After driving for over an hour to get to one of Invisible Children’s (IC) partner schools in Anaka, Amy remembers, “My first thought stepping off the bus and scanning the grounds was ‘I cannot wait to tell everyone back home how successful our partner school is.’”
It may seem odd to care deeply about individuals you’ve never met, work to raise funds for buildings you may never see, or donate energy and time to invest in the future of education in a country you’ve never visited, but that’s exactly what Amy and Rachael did with their classmates at Newport High School as part of Invisible Children’s Schools for Schools (S4S) campaign. They heard the stories of young people like themselves who had grown up in the midst of conflict and uncertainty, and they felt a connection that demanded action.
The S4S team in Gulu worked together with the administration of the partner school in Anaka to determine how they could best address the needs of the school. One building project they decided on was a computer lab where students would be able to learn critical skills that will help make them competitive in their future professions.
The Newport High IC club got creative, with fundraisers in the form of breakdance competitions, door-to-door caroling and movie screenings. They spoke to anyone who would listen about a computer lab that they wanted to build at a school in northern Uganda, and they worked tirelessly to raise the funds needed for its completion. Fundraising successful, the S4S team in Uganda got busy building and equipping the new laboratory. This month, both Rachael and Amy had the opportunity to travel to Uganda with other S4S trip winners to see the projects they had been dreaming about for years. To top it all, Rachael and Amy were invited to be the guests of honor for a ribbon-cutting ceremony as IC handed over the finished computer lab to the school. Amy wrote this about the experience:
To see the lab completed, and having the honor of ACTUALLY participating in the opening ceremony still feels unreal. It will forever be one of the paramount experiences of my life. In the moments of speaking, cutting the ribbon, and seeing the lab, I consciously tried to be aware of and mentally record every millisecond. However, seeing the excitement and joy of the faculty and students concurrently made me eager to cut the ribbon swiftly to unveil the surprise. The experience felt similar to unwrapping a long-anticipated Christmas present, made even sweeter knowing that it was for everyone… The lab is beautiful. I broke down crying as I took it all in. Flat screen monitors. A projector. Lovely photos framed. Shining ribbons hung. It’s perfect. My mind panned through thoughts as we stood there, of all the hard work and generosity that culminated in this beautiful, concrete product. All the future moments of enjoyment as well as academic and social growth that will emanate from this one, powerful place… The fact that Invisible Children, and myself, got to participate in that form of history, was especially powerful for me. As I said, the day spent at Anaka will forever be a highlight of my life, and I know I will daydream of, reflect on, and appreciate the day for years to come. For Rachael, it was meeting the students and learning about their lives – their challenges and hopes – that was most meaningful.
“I went to Uganda expecting to be so surprised most of all by the culture, or the food or the landscape, but when it came down to it nothing affected me more than just some real talks with people, one-on-one,” she reflected. Now when Amy and Rachael talk about the computer lab in Anaka, they can share about a place they’ve seen with their own eyes, about a country that welcomed them, and about the talented students who will be able to gain knowledge and skills in the new facility.