by Catherine G. Dulan, CARITAS For Children Volunteer
A teacher walks into a room full of eager children.
She smiles as she says, “Hello children.”
“Hello teacher,” they respond in unison.
“How are you?”
The choir of children responds: “We are humble, obedient, and ready to listen.”
My fiancé Kollin and I have been visiting Uganda with Chris Hoar, founder of CARITAS For Children, for almost two weeks, and the innocence and joy of the school children continues to delight me. We have toured many schools where supporters of CARITAS sponsor a child. At each location we were welcomed with songs and traditional dances, but we have spent the most time at St. Anthony Nursery School. The school is what we in the United States would call a preschool, with most students between the ages of four and six years old. St. Anthony is one of the preschools children attend through CARITAS’ Catholic child sponsorship programs.
The students arrive early in the morning, often walking by themselves or taking a ride on a motorcycle taxi called a “boda boda.” For the children who attend, St. Anthony offers an opportunity to get a head start on their educational journey. The little ones perform songs and dances, practice new English words, and learn the numbers and the alphabet. For many, the love and attention they receive at school fills a need that is often not fulfilled by parents who are either absent or at work trying to provide for their families.
I have learned that many children are cared for by their grandparents or another relative because their parents have found work in another town, have abandoned their children, or are deceased. Like young children in all parts of the world, those I have met at St. Anthony long for affection and attention.
St. Anthony encourages the cognitive, spiritual, and emotional growth of the children through activities, prayers, and loving attention. The daily lunch the students are given helps to ensure physical growth as well. For some children, the cup of porridge and bread roll, a meager meal by American standards, is the only meal they are certain to receive. Thanks to the gift of generous donors, St. Anthony has started a large chicken coop that will soon be supplying fresh eggs for the children’s meals.
Just like children from every part of the world, the rambunctious little students at St. Anthony are not always perfectly “humble, obedient, and ready to listen.” However, when they arrive at the Nursery School, they know that they will be guaranteed a warm meal, and engaging lesson, and a step up in their educational journey.
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