As I sit here reflecting back on the day, I'm reminded of a phrase that my grandpa used to tell all of us grandkids over and over as we were growing up: "You have so much potential."
This phrase rang true in my mind today as we visited with the kids at St. Kizito Primary School. Last year, as a FoDU team visited the school for the first time, our bus was mobbed by kids as they rushed in with pure excitement to give us hugs and hold our hands. Though we were able to get off the bus this time, it didn't take but a few seconds before ALL of the kids who lined the street to the entry of the school singing their welcome song, had found a volunteer to hold onto and walk with. And let me tell you, there is no happier feeling than having 10-15 kids holding onto your hands and arms leading you to show you their school.
The campus of St. Kizito is beautiful with a huge flowering tree right in the middle of campus and a really nice soccer pitch (albeit kind of unlevel) in the back. That being said, as the head-teacher Frederick showed us on the tour, there are still some issues with the campus. The campus is wide-open which means anyone from the public can walk through at any time. The kitchen was just built with last years' FoDU grant money, which is a great step, but still isn't able to produce the kind of nutrition that these kids need on a daily basis. And the pit-toilets had no doors with just a concrete wall on the outside to protect the privacy of the young girls and boys. But just like all of us, though the campus isn't perfect, it is beautiful and has the potential to help form and change the lives of these kids.
But maybe the best part of the campus is the staff. These men and women are committed to their work and truly care for the well-being of these kids. From the head-teacher, Frederick, on down through the whole staff, the passion that these 11 teachers have for teaching and caring for these children is second-to-none. They are the reason these kids have the potential to be whatever they dream to be!
And the kids are why we are here as well. Our team got the joy of listening to skits, songs, and poems by the choir and students of St. Kizito this morning. The poems and skits hit a little deeper here in Uganda as the students portrayed the emotional and sometimes physical abuse and neglect that comes with being an orphan living with step-parents, aunts and uncles. We got to listen this afternoon as the girls told us about the struggles that they face on a daily basis. That they can't get money for a $10 school uniform, that care-givers don't believe that they even went to school and refuse to buy school supplies or other fees. That they used to have to come to school and use old clothes or rags to care for their needs instead of having the proper sanitary products to care for themselves.
But amidst all of the concerns and struggles that these young girls face, there is so much POTENTIAL! These girls also shared the joys and the things that they love and like. Time and time again, I heard "My teacher makes me happy," or "I'm glad when I come to school," or "my friends and teachers bring me joy." And now, thanks to so many supporters and donors back home, these girls have a hygiene kit. One less burden or struggle for them to worry about and one step closer to realizing their full POTENTIAL!
"Potential" is a strong word that carries with it a lot of weight. I didn't always realize the power that my grandpa was speaking into me when he would tell us "you have so much potential". But today, as we got to empower these girls to be great women of substance, it made more sense than ever before. The theme for this year for FoDU is: "The World Needs Me!" These kids have the potential to change their lives, to change their community, to change the world! There is limitless potential in each and every one of them. And today, we got to remind them that their lives matter. That their dreams are so important. That their voice is powerful. And that this world truly needs them to share with it their talents, their passions, and their purpose. And when they realize that full potential...they can look back and see a world changed for the better because THEY made a difference!