AHS students build school in Uganda

Does a reduced diet, immunizations, exotic locations, and manual labor sound like your idea of fun? If so, the Africa trip might be right for you. On Sept. 24, the Ames High students who traveled to Uganda, Africa with social studies teacher Tim Mooney will meet at the Ames Public Library for an open house from 2 to 4 p.m. The students will explain their humanitarian efforts in Uganda as well as share pictures and memories of their month-long voyage with members of the community. As for refreshments, the African coffee beans that have served as a fundraiser for the trip will be available to drink and to buy. “This was my second year going on the trip. People ask me why I chose to go on it again and it is because my first year was so amazing. Each year has been completely different but really great at the same time,” senior Lily Dobson said. “The experience is so different for each person and whatever you put into the trip you really get out of it emotionally.” It is no wonder that the Africa trip has become one of the trips that students save their money to go on. The idea for the Africa trip was born in the summer of 2002 when Mooney visited friends in Uganda. “I used to live and work in Uganda so I still have a lot of friends there,” he said. One of his friends, the principal of the Tororo Parents Girls School, showed Mooney the building that his school rented for classes. “It was worse than a barn,” Mooney said. “After I saw the conditions I just really wanted to do something for them.” And thus, the idea for a humanitarian trip to Uganda was hatched. “I proposed the idea in September of 2003 and really, I only expected eight students to show up [to the information session] and be interested but over 100 students showed up,” Mooney said. The first summer Mooney took students to Africa was the summer of 2004. During this first summer, “Phase 1” of construction, there were only 18 students and six adults. Since the initial group returned, the desire to be a part of the group has increased. This summer, during the third and final phase of construction, 30 students went on the trip. They were split into two groups of 15. The first group worked in Africa during the first part of the summer and the second group reached Africa one week later. Since the Africa trip has become so popular, a reasonable question is whether or not the trip will continue now that the initial goal, building a school, has been completed. “I don’t know if the trip is sustainable,” Mooney said. There are also monetary concerns. The groups of students who go to Uganda every year have to raise the money to purchase all the materials and tools that they use in their building project. One of their fundraisers was selling African coffee beans. Unfortunately it wasn’t as successful as they hoped. The group started out with 20,000 pounds of beans last year and they still have 12,000 pounds left. While it is certain that there will be an Africa trip during the summer of 2007, Mooney plans on taking it just one year at a time in the future.