It is our desire to use our talents and resources to assist the teachers at primary schools in eastern Uganda in providing their students the best education possible.

We also plan to use our association to provide a connection between primary schools in Uganda and in our community in order to enrich the educational experiences of students at both.

Time in Uganda

What's New

The latest One Word post can be found by scrolling down to the post entitled Ujumbe Redefined.

Labels are used to identify the subject matter in the various posts. The blog can be sorted by label by picking from the list in the Labels box in the right margin, just below Contacts.

New letters access!!
All of the letters from the students at Aturukuku and Patewo Primary Schools can now be viewed... check them out in the box below! When you click on the image, the album will open in a new window. From there, you can scroll through the collection and read what the African students wrote to their US counterparts.

Letters from Primary School Students in Uganda


During our first trip to Uganda in 2006, we visited Aturukuku Primary School in the town of Tororo in the far eastern part of the country. The school had 13 teachers and about 350 students in grades P1 through P7.

We learned that all of the teachers walked to and from work, requiring a good deal of their time and energy. The school had no running water and no electricity. There was no library at the school and no means for the teachers to make copies of materials for their own use or for the students. These issues were distractions from the primary job of the teachers ~ lesson preparation and leading the students in their studies.

How could we not try and find some way to help, to share something of what we had with these children who called us Muzungu (white man) and welcomed us under that marvelous tree in front of the school...

...with singing and dancing. And a poem...

So we did what we could, with much help from church families, friends, coworkers and local schools. It seemed to be so little, but it meant much to the school in Tororo. Reports of the projects at Aturukuku are in posts in this blog.

Then, during our visit in 2008, we met with the teachers at Patewo Primary School in the rural area west of Tororo Town. There are 7 teachers for an enrollment in grades P1 through P7 of almost 700 students! Our plan is to meet with the school staff in 2010 about the barriers they face in providing the kind of education they would like the students to have and how we might be able to remove at least some of them.

Projects Completed

Posts with details are available for the highlighted projects. Lists below are in "Blog post" order - the item connected to the newest completed project is first. Scroll through the posts to find the descriptions...

At Aturukuku Primary School in Tororo
Books to begin library
Document processing equipment for the office
Letter exchange between U.S. and Ugandan students
Uniforms for students
Water and electricity
Bicycles for the teachers

Ujumbe Redefined

...Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have.
2 Corinthians 8:10-12

Ujumbe. One Word, meaning Mission. Our mission in Uganda is multi-faceted, including work with three churches, two primary schools and a missionary team in Mbale. We touched bases with most of these during our recent visit to eastern Uganda, but I think the One Word Ujumbe is illustrated quite well in our association with Patewo Primary School.

Patewo is located in Paya, a rural area several miles west of Tororo, our "home base" so to speak. Our mission this year was to acquire textbooks for four subjects and all seven grades at the school and to get a bicycle for each of the teachers.

While the trip in general and the arrangements for these items in particular, were not without their moments of drama, in the end the books and bikes were delivered and are now being used for the benefit of the students and teachers as they strive to improve academic performance.

The students study English, math, science and social science. There are 10 teachers for 719 students in grades P.1 through P.7 with enrollment weighted towards the lower grades. There are only four classrooms and a small office/storage room combination in the two tin-roofed, cement buildings. In addition to these facilities, the Anglican church across the road provides space for one class and the other two meet under "temporary" roofs supported by rough poles erected at one end of each of the buildings.

One of the Two "Temporary" Classrooms

P.4 Class Meeting in the Still-Under-Construction Church

We discussed the possibility of helping the school during our 2010 visit. The Patewo staff put together a list of books and other teaching materials that they could use. We learned that students who had access to appropriate textbooks scored better on the Primary Leaving Exams that seventh graders must pass in order to go on to secondary school. So, we decided to focus on acquiring textbooks – about one book for every three students, this considered to be representative of a well-equipped school.

On Tuesday morning, we drove up to Patewo to be greeted by about 500 people from the school and the neighboring community. I am familiar with the warm greeting offered by our hosts, but never cease to be humbled by the enthusiasm and graciousness. And this day was no different, with singing and dancing and speeches.

Just a Part of the Large Group that Came to Greet Us

Speeches are a necessary part of any ceremony in Uganda, but the ones delivered today were special. The teachers, parents and students all offered promises to use the books to improve academically. We had stressed that this project was a partnership and that getting the books, while it might seem like a big thing, was the easy part. Using them in a serious effort to do better academically was the really important part. And the hard part. We were overwhelmed by the seriousness with which the promises to do their parts were made.

The books were purchased from MK Publishers in Kampala and delivered to the school to be unloaded by the students, counted and put onto the specially made bookcase in the small storage room.

Students Unloading the Books

Alex (left; Headmaster) and Samuel with Books on the New Bookshelf

After all of this, the pickup truck we had hired made it up with the 11 bicycles. There was one for each teacher plus one for a "staff member," a lady from the community who every day cooked porridge over an open fire for the students' lunch. She did not expect to be getting a bike and was so grateful that it brought tears to my eyes.

Bikes for the Teachers

We came back to Patewo on Wednesday as there were some issues with the book order - we needed a few more of a couple of the books and had received far too many teachers' guides. During the visit, we checked in on the classes to find the books already in use.

Books in Use

One Word


We called our project a mission, but it is the teachers, parents and students of Patewo Primary School who have put so much into the school and their children who truly embody the spirit of Ujumbe. Thank you for allowing us to be part of your mission.

Ujumbe - Bicycles

People traveling on foot. People riding their bikes; or pushing them with impossibly large, heavy loads. And a few, very few, cars. We have come to learn that bicycles can be very important in improving daily life in rural Uganda. The First African Bicycle Information Organization web site has some interesting insights.

Bicycles were offered up as a way to improve the classroom experience in Primary Schools during our first visit in 2006. As we talked with the leaders at Aturukuku Primary School in Tororo Town in eastern Uganda, we learned that teacher absenteeism was one of the contributing factors to less than desireable classroom experiences for the students. We also learned that this stemmed from the fact that all of the teachers had to walk to and from school every day and they did not all live that close to the grounds. It was suggested that bicycles could make a difference. The result was the donation of bicycles to Aturukuku for teachers' use as reported in the post Bicycles for Aturukuku.

We plan to expand the program to provide bicycles for the teachers at Patewo Primary School as well as for the new teachers at Aturukuku. Bicycles cost around $60 each and we estimate we will need about 20 - 25 bikes.

Interested in helping? Send an inquiry to the email address in the "Contact" section in the sidebar.

Ujumbe - Textbooks

Here in the U.S., school and textbooks are are almost a single, unified concept. They go together and school would not be school without a backpack full of books to carry. But this is hardly the case in rural Uganda. There are few if any textbooks in the primary schools. Perhaps one or two for teachers' use and, at best, a few to be shared with classes which are usually quite large.

In addition to seeming fairly obvious to us, a report from Clemson University documented the significance of students having access to textbooks. The study attempted to relate performance on the important Primary Leaving Exams to conditions at the schools. What was found was that access to appropriate textbooks was the most significant factor in students acheiving good scores.

So, we have committed to providing textbooks to the students at Aturukuku and Patewo Primary Schools. Each school teaches four subjects in seven grades. There are a total of about 1,000 students. Our plan is to get enough textbooks so that there is one book for every 3 students.

Interested in helping? Send an inquiry to the email address in the "Contact" section in the sidebar.

In A Word

Ujumbe – Swahili for Mission. One word. For a year.

We are to BE Christians. No doubt. But being is not, cannot be, separate from DOING. This is pretty clear when you consider Matthew 28:19-20, John 21:17, James 2:20. Good nuts and bolts things, perfect for an engineer.

As for the doing, plans are good. Especially - only - if they are well founded; Proverbs 16:3. And if not, we labor in vain; Psalm 127:1.

Since our visit in January of 2010, we have worked on plans to address needs of the churches and schools in eastern Uganda that we desire to serve. And to address issues that make doing this difficult.

So, the OneWord for 2011, Ujumbe, will be a reminder. It is time to carry out the plan. To go. To serve. To remind us that we are On A Mission.

Beginnings of the Library at Aturukuku

Late in 2008 we got word of a unique opportunity - Vince and Joy Vigil were moving to Mbale, only about 25 miles from Tororo, to start their service as missionaries in East Africa. They would be moving their household goods in a shipping container and space was available! All we needed to do was collect books, get them to Joplin, Missouri by the end of February and raise funds to pay for the space we would need in the container.

The funds were raised and a local elementary school along with many friends, neighbors and co-workers brought in the books which were packed in a COLD garage in Wisconsin. All this in time to get them to Joplin for loading into the container.
The container finally arrived in Uganda in May and the books completed their journey to Tororo in July. Now, the students and teachers are enjoying access to a selection of reading and reference materials - something every school, everywhere should have.
In January of 2010, we will have the chance to talk to the teachers face-to-face about their experience with the books and about how we might be able to do to improve the library with additional books and other reference materials relevant to the needs of the school.

We now have more books and hope to find the means to get them shipped as soon as possible. If you are interested in helping with this effort, drop us an email. The address is in the "Contact" box on the right side of this page.

Document Processing Equipment for Aturukuku

In October, 2008 we delivered funds to the Head Teacher and President of the PTA for use in acquiring document processing equipment. We also handed over a laptop computer, donated by a hospital in our community. The school leaders shopped in Kampala and were able to buy a used manual-electric cyclostyling machine (mimeograph style duplicator), a used manual-electric typewriter for making stencils, a printer for the laptop and a paper cutter. The Aturukuku Document Processing Center, located in the small room behind the school office - site of the sole electrical outlet, was up and running!

Letter Exchange

Students from a local elementary school wrote letters to students at Aturukuku during the fall of 2008. The letters were delivered during our October, 2008 visit. After explaining a few terms that the Aturukuku students would encounter - like "hang out" - they were each given a letter to read. Then, they went to work writing responses to the student whose letter they received. John took pictures of each of the students with their letters, which we brought back with us to give to the students here.

It seems as if everyone enjoyed the exchange and we have been asked to repeat the program for our 2010 visit.

Featured Letter from an Aturukuku Student
Letter 4 of 57
Click on image for a larger view

Uniforms for Aturukuku Students

In 2007, the staff at Aturukuku asked if we could help provide uniforms for 100 of the neediest of the students. Funds were raised and sent to the school who hired a tailor to fit the students and make then uniforms. Understanding the needs of the town's families, uniforms are not required at Aturukuku. However, most Ugandan school children do wear their schools' unique uniforms and that includes those at Aturukuku. It was a privilege to help these 100 students be able to share in this tradition.

Basic Water and Electricity at Aturukuku

During the bicycle ceremony, the mayor of Tororo offered that as people from so far away had cared enough about the school to arrange for the bicycles, the least the city could do was to see to it that power was run to the school office, something that was accomplished in 2007.
Also, there was a small excess in the funds raised for purchase of the bikes - small, but enough to have a water line run to a point near the building.

Bicycles for Aturukuku

Generous support was provided by many in the community and sent to the leadership at Aturukuku. In September, 2006 we received a report that 13 bicycles had been acquired and presented to the teachers at a ceremony at the school. During our second visit in 2008, we learned that teacher absenteeism had improved dramatically as a result of them having access to the bicycles. It makes sense, of course, but it is still somewhat amazing that 13 bicycles would be the first step in improving the quality of education at the school!

Teachers and the new bicycles at Aturukuku