucky to make the trip with Elaine Griswold. Her experience made everything easier. On the drive from Entebbe to Lukaya, the observations came fast and furious. I was struck by tiny mud houses with no doors, unpaved roads, the number of products sold along the road, chickens running wild, goats and cows tethered right beside the road eating grass in the heat, and people everywhere! Maybe unfairly, I concluded when you have no job, no money, and no hope you have children.
After getting settled, it was time to go to the school. At first, the small children were shy, but once one decided to approach, everyone joined in. They wanted to touch my white skin, but then they rubbed it like they might be able to rub off the color!
Most children are smiling as we expect from pictures, but some hardly ever smile. You wonder, how awful their young lives must have been? The older students go to school from 8 am to 5 pm. The younger children only an hour less. Made me wonder why our American school days are so short. I found the teachers to be smart and dedicated. Students are attentive and interested.
One thing that stood out to me was how soft-spoken and gentle the children are. You can hardly hear them when they speak. They like school and are lucky to get to go to school. The students are so cute in their school uniforms, and while it is 80 degrees every day some of them wear sweaters! I’ll never understand that.
After the first week, I started to notice how nice the grounds were at the school. Colorful plants, green grass, and many crops are being grown. The program of growing crops is expanding as there is a never-ending need for food. Many children get their only meals at school.
Talking to the children was my favorite thing to do. Eria told me he knew what I looked like from Facebook. I had no idea. They have some access to computers (until the school was recently robbed). I was asked about skyscrapers, earthquakes, food, and clothing.
I learned that so little means so much in this country and how grateful the children/adults are for everything that is done for them. I could go on and on about my trip: shopping in the market, art classes, 5th-grade field trip, the nursery school (oh my!), meeting some of the graduates of Mustard Seed.
I certainly am more grateful for everything I have. I wish everyone could make a trip to Uganda, but I know that is impossible. Know that every penny you give is being used, and every penny you can give is needed. Elaine, thank you for letting me tag along on the trip of a lifetime. Kathryn and Dana (Hiscock) it was so nice to meet you. Most of all thanks to you all, plus Professor Joseph, for opening your hearts to all these children.
– Susan Harper
Feeding Mustard Seed
The story of Covid-19 hardships
*Photos: Life in Lukaya
*Music: “I Have a Dream to Become Someone Important” by the Mustard Seed ChoirApril 2020
Founder and Guiding Light
Joseph G. Griswold, Ph.D., Founder and Guiding Light of Real Partners Uganda and the Mustard Seed Academy, died on December 30, 2017.
Joe was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan on June 15, 1943. He graduated from East Grand Rapids High School in 1961. In 1965 he received his B.S. from Denison University and his graduate degrees in Animal Behavior from Penn State University in 1971. Joe embarked on a career in teaching and research in the Biology Department at City College of New York. He continued his career at City College as a well-loved full Professor until his retirement in 2002.
Joe and his wife Elaine, who also grew up in Grand Rapids, lived in Northern New Jersey, where Elaine taught high school science. They raised two children, James and Martha. Martha (Griswold Quijano) tragically died in 2015. Joe and Elaine also have three granddaughters, Martha’s daughter Sara, and Jamie and Karen’s daughters, Mary and Kirsten.
Throughout his life, Joe was an active church member. He served in leadership positions in several Christian (Episcopal, Baptist, and Presbyterian) Churches. After retirement, Joe and Elaine moved to Brigantine, New Jersey, where they became members of Community Presbyterian Church.
They loved to travel and work with young people, so their travel often centered on educational trips to Belize with Elaine’s advanced biology students from Eastern Christian High School. Birdwatching was always a part of their trips including their frequent field studies with students to Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge, which formerly was named Brigantine NWR.
In 2003, Joe’s passion for animals and his childhood dream to go on an East African safari led him to suggest that he and Elaine and their friends, Kathryn and Dana Hiscock, go to encounter the large African animals and the many birds. Near the end of the trip, on their way to see the Mountain Gorillas of Bwindi in Uganda, they made a pre-arranged stop at a public school in the village of Kalungi, which is part of the larger town of Lukaya. While there, Joe (and the rest of the group) were taken by the children and engaged with some of the young leaders of the school and village— particularly, George Kateregga and Reverend Godfrey Mpuuga Kasiita.
The trip of a lifetime became the first of 20 visits for Joe, often in ill-health, he stayed true to the calling received on November 1st, 2003. Joe followed up with George and The Reverend and others whom he had met, and a little more than a year later, the Good Shepherd Child Care Center opened its doors to serve poor pre-school children in Lukaya. It wasn’t always a smooth path, but Joe’s steadfast determination to assist the vulnerable children of Lukaya and his vision, informed by
his deep Christian values and his experience as an educator, led to the Mustard Seed Academy of today and will serve as a guide for the future.