Gift a Gallon

Gift a Gallon is a way to send love and uplift Raise the Roof Academy students and other community children in Uganda during the RTRA Rhino Kid’s Summer Camp. You and your family can make a big difference in the life of a child with a small, gallon-sized gift.

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Candace giving her Gift a Gallon to her sponsor child, Oliver, last year.

Candace giving her Gift a Gallon to her sponsor child, Oliver, last year.

Candace Clippard, an RTRA volunteer, reflected on her experience with Gift a Gallon, writing: 

“Gift a Gallon is one way we as sponsors can support our children. Last year I couldn’t wait to prep the bag that I was going to get to hand-deliver to my sponsor child, Oliver! I remember the day I went shopping for my supplies and laid them all out across the floor. By the time I was done packing, my bag would barely close! The children are so grateful for each of the items, especially the hygiene and the practical items that are often hard to come by. But it’s also so fun to sneak in some little toys, jump ropes, and books.

Seeing the faces of the children when they received their hand packed bags was such an enormous privilege. We would hand them their own special bag with their name on it, and they would walk across the school grounds to get their photo taken with it. The children carried those bags with so much joy and pride, two hands gripped tightly to each side, a prized possession just for them.

I remember one child in particular discovered on her way to get her photo taken, that her bag contained miniature maracas. I don’t think her smile could have gotten any bigger as she shook her bag joyfully with each new step. One thing I learned in Uganda was the blessing of a smile. Just when you thought a child couldn’t smile any bigger, well they sure could! It’s reminded me to smile a little bigger at others here at home too!”

 The Gift a Gallon deadline is fast approaching! Interested in packing a bag? It’s simple! 

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Each bag should include

  • 1 Pack of crayons

  • 1 Small coloring book or notebook

  • 2 Pencils & sharpener

  • 1 T-shirt or dress

  • Underwear

  • Dark colored socks

  • 1 Toothbrush with case

  • 2 Travel-size toothpastes (put in small storage bag)

  • 1 Washcloth

  • 1 Bar of soap

  • 1 Nail clipper

Turn in your Gallon Gift by May 31, 2019: 1) mail to RTRA, PO Box 92216, Nashville, TN 37209, or 2) bring to one of the following collection sites:

·       Forest Hills UMC, Brentwood, TN (RTRA Office)

·       Blakemore UMC, Nashville, TN

·       Christ UMC, Franklin, TN

·       Cornerstone Presbyterian, Franklin, TN

·       Grace UMC, Mt. Juliet, TN

·       Homestead UMC, Crossville, TN

·       Carthage UMC, Carthage, TN

·       Connell Memorial UMC, Goodlettsville, TN

·       The Chapel, Brunswick, GA

·       Central Presbyterian, Merced, CA

·       First Presbyterian, Concord, CA

Your Gift a Gallon will be delivered at the end of June, and we will send you a photo of the student you sponsor with his or her bag! We look forward to seeing the creative ways you spread joy this season through RTRA’s Gift a Gallon.

World Malaria Day

The most common health threats to students at Raise the Roof Academy include Malaria, Typhoid, HIV/AIDS, respiratory infection, water insecurity, and malnutrition. This month, we are focusing on Malaria! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states, “In areas with high transmission, the most vulnerable groups are young children, who have not developed immunity to Malaria yet, and pregnant women, whose immunity has been decreased by pregnancy.” Because of the significant health implications, we see great value in educating our students about malaria and different methods of prevention and treatment.

According to a report by the World Health Organization, “5 countries accounted for nearly half of all malaria cases worldwide [in 2017]”: Uganda, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique, and India. While Malaria cases have been reported in more than 100 countries, a vast majority occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Uganda alone makes up 4% of Malaria cases worldwide, with more than 11.6 million confirmed cases in 2018. Bwasandeku is not isolated from this issue; our school nurse sees up to 40 Malaria cases each week.

Symptoms of Malaria include headache, nausea and vomiting, rigors, seizures, high fever, abdominal pain, joint pain, anemia, jaundice, general malaise, hypoglycemia, dehydration, and splenomegaly. If untreated, Malaria often leads to more serious complications that increase the likelihood of fatality.

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At RTRA, we recognize the social and economic impact that these diseases can have as well. For example, people who contract Malaria face expenses for travel to a health clinic, expenses for treatment and medicine, lost days of work, and absences from school. The Ugandan Ministry of Health estimates that a single episode of Malaria costs Ugandan families an average of nine U.S. dollars. While this seems inexpensive for most of us in the United States, keep in mind that many of our students live on less than $1 per day. 

Currently, our students are in the middle of the rainy season, which runs from March until May. This season brings ripe conditions for Malaria to spread. Heavy rainfall creates stagnant pools of water, which act as breeding grounds for mosquitoes. Larger mosquito populations increase the threat of Malaria For people in our community to receive care, they often have to travel between 8 and 21 kilometers, which is prohibitive for many who need medical attention. Therefore, we find it necessary to prioritize education surrounding preventative measures such as insecticides, clearing brush, closing windows at dusk, and staying away from stagnant pools of water. One of the best ways to prevent malaria is by using an Insecticide-Treated Mosquito Net (ITN). An ITN serves as a barrier between the mosquito and the individual. Furthermore, it ensures that the mosquito dies upon contact with the net. 

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At RTRA, we are committed to fighting Malaria! Would you like to join us? There are a couple ways you can help! On May 3rd, we will be hosting our Friends for Health Benefit, which will support the RTRA Health Initiative. 100% of the proceeds will go toward child and community health in Bwasandeku! We also have sleeping kits that you can purchase for our students, which include ITNs to help prevent malaria. We invite you to join us as we make strides to reduce malaria in Bwasandeku, Uganda!

 

 

World Water Day

Today, we are recognizing World Water Day!

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In the fall of 2018, the RTRA Sustainability Team completed a household survey, which was distributed to all families engaged with RTRA. We were able to compile data from 709 households, bringing together information about income, education, skills, food security, health, access to water, child protection, shelter, and psycho-social status. When looking specifically at water, our data showed that 443 of the 709 households would need to travel beyond 30 minutes from their homes to access safe water. In other words, 62% of RTRA households do not have access to basic drinking water services.

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This is the story of Namujjuzi Maria, a Primary 7 student at RTRA: “I stay in Bwasandeku, and our major water source is a well. The well is 20 minutes (40 minutes roundtrip) away from my home. The return journey from the water source is steep. The water is dirty and it is our only water source. The other water source is a spring, which is an hour away. We had a borehole nearby that broke down a few months back. It’s risky walking long distances to the water sources.” Namujjuzi Maria’s main contribution to the home is fetching water, which means she spends a great deal of her week making this commute before and after school.

In 2015, the United Nations put forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals to be reached by 2030. Goal 6 is to “Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all”. The RTRA Health Initiative is seeking to drive this goal in its engagement with the Bwasandeku community. 

The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) analyzes a country’s access to water through 5 categories:

  1. safely managed drinking water service (water from an improved source that is located on premises, available when needed and free from contamination)

  2. basic drinking water service (an improved water source within 30 minutes’ roundtrip)

  3. limited water drinking service (an improved water source that takes over 30 minutes roundtrip to access)

  4. unimproved water sources

  5. surface water

Using these categories, UNICEF assessed the coverage of basic drinking water by country, determining that 181 countries achieved at least basic services to over 75% of their populations. However, Uganda has only been able to supply 39% of its population with basic drinking water service. This means that over half of the Ugandan population has to travel more than 30 minutes to access drinking water, with many still relying on unimproved water sources (drinking water from an unprotected well or spring) and/or surface water (directly from a river, dam, lake, pond, stream). According to the data, there are only 11 countries that sit within the same category as Uganda, with Eritrea and Papua New Guinea being the only countries that rank lower than Uganda.

According to the 2014 Ugandan Census, the sub-region of West Kalungu in which Bwasandeku is located has between 41.7-47.9% of households living without access to safe water. While some families have access to boreholes or water taps, the majority collect water from unprotected springs or rely on surface water. Oftentimes, caregivers and children are required to walk great distances to access these sources, which are not even safe for ingestion. Unsafe water often leads to poor sanitation and hygiene as well as water borne diseases, which include Malaria, Cholera, Typhoid, and Diarrhea. The United Nations estimates that Diarrhea alone kills up to 33 Ugandan children every day. It is, therefore, necessary that we prioritize clean water for our students.

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At Raise the Roof Academy, we see the need to prioritize clean drinking water, sanitary latrine conditions, and an educational water, sanitation, & hygiene (WASH) program for all of our students. In addition, it is our hope provide the Bwasandeku community with access to clean water. We believe that water is life! Over the next couple of years, we will be working to implement a water harvesting system at the school, which will be open to students and the surrounding community. We invite you to join us today, on World Water Day 2019, in raising support for the children and caregivers of Bwasandeku through the RTRA Water Project.

Emezza

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“I laid in bed and was awake thinking about how incredible the lunch went.”

The fourth went off with a bang! The day started off with our daily devotion, followed by Rhino Kid's Camp all while the usual construction, medical and training teams continued their work. 

Today was the second day for Emezza with another smaller group of four traveling to the Ekanisa zones, about 45 minutes away from the school. 

For Penny Crain, a returning mission trip member, it was the second time she would be visiting her three sponsor kids but in very contrasting circumstances. 

Last year was Penny’s first trip to Uganda when she first met her second family. She was a part of the sponsorship team in 2017 that went out into the community to interview potential students eager for sponsorship. It was at the small stick-built church in Lukya where she met Regina and Hanita, two shy but incredibly sweet little girls that captured her heart. Later that same afternoon she had the opportunity to visit the girls’ home nearby and to our surprise there was a little boy named Savior in the doorway who had stayed behind so his sisters could have a better chance of attending school. There were torn 2’ square foam pieces in the yard, we were told the youngest had wet the bed so they were out to dry; a scene Penny could never forget. When she was invited into the home the translator began to unravel the mother’s incredible story. As a single mother she tried to support and sustain her family through gardening, which the kids also worked in since at the time they did not attend school. The mother is also HIV positive, although the kids did not transmit the disease. Their father went to the city for work but never returned so the mother and kids live in the abandoned house of her in-laws, ever fearful of being evicted. 

Penny’s heart felt so much and was captivated immediately. She wanted to sponsor all three kids to send them to school. 

Fast forward to this year on the fourth of the July, Penny returned to their home for Emezza, a shared meal in the community. ‘Momma Penny’, as they call her, was welcomed with smiling faces and warm hugs as the kids barreled out of the curtained door. Their enthusiasm was tangible! The mother slowly walked with a small blanketed bundle, a 3-week old boy named David. She passed the baby to Penny and hugged her tightly with tears welling in both of their eyes. 


“The kids were so quiet and I wasn't sure if any of them spoke English, none of them smiled or played before. But this year, they’re so confident, they laugh and play with their classmates and they’re so appreciative.”

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fruits of labor

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Day two of the mission trip and Rhino Kid's Camp went well! Every day is an improvement on operations as we move forward with the week. Today’s theme for the day was ‘friends bring each other closer to Jesus’ as the Rhino Kid's Camp team spoke about being fishers of people through the skit, craft, and game. The kids had a great time making paper plate boats to go along with Matthew 4:19 - come follow me and I will make you fishers of people. Tonya, one of the team members in charge of the lesson for the kids, said they really connected with the story and had heard it before. 

Meanwhile, just behind the block of classroom buildings, the construction team was busy building more desks for the teachers. They were able to complete 3 and prep 3 more for completion early tomorrow. 

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The pharmacy building was a buzz as the medical team finished each diagnoses and sent the patients just outside the wooden slated building to fill their prescription. They would hand their intake sheet to Agnes and take a seat just outside an adjacent school building while the pharmacists prepared their medication. Bridget, a Ugandan pharmacist from Kampala, mentioned ibuprofen was the most commonly prescribed medicine second to malaria medicine. 

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Around the corner, the sponsorship team photographed the new 50 incoming students for the day before taking their exam shortly after. They were all smiles except for one baby who was terrified of the ‘muzungus’ (white people) with tears streaming down his little cheeks as he tried to relax in the arms of a comforting teacher.  

Shortly after lunch, half of the team went to Bukumonsimbi for a center visit while the remaining, those that had been to the community before, stayed behind to help with the second day of Gift a Gallon. We were able to hand out all but a few stray bags to the kids from grades Baby class (4-6) through P7 (10-13). It has been so rewarding to see all of our efforts with the Gift a Gallon bags in the kids faces. A young girl found a pleasant surprise in her bag as she picked it up and heard a faint rattle. Her sponsor had placed small maracas in the bag and she began shaking the bag furiously with a giant smile spread wide across her face. 

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Back at the center visit the team had the chance to see an entire welcome show put on by the women and widows of Bukumonsimbi, including Ms. Molly, the center leader. They spent a few hours enjoying the show put on by the community and even had the chance to put on the feather dance adornments themselves to try out an African dance or two! 

We’ve had such a successful day with each department and it is a blessing to see the fruits of our labor have such an impact. 

full and fulfilling day

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Today was such a full day! It was the first day of Gift a Gallon and the Rhino Kid's Camp programming for the kids on-site in Bwasandeku. It was an early morning, breakfast at 6:30am and on campus by 8, but it geared up fast! 

When we arrived on campus we trotted down to the pavilion where the kids waited. We filed in and as kids began to pile up on our laps, Monica explained today’s devotion. After devotion with the kids in the pavilion, we all set out into our groups to begin coordinating and getting ready for the day. 

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The Kid's Camp theme was helping a friend so each class made friendship chains, played a game that symbolized the story of Mark 2 where a paralyzed man is carried to Jesus and learned about the story. They had such a blast! 

The training teams were busy initiating their first lessons, ranging from leadership skills for successful goal setting to pastoral congregational care.

Meanwhile the construction crew built the organizational aspects of building the desks for the week. They set out a guide to help smooth the transition, and they have a lofty goal of building 7 total for Tuesday. 

The medical team set up their areas and systems while trying to simultaneously see the community members who were patiently waiting in line to be seen. The nurses saw some challenging cases today including several malaria diagnoses and a child who tested positive for HIV. 

The sponsorship team was in charge of photographing and grading tests for 50 new unsponsored children after they completed their placement exam. Their parents came from surrounding communities and waited patiently during the nearly two hours it took to finish their English and Math exams which help determine proficiency. 

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Shortly after lunch, the sponsorship team geared up again to begin Gift a Gallon. Since Rhino Kid's Camp was finished, the rest of the team joined in to help organize four classes who were set to receive their bags this afternoon. 

We finished up the last of the P1 class around 6:30pm, just in time for dinner! We quickly ate and loaded up on the bus for a quiet ride back to Hotel Brovad for an earlier night in. 

The Perfect Plan

After about 5 hours of sleep, the crew awoke to a hearty breakfast of eggs, a variety of fruits, toast and coffee. The smell of Off! hung heavy as we broke for a brief devotional where Monica led the Methodist prayer: 

I am no longer my own, but thine. 

Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. 

Put me to doing, put me to suffering. 

Let me be employed by thee if laid aside for thee,

Exalted for thee if brought low for thee. 

Let me be full, let me be empty. 

Let me have all things, let me have nothing. 

I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. 

And now, o glorious and blessed god,

Father, son, and Holy Spirit, 

Thou art mine, and i am thine, so be it. 

And the convening which i have made on earth. 

Let it be ratified in heaven.  

 

We were asked to reflect on the power of the prayer and examine it line by line throughout the week. The pastors here in Uganda will also dwell on that very same prayer throughout their time training with Rev. Monica and retired pastor, Skip. 

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David debriefed us on the schedule for the next 36 hours and we loaded up onto the buses to depart for Kampala to exchange money. For many this was the first time seeing the country in daylight! Sounds of exclamation for how beautiful the terra cotta tiled roofs were, recaps of the nights’ sleep and anxious sighs filled the buses as bold boda boda drivers swerved in and out of the heavy traffic ahead. 

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We arrived at the money exchange location around 11 and tiptoed our way into the cramped office in groups of three with our crisp green dollars in hand. It’s always an exciting experience to watch the thousands of brightly hued shillings file through the money counters like a high tech roladex to replace our monochromatic bills. 

After exchanging, we went to have lunch at the Cafesserie, a French style cafe with a lengthy and varied menu. Faith, our waitress, was beyond accommodating and patient with our large group. 

Bellies full and eyes heavy, we headed back to the Apricot for a quick snooze before dinner and the African culture show. 

We pulled into the parking lot for the Ndere Troupe performance and filed into our seats, but not before parading around the gallery and taking in the gorgeous sunset just behind the stage. 

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The Ndere Troupe provides not only a display of vibrant talent and passion of young singers, musicians and dancers but exists to fund the education of each performer. The crowd was alive with support from the RTRA group seated front row and the variety of visitors from all over the world. The show was absolutely incredible with an infectious energy that left the group a buzz well after it ended. 

Part of the group left for Entebbe to help pick up the baggage left behind in the states and to pick up the last member of the group arriving in from California, Robin. Although the day was somewhat overshadowed by the 26 still missing bags, we returned triumphantly back to the Guest House with 34 in tow. 

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It seemed appropriate that we started off the day with the prayer: I am no longer my own, but thine. It’s illustrated how much we’ve each organized, planned and prepared for this trip, for the luggage and for the kids but at the end of the day we must relinquish our control to allow space for the things he has in store because he knows our heart and is the only one with the perfect plan. 

 

Quote of the Day

The only one with a perfect plan is God.
— Monica Mowdy

We've arrived!

It’s been a long trip to say the least!

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But God has certainly had a part all along; we were not delayed and experienced minimal turbulence for all FOUR flights. Which was especially great since we had a first time flyer! We started off yesterday in Nashville around 10 am cataloging 91 duffle bags full of more than 1,200 Gift a Gallon goodies.

Once we boarded the plane in Nashville, a very small plane I might add (the flight attendant deemed it a ‘flying pringles can’), it became pretty apparent after sitting for 45 min on the tarmac as they attempted to load all the bags that not all were going to fit. We were assured that all would be waiting for us when we landed in Uganda so not to worry.

We continued on our journey to Chicago where we had a bit of free time to grab lunch before the long leg to Brussels. Some team members might not remember the Brussels trip since it went well into the night and many slept. On Thursday morning, local time, we arrived in Belgium exhausted but in good spirits! We had just over an hour to make it to our gate, cue hurried walking! Our efforts to rush were a bit in vain since once we got there we had plenty of time to board. 

The final flight felt even longer than the 8 hours it was scheduled to take but were thankful when we landed in Kigali right on time around 7:30 pm local. Once on the ground in Uganda, the team remained on the plane while the crew transitioned and prepared for the last, short 40 min flight to Entebbe. 

We made it to Entebbe at around 10, went through customs without a hitch and patiently awaited the luggage belt as it whirled around the room. All moments from the day led to this one solitary prayer that all would arrive at once and intact. Our first bags we saw were pulled and placed on luggage carts enthusiastically but the pace began to slow as we surveyed, counted and recounted what we had in our possession. 

Our orange shirts began to dot the entire length of the help desk with all hands on deck to begin cataloging our missing duffles. The staff at the airport was extremely kind and gracious in guiding us on the protocol for reporting a claim for each bag despite it taking more than four hours in total. We were reassured all will arrive by the weekend before we set off for campus. 

As Rachel finished the last report, we began the final security pass and headed out to the trucks where Bruhan and Samuel, our drivers met us with warm smiles and hugs.

 


As we travel now to the Apricot Guest House, somewhat smelly, 100% sleepy but with a quiet buzz of excitement and anticipation, I can’t help but think about the statement plastered on our backs: The Power of Friendship. We had several fellow travelers ask our mission, our purpose and why the statement on our brightly adorned shirts. The reason is more apparent as I detail our day. We had an extremely long trip and have every reason to be a bit grumpy but every single member of our 36 person team was in excellent spirits, super helpful to one another and was greeted with an equally exuberant attitude from staff in all three of the airports we’ve traveled through. I can only attribute our successful and safe day of travel to The Power of Friendship. 
 

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Quote of the day

“No matter how much I talk about it, how many stories I tell or photos I show, nothing compares to being here.”
- Madison Owens

Welcome to the Raise the Roof Academy blog!

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Hello & welcome!

We are proud to announce the start of our blog! We're beyond excited to begin sharing our journey together both on the ground in Bwasandeku, Uganda and in the US at Raise the Roof Academy. 

What you can expect:

  • You'll get insight into the daily lives of the children, staff and community of Raise the Roof Academy as we share passionate stories and photos. 
  • We'll be sharing empowering messages and general updates about projects, sponsorship and mission trips to keep you in the know. 
  • For those that sponsor a student, this will be a great opportunity to deepen your bond with your sponsor child as you get to know more about their routine and what's happening on campus. You can then ask about these new and exciting things in your letters!

We hope you enjoy reading and are inspired to take action and become an advocate for education! Stay tuned for more updates and follow us on social media!