Far Away Friends and Operation Teach: Kaitlyn Phillips’ Experience in Uganda

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Kaitlyn Phillips, an English major with a concentration in education and one of the Communications Interns for the English Department this past spring, has been involved with an organization in northern Uganda called Far Away Friends. She has been working with them as the Director for Development for about a year and has also been involved in one of their newest initiatives, Operation Teach. Below, she shares some of her experiences working with teachers and students in Namasale, Uganda this summer.


 

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On the other side of the world in a rural district of Northern Uganda, there’s a pink building with a blue roof. Its rooms are lined with desks and handmade posters; there’s chalk dust on the blackboards and textbooks on the benches and bins full of cars and jump ropes and soccer balls. Early in the morning, students will show up in brown and white uniforms; they’ll walk down a red dirt path, smiling and joking with one another, and — at the sound of Madame Judith’s bell — they’ll begin class for the day.

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This is Global Leaders Primary School in Namasale, Uganda. It is a project of Far Away Friends, a nonprofit focused on ending global education poverty by fostering global empathy in the next generation of leaders. I’ve had the great privilege of working with this organization for the past year, and the honor of traveling with a team to Uganda this summer to see the school and meet the students and teachers that make it the amazing place that it has become.

And it truly is an amazing place. When people care so much about a place and the people in it, the result is tremendous joy; I’ve never seen a place so tremendously joyful as Global Leaders. The students come to school early with smiles, and stay until our principal and co-founder, Collines Angwech, has to march them off the grounds. After lunch they skip rope and play soccer and are just genuinely and joyfully kids; during class they study under some of the most compassionate and determined teachers I’ve ever met.

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One of my favorite moments of the trip was meeting and talking with one of these teachers, Teacher Joshua, a P2 (or second grade) teacher at Global Leaders. Joshua has lived in Northern Uganda his whole life; when he was only twelve, he was removed from his home and relocated to a displacement camp due to the violence caused by the LRA, a rebel group that terrorized communities in Northern Uganda for nearly 30 years. Despite this, he is genuinely joyful and welcoming and kind, and teaches his students with as much love and friendship that he extended to our team during our entire visit.

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These are the moments of the trip I will never forget — the moments of genuine friendship. Like trying on glasses with Sara and Michella, or laughing with Apio Janella because we were taking way too many pictures, or dancing outside the school with all the kids, Jonathan and Smiri shuffling their feet and smiling at each other in their borrowed sunglasses.

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And in the middle of it all realizing that this school exists not just for these kids, but because of them; without their fierce commitment to their own educations and the teachers’ genuine belief in Global Leaders and all its promises, none of this would be possible. None of these moments could ever have happened.

The people I have met here and the places I have been have changed my life. They welcomed me with open arms and let me learn and love and live with them.

I owe this place and these people everything that I am right now. I’m honored to call Namasale a home and the people I’ve lived with there a family.

I am working on paying them back for that.

Far Away Friends’ newest initiative is called Operation Teach. By providing a full or partial sponsorship for one of our teachers, you are ensuring that not only do our teachers receive a fair wage, but that Global Leaders continues to be the tremendously joyful place it is now, and that these kids continue with the education that will equip them to one day change the world.

To learn more about Operation Teach and become a part of the Global Leaders community, go to farawayfriendsglobal.com/operationteach.

 

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