Jon's Adventures in the Pearl of Africa
It was a long red dirt road through real Africa at dusk — many dim settlements lit by only three naked bulbs, but still humming with life. The road rutted by an afternoon downpour, puddles remained, but one box of textbooks had been delivered, lightening the load in Kacumbe's van, and the afterglow of the experience warmed me from within. Five teachers filled the back seats, sitting on yet to delivered boxes, and told stories of their school day in English and Lugandan, as lightning flickered often revealing the distant cloudscape in the darkening skies. Exotic indeed.
We'd given a shipment of $500 in Ugandan textbooks to Ogur Secondary, a new school, established very near the burial site of 300 civilians slain a decade ago by the Lord's Resistance Army of Joseph Kony. These were the vast flatlands of northern Uganda, near South Sudan, where existence, let alone education, is often tenuous. The appreciation of the staff and the 250 kids seated and singing before me had just been among my life's most treasured experiences. Teachers spoke to the assembly, as did I, and they listened attentively, but when we opened the heavily taped brown box on the table before them to reveal the wealth of new books the crowd erupted in cheers.
I gave the head teacher a Santa Barbara club volleyball jersey, and launched a donated volleyball, a skyball serve into the evening throng, and general celebration ensued. Volunteer parents, finishing mud and thatch work on their new library that would house the books, came over to say thanks and shake my hand. And I tried hard to soak it all in.
On the half hour ride back to town, one teacher had yet to take off her new jersey, and I was still simmering in the richness of the occasion, and the mission that Turn the Page, Uganda has undertaken. Over 90 schools have now been helped, and many more boxes remain in Kacumbe's van to still deliver.