During Easter 2014, as a group of 17 men from Co. Armagh, we travelled to Uganda for 10 days to visit Ryamugwizi Primary School. This was the first trip for us as a new charity group called the REAP Project, under the banner of the charity Fields of Life.
Before the trip we organised various fundraising events in order to reach our initial target of £35,000. Our primary aim was to finance the construction of a classroom block for the school but due to the generosity of our family, friends and all people who donated to any of our various fundraising events, our total amount reached an incredible £61,000! A massive thank you to all involved in raising this amazing amount of money. This allowed us to finance and build a school kitchen, provide a water tank and supply items such as desks, shelves and relevant teaching resources with £13,000 still available for future contributions to the school.
We travelled to the western region of Ibanda, which was located around 45 minutes from Ryamugwizi. Our first interaction was our procession to the school. The welcome from the pupils and teachers was truly overwhelming and we were blessed to have experienced this. We were the first team to visit the school and it was the first experience of a short term mission trip for all members of our team, with the exception of our team leader Stephen. This made the experience more eye opening and rewarding.
We had a programme shaped by the needs of the school, the skills within our team and guided by Fields of Life. During the visit our team delivered a sports and activities camp, teacher training courses and construction & painting work; a fantastic achievement by the team that brought so much joy and blessing to the school.
The sports and activities camp allowed all members of the team to integrate and bond with the kids. Our team divided into pairs and each took on a different sport or activity. The kids rotated between each pair in their year groups with sports and activities including football, rounders, dancing, science, bible stories, parachute games and many more. Our team gained so much from this experience as we saw the joy and happiness it brought to the children; this was definitely one of the highlights of REAP 2014.
The teacher training courses were warmly received by the staff of Ryamugwizi, as well as the staff from the surrounding primary schools within a 20 mile radius. The courses, overseen by Stephen, Karl and Neil, focused on pastoral care and safeguarding.
The construction work consisted of helping the local contractors dig a path in front of the school, carrying building materials and grounds maintenance. We as a team decided to use some of the remaining funds raised to paint the other buildings situated on the grounds of the school. Whilst we were moving a pile of rocks, pupils, parents, teachers and workers approached us and volunteered to help. As a result the whole community began working together. This provided an inspirational moment for our team, as it showed the community that working together is worth so much more than simply having something given to you.
As a team we were supported by Bernard – the link worker from Fields of Life. Bernard is a man of great spirit and wise counsel, who laughed with us and guided us throughout the duration of our trip. We were enriched by having him as part of our team. He is a credit to Fields of Life and everyone involved in the REAP Project holds him in the highest regard.
Our team thoroughly enjoyed our time with the kids as we sang, played, laughed, danced and prayed with them. We hope our project will enable the children of Ryamugwizi to access an improved education for generations to come. There will undoubtedly continue to be difficulties for the school but small steps are in progress; this is a community of hope. All of the team have deep personal stories of their time at the school. We were challenged but blessed to witness this school and community grow during our visit and we are confident they will continue to do so. We as a team are committed to Ryamugwizi and we will continue to support them in their challenges ahead.
For photos of our trip and fundraising events please visit our gallery section.