Preparing for Uganda

Most Ames High students look forward to sleeping in late and getting out of Ames when school ends. However, there is a small portion of the student body who will refuse to sleep in and will go so far as leaving the country entirely. It’s time for an adventure to Africa! Teacher Tim Mooney heads the expedition, bringing with him 22 dedicated students approximately 8,015 miles across the ocean to Uganda. “We’re starting phase one of building a new primary school with five classrooms,” Mooney said. “We leave June 1 and come back June 24.” A lot of time and work has been put into preparation for the trip. “The students first apply in October. Then I have them read a book called Foreign to Familiar. We also have discussions about cultural differences,” Mooney said. The most well known fundraiser for the Uganda trip is the Hunger Banquet, but students also sell coffee, which makes about $15,000 per year towards the trip. Most of the money, however, comes from family and friends who make donations. “When people find out about the trip they’re usually very generous.” Mooney lived in Kampala, Uganda from 1986 to 1989. He got the idea for the Uganda trip in 2003 when he saw 70 students sign up for the Europe trip. “I thought we could get at least six or eight kids to go to Uganda and do a project, so I called a meeting and 100 people showed up.” A year later the first Uganda trip was launched. This year will be the eighth time students will go. The hardest part about the trip isn’t the work in Uganda, but the work it takes to get there. Preparation for the trip starts in October and keeps everyone working all year to make the trip possible. There are applications to sort through, fundraisers to organize, shots to get, and plane tickets to buy. “Once I get on the plane most of my work is done,” Mooney said. Despite all the hard work, the reward is well worth it. “I want to not just go [to Uganda], but I want to build connections with the people there,” Griffith said. “I want to learn more about their culture.” One of the many things the Uganda trip teaches students is something that doesn’t always translate well in the US. “Culture is hard to teach in a classroom. It’s what you see, breathe, taste and experience. It’s the interaction,” Mooney said. While they build the new school, the students will make new relationships as well and learn about a country that seems worlds different from our own. Though English is one of the official languages in Uganda, Swahili also is spoken just as frequently, not to mention the many local languages the students will probably hear. “I love to watch the students’ reactions to Africa,” Mooney said. “The most fun thing is just how much the kids learn.” Coming from the US to a developing world will allow the students to see the things they take for granted. “I’m more thankful for what I have. I’m very blessed,” senior Patty Mackey, who went on the trip last year, said. “You don’t have to have a lot of stuff to be happy. I also learned that 16 hour plane rides are terrible.” So to the students who are going, good luck, work hard, and learn a lot. We will see you back in Ames soon. Kwaheri!