We’re in Africa Now! Follow our Live Blog

Devaki with Mwebaza penpalsDevaki Douillard, our Development Assistant, is currently visiting our partner schools in Uganda and Kenya. She is posting daily blogs with the latest updates of our progress with lots of great pics too! If you’re a student, leave a comment with your penpal’s name and she might be able to post a photo of them and a greeting! If you’re not a student, she’d still love to hear your comments and thoughts. She is working on documentary interviews, scholarship programs, solar panel purchases, 2 new school building constructions, and sustainable lunch programs. Whew!

Follow her on this exciting journey from June 30th-July 26th. Go to the Africa Trip blog!

Oversight, Assistance, Relationships: Summer Trip, 2013

DSC_0416This summer, the Mwebaza Foundation had an incredible group of volunteers travel to our partner schools in Africa. The President and Founder of the Mwebaza Foundation, Dale Peterson, organized and led the group through the variety of projects on which our team was working. Devaki Douillard, the Foundation’s first full-time employee, accompanied the team to document every aspect of the trip on film. John Mees, a retired Longmont optometrist, tested the vision of the students and teachers of Mwebaza Primary School and the community members as well. Mary Jane Mees, a local Kindergarten teacher and coach of the Love and Logic curriculum, directed a training program for the teachers of Mwebaza Primary School and St. Paul Primary School on effective classroom management. Jenna Olschlager, the music teacher at Niwot Elementary, taught the students at Mwebaza Primary School American songs and dances, while learning traditional African songs and dances to share with the students at Niwot Elementary. Kaitlin Litchfield and Leigh Gilmore, two practicum students from the Engineering in Developing Communities graduate program at CU, Boulder, oversaw the construction of the two new school buildings that the Mwebaza Foundation is currently building, and developed a maintenance manual for the water sterilization system and waterless toilets at both schools. It was a very productive and inspiring trip that has strengthened our relationship with our African partner schools.

Vote of Appreciation and Gratitude

DSC_0023.1My name is Namatovu Catherine, and l am the Headmistress of Mwebaza Infant Primary School in Kyengera, Uganda, and Mwebaza-Nkungulutale Junior School that is currently under construction! l am so thrilled to have this honor and say a word of thanks to you all. lt takes a lot of time develop the kind of friendship and love that we are enjoying as per now! We are so honored for this kind of intercultural friendship. We have learned and gained so much from you! Who would ever know that the jiggers [burrowing fleas] would be wiped out at St Paul by Devaki’s efforts, Mwebaza’s Development Assistant! Thank you.

This is a concept of love and dedication to a life of happiness regardless of environment!  In addition to the experiences that l, my students, and community members have with you, the pen pal letter cards with simple gifts in them, they are a life time of memories that one will never forget! And our students out here boast of that as few schools have pen pal friendships of this kind!

We are so honored and blessed that we now have one of the first two schools that are under constructions of that kind, with the first EnvroLoo toilet design ever in Uganda!!!!! So it is never easy to recall from the time this friendship was incepted and we used to send each other pen pal letters with such questions: How do you live? What do you eat? How do you go to school? etc.! But now each one knows the other much better! And very soon, we shall be sharing a balanced diet with you! Because, we have eggs, fruits, vegetables, vans, clean and very soon finished classrooms that are like yours!!  Haha aha! Such this is a learning, rewarding, and educative pen pal friendship!

Oh l must  thank the wonderful families, the students, teachers, and friends who have done much for us:
1) The Heaven’s Hope Foundation for its continued support, enthusiasm, and guidance;
2) The families and staffs of Niwot and Coyote Ridge Elementaries;
3) The Davis family for selling homemade skirts for scholarships for students in need;
4) Marcus Chaknova and family for raising the funds for vision testing and glasses for those who need them;
5) John and Ginger Douillard for their years of work for the Mwebaza Foundation;
6) The Board of the Mwebaza Foundation for its guidance;
7) Dr. John Mees and Mary Jane Mees, Kaitlin Litchfield, Leigh Gilmore, Jenna Olschlager, and Devaki Douillard from the American team that visited this summer;
8) Private family foundations that have helped us with construction costs;
9) KayLyn Giles for her grant writing efforts.
And so many more to thank than I can thank here.

l only wish it is not costly and it didn’t take 30 hours of travel time to visit, l would be back there in Colorado on a plane and visit you! l do miss you all!! Well, l can not describe all what this pen pal friendship means to us as for now, but just know you have friends across the seas in Uganda who love you, think about you. You are in our daily prayers.

Dear friends, l wish you the best of your days, and that may you smile all days long.

With much love and maximum respect,

Namatovu Catherine

Mwebaza Day Celebration

DSC_0119On December 5th,  Niwot Elementary celebrated Mwebaza Day with their sister school, Mwebaza Primary School. The morning started with a school assembly where the students were able to Skype with their pen pals from Kyengera, Uganda. The Niwot students, dressed in the colors of the Ugandan flag, performed popular American songs and a traditional Ugandan beat and dance that they had rehearsed. The students at Mwebaza School presented songs and dances they had created along with a popular American Christmas carol that they had learned. The Boulder Bike Underpass Choir volunteered their time to come and sing traditional African songs during the assembly. Throughout the day, the students at Niwot toasted to their Ugandan pen pals with passion fruit juice- a popular Ugandan drink. They spent time that day to reflect on their special relationship with their sister school in writing. At the end of the day, all of Niwot Elementary joined in a drum beat broadcasted through the school intercom to reflect the unity among themselves and their friends abroad. Mwebaza Day was featured on the front page of the Longmont Times-Call newspaper. You can find the article at: http://www.timescall.com/news/longmont-schools/ci_24665706/niwot-elementary-students-perform-their-ugandan-pen-pals.

Dr. Fred Ssewamala from Columbia University Visiting Mwebaza School

This photo is a recent one from Mwebaza School. It shows Dr. Fred Ssewamala from Columbia University visiting Mwebaza School on a recent trip to Uganda. Dr. Ssewamala is a close friend of the Arnold family of Niwot, and presented to classes at Niwot Elementary three years ago about his life and work with Ugandan youth. Dr. Ssewamala spent an evening with Headmistress Namatovu Catherine and her family, touring the school.

Welcome, Ms. Namatovu Catherine!

After a long couple of years and two previous, frustrating attempts, Ms. Namatovu Catherine, the headmistress of Mwebaza School, will set foot in the U.S. for the very first time!  On Monday, December 5th, she will arrive in Denver for a lengthy 3 ½ week stay in Colorado.   After years of anticipation, so many teachers, staff members, students, and parents are eagerly waiting her arrival.

Several key components allowed us to finally secure a travel visa for Ms. Namatovu.  These include Mwebaza Foundation President Dale Peterson’s recent award from People to People International, Congressman Jared Polis’ staff working to convince the U.S. embassy in Uganda of Ms. Namatovu’s integrity, and the help of a generous immigration lawyer from Boulder (Megan Hall, Green & Gardner Law Firm).  Ms. Hall assisted Ms. Namatovu in assembling a portfolio showing her strong ties to her home country.  Of course, much credit can be attributed to Ms. Namatovu’s hard work, persistence, and faith.

During her stay in Colorado, Ms. Namatovu has a busy and exciting agenda planned.  After a short time to recuperate from traveling, she will be visiting and observing classrooms at Niwot Elementary, as well as giving classroom presentations to Niwot students about Mwebaza School and Ugandan culture.  Then, on December 15th, there will be a culminating, all-school, “All-American” celebration in honor of the cross-cultural friendship between Niwot and Mwebaza schools.  In addition to spending time at Niwot Elementary, Ms. Namatovu will be visiting Coyote Ridge, Lyons, and Eagle Crest Elementary Schools, where she will deliver more classroom presentations.

Sprinkled amongst her work at schools, Ms. Namatovu will be enjoying a myriad of social events, including holiday gatherings, sight-seeing, dinners out, and even spending the holiday in Durango and Colorado Springs with the Peterson family.  New experiences such as sledding, a Narrow Gauge Train ride, and a visit to Garden of the Gods and Seven Falls will culminate her travels.

It is with gratitude and warmth that we welcome Ms. Namatovu to Colorado!

MF President Recognized with Award from International Organization

Dale Peterson, President and Founder of the Mwebaza Foundation, recently accepted an award from People to People International (PtPI).  Peterson received PtPI’s “School and Classroom Community Service Project Award” for his work through the Mwebaza Foundation.  The award was presented at PtPI’s Global Youth Forum in Kansas City on November 12.

The award is given to a teacher who has actively worked to develop student cross-cultural understandings through a connection with a foreign school.  Peterson fostered a friendship between his first grade class and Mwebaza School in Uganda.  He was originally connected to Mwebaza School through PtPI’s School Program.  The international friendship that resulted eventually transformed into the Mwebaza Foundation, and now involves three Colorado schools, three African schools, and hundreds of children on two continents.  In presenting the award to Peterson, PtPI School and Classroom Program Coordinator, Paige Badgett, acknowledged that the Mwebaza Foundation has gone well beyond student cultural interaction, but has additionally encouraged and equipped students at its Colorado partner schools to work to improve conditions at their African partner schools.

Peterson was also acknowledged at the ceremony by Mary Jean Eisenhower, CEO of PtPI and granddaughter of the founder of PtPI, President Dwight Eisenhower.

In his acceptance speech, Peterson recognized the corresponding contributions of his Ugandan colleague, Namatovu Catherine, the headmistress of Mwebaza School.  He expressed agreement with PtPI’s philosophy that true, sustainable change can only happen if those involved really take the time to develop meaningful relationships with one another.

The Global Youth Forum involved over 100 youth from many different countries, learning communication and teamwork skills while developing cultural sensitivity through formal and informal interaction with one another.  Ms. Eisenhower ended the Global Youth Forum by urging those present to strive to make a difference in the world, even if it seems that one’s efforts are in vain.  She concluded her speech with this powerful quote from Mother Teresa:

People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway.

If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.

Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway.

For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”

Peterson and the Mwebaza Foundation are delighted to be recognized by such an established, respected, and dedicated organization as People to People International.

MF Given Matching Funds Grant from Heaven’s Hope for School Construction!

The Mwebaza Foundation recently was granted $25,000 from the Heaven’s Hope Foundation of Boulder.  The Heaven’s Hope Foundation has worked closely with the Mwebaza Foundation in the past on several projects including the egg-laying chickens and keyhole gardens projects at Mwebaza and St. Paul Schools in Uganda, and the rainwater collection project at Mwebaza School.

The grant was given for the purpose of building a school for 10-14-year-old students on land purchased by the Mwebaza Foundation for Mwebaza School, and for building a new school building to replace the crumbling school buildings at St. Paul School.  This grant represents about half the amount that will be needed to complete these two projects.

Heaven’s Hope’s president, Mark Crossen, announced the grant at a dinner party given in honor of Ms. Namatovu Catherine, headmistress of Mwebaza School.  Ms. Namatovu is in Colorado during the month of December, visiting the partner schools of the Mwebaza Foundation, and sharing her culture with classrooms of students.

The grant will be awarded once the Mwebaza Foundation has raised $25,000 to match the grant sum.  We would appreciate your help in garnering the funds needed to meet this match, and make these two schools a reality for our African friends!

Niwot-Mwebaza T-shirt Logo Winner Announced!

Students in Art classes at Niwot Elementary were given the opportunity to design a logo celebrating the friendship between Niwot and Mwebaza Schools. One logo from over 375 fabulous designs was selected by a committee of judges to be printed on t-shirts for sale. The logo’s creator, Emma Gibbs, won a $25 gift certificate to Borders. [Read more…]

Clean Water for Mwebaza School

The Mwebaza Foundation recently received a generous grant from the Heaven’s Hope Foundation to assist Mwebaza School in collecting and storing rainwater to use as a water source for the school.  Currently, students and staff must hike long distances to get water – untreated water – and carry that water back to school in large containers.  Now, Mwebaza School will be able to purchase large storage tanks and use the roof of the school building

[Read more…]