Volunteer Blog

23-7-2017, First Books Arrive At Suubi Secondary!

I don't even know how to begin to write this blog in a way that can adequately express the excitement and sheer joy of the first books arriving at Suubi Secondary School during last week. As many of you will know, we have created a virtual library on the home page of our website. Thanks to the many people's generosity we have been now able to purchase the first group of actual books to kick start the Suubi Secondary School library! Even my usual yipeeeee seems so understated as a way of celebrating this fabulous achievement at Suubi SS. 

While the number of books we have started with may seem very small for a school to have by western standards, the reality is that most schools in Uganda have very few or no books for students to access. For the past two and half years the teachers at Suubi SS have been making do with one book per subject so they could use it for class planning purposes. So when we were able finally to ask the teachers to make a list of the text books they thought would be most useful for each of the subjects they are teaching, they thought it somewhat like Christmas. They all carefully selected the most important books that are required for the Ugandan syllabus, across the 15 subjects that are being taught. Then, thanks to the wonderful support from people who had bought books in the virtual library and Tennis Australia's pay it forward grant, David was able to organise to purchase 3 copies of each of these books. This means the students will be now be able access these books to read during their study times; no longer will they have to solely rely on the notes they have been able to take either from the blackboard or from dictation during class. 

While our aim is certainly to continue to add to the school library, everyone was beside themselves with excitement when the first lot of books were bought and distributed last week. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped to make this possible. The book/s you purchased may not have seemed like a big deal at the time but you will continue to positively touch the lives of students at Suubi SS for years to come. We would love for you to encourage your family, friends and workmates to help us fill up the rest of the library by also purchasing a book/s in the virtual library.


David and I were so excited when the first lot of books were delivered to us in Entebbe. It was wonderful for Beth, Az, John, Joan and Steve to see them before they flew back home. For Cate and Karin, who were about to set off back to Suubi for the first time, it was a great introduction to Ugandan time.... we waited 5 hours for the books to come from Kampala which is about 45 mins drive away from Entebbe! Well worth the wait though!


The following day at Elite Backpackers (EBS) we sorted through the boxes and cross checked to make sure we had received all the books we had ordered. Little Dalvin was a great help with this!


Even the staff and patrons of EBS were excited to see all the books and spent time reading through them all.

The following day we headed out to Suubi with Loretta, Cate, Karin and Florence, an intern from the UK who will be staying at Suubi for a month. They were all blown away when we arrived at the school to see the students lined up to form a guard of honour to welcome them to their school.


The dancers and drummers lead the way as the new volunteers were welcomed in to the school.


Then they put on a spectacular performance of traditional dance 

and singing of the school and national anthem


which was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone.

But it was definitely the arrival of the new books that bought the most excitement. Although the teachers had put in their wish list, they certainly didn't know that the books would be arriving so soon and the students had absolutely no idea they were coming. To see the genuine excitement and joy on their faces is something that will be etched in to my heart forever! To know that something relatively small, that we westerns take for granted, could be so cherished and appreciated bought a flood of tears of happiness. 


Teachers and students alike were thrilled to get their hands on the new books.


Although this may look a set up photo I absolutely promise it was not... the students were devouring the words on the pages!


Unfortunately the internet is not working well enough for me to upload the video to the blog today for you to see and hear the excitement, but hopefully you can imagine it.

Although Cate and Karin's time in the village was only for three days, they certainly made the most of it and passed on wonderful new skills the students at Suubi SS. Karin is an art and craft teacher in Melbourne and her students back home had produced a beautiful piece of hand made felt. Karin took this fabric, and with Cates assistances, taught a group of Suubi SS students to make beautiful necklaces and glasses cases from it. What a fabulous link between students in Australia and Uganda. 


The first day with the students saw Karin and Cate teaching the student the simple stitches required to sew the necklaces together.


The students listened intently as Karin explained how the felt had been made by her students back home.


And were a picture of concentration as they stitched the pieces of felt together.


Back at the training hall at Suubi Centre in the evening, it was a team effort to cut out the glasses cases in preparation for the following days session with the students.


The beautiful variety of colours will make fabulous glasses cases that we will be able to sell back home in Australia.


The next day saw the students practicing new stitches and then busily stitching items together.


They were certainly very proud of their items when they were finished.

The following day Karin and Florence decided they would like to walk to the water hole where most of the villagers collect water from. This is quite a strenuous work down hill and then back up again when they have collected the water to take home. This walk certainly gave Karin and Florence some perspective when they considered that mostly the children from each village family have to make this trip twice a day so they can have water at home for washing dishes, clothes and for cooking. There is no just turning on the tap to see an endless supply of clean water here!


One 25 litre jerrycans can barely be lifted by most westerners but children in Uganda carry multiple jerrycans to make sure the families have enough water for the day.


Karin and Florence throughly enjoyed visiting the homes of some of the Suubi ladies along the way. Kizoto's husband, John, was very happy to explain to Karin about the coffee he had just picked.

With the walk through the village completed, we headed to Suubi Secondary again to see the Saturday morning vocational studies underway. Knitting, tailoring, carpentry and welding were going on in full swing but it was the brick laying boys that had an important job for that particular morning; they were constructing the base for a new water tank for the dormitory. This had been donated by a wonderful supporter back home that has an interest in providing safe water, particularly for girls. The 'Waterman' as we know him (because he wants to remain anonymous) has provided a number of tanks to schools in the past and and was more than happy to know that this particular one will mean the girls from the dormitory will not have to make the long trip to the water hole that Karin and Florence had just done. In addition to this, a water purifier will be put in to the dormitory so the girls have safe drinking water during the night. Webale nnyo, nnyo, nnyo to the 'Waterman.'


Bricklaying students were busy at work constructing the base for the new tank.

It is now time to farewell Cate and Karin. They have been a joy to have around and passed on wonderful skills while they were with us. A huge thank you to you both for coming to Suubi!


Cate and Karin's hand have now been added to the wall in the training hall and they will forever be part of the Suubi family.

So for the next couple of weeks it will be just Loretta and I here together. There are sure to be lots of fun times and laughs along the way and we look forward to letting you know what we get up to in the next blog.

HUGs from Helen

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