It is rare to come across a perfect day, especially in these times. So how exactly do we explain a near two weeks of absolute perfection this June as we resumed our Summer School Leadership program for the first time since 2019? We are not quite sure, but if you stick along for the read, we will certainly give it a try.
We partner with a cohort of 50 young people and their families in Uganda by empowering children to enhance their communities through quality education, leadership development, and entrepreneurial impact.
We identify and work with high-need and high-ability children located at Kiira Primary School in Jinja, Uganda who are at risk of school dropout, where BHP covers tuition, uniforms, scholastic materials, and meal fees while also providing key leadership and economic youth programming year-round.
Reconnection & Recovery
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic kept BHP quite busy as we raced to launch a series of new programs in 2020 to safeguard the wellbeing of our student and families. We developed a rapid response program that provided over 40,000 meals, essential medicine, and other basic need items to nearly 200 people in our local community for six months. Additionally, we launched a robust youth leadership & economic trade curriculum to increase the amount of services our young people were getting as schools, peer programs, and learning opportunities vanished for close to two years.
But one thing we simply couldn’t replace these past couple of years is the joy and energy that only comes from being with our volunteers from abroad! We are blessed each year to receive so many warm guests who bring their time, talents, and resources to equip our students and remind them of the greater global community that loves and supports them. With international travel restrictions beginning to normalize, we spent two weeks hosting a group of visitors alongside our field team who prepared for nearly seven months for this trip, curating leadership lessons, workshops, and spiritual teachings to present. Here are some of our main highlights:
Kiira Community Service Project
One of the most important values we can instill in our students is that leaders are servants first. We are grateful to be able to provide many opportunities for our young people and families to soar, but none are more important than consistently creating spaces for them to find ways to give back to their local school and community. In honor of Earth Day, BHP students and our volunteers led the entire school in an afternoon of environmental caretaking– where we planted trees and flowers, composted and made fertilizer, removed wood waste, and cleaned classrooms from dirt and debris so every student could enjoy their school just a little bit more.
Leadership Bootcamp with the Social Innovation Academy (SINA)
If COVID-19 taught us anything, it’s that when our community’s strongest institutions are weakened, it is the well-being of children that is most deeply impacted. When neighborhoods lose access to proper sanitation, young people are the first to be harmed by polluted water. When healthcare clinics are overwhelmed by the needs of pandemics like coronavirus, children are the most often to become sick from preventable diseases. When a caregiver isn’t allowed to go to work, young people are the main members of a family that will go hungry. Labor exploitation, road violence, refugee and migrant crises– regardless of the circumstance, you can always assume children remain the most vulnerable. But where most see only problems for children, BHP and other like-minded organizations see opportunities for young people to be at the center of creating the best solutions.
This is exactly why we took our students and team on a day of high-impact activities at the Social Innovation Academy (SINA)! Located just a few hours away from Kiira Primary School, SINA is a talent campus that equips marginalized young people to turn challenges into opportunities through creating social enterprises. SINA trains young people throughout Uganda to not just be job-seekers, but solution-driven entrepreneurs who master the art of problem-solving in a way schools and traditional careers alone can not address, making them the perfect organization to develop a partnership.
“To know that anything, even waste, could solve a problem…it made the students look at their life in a new way. Now everyone wants to see what they can do near their home.”
David Curtiss, Founder
Our time at SINA included a youth leadership and problem-solving workshop, interactive games on how to build and finance a start-up business, a delicious lunch, and an in-depth tour of their state-of-the-art innovation compound. Students were blown away to find homes completely made out of dirt and soda bottles, ceilings made out of old tire rubber, and stylish purses and backpacks made from plastic garbage.
Exploring Medical Innovation with the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC)
Never has it been a more important time to include young people from the most economically impacted communities more deeply in the health and medical field. At BHP, we know the cornerstone of building safe, resilient communities is strong local systems around health and wellness centered in a youth lens. This is why BHP conducted a special education visit to the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC), a medical research institution and patient center in Uganda, specializing in HIV/AIDS treatment and management.
During our visit, students met with senior researchers to learn about how both major research centers and local health practitioners have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic as well as other local health challenges impacting Uganda, and what practices students can do in their own communities to ensure they and their loved ones remain healthy. During a presentation, students asked thoughtful questions about disease prevention, advancing current treatments, and how they can enter the medical laboratory field. This was followed by a walk-through of the centre’s facilities to witness scientists in action and learn in-depth about all the work being accomplished.
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BHP Alumni Power Hour
Back on the Kiira campus, we hosted a gathering of some of our most beloved BHP community members: our alumni! BHP is proud to have a primary school completion rate nearly twice the national average, where more than 9 out of 10 graduates finish their primary education and matriculate to Secondary School. Our alumni are a very important part of our community, and tracking their personal growth, challenges, and successes is a vital part of strengthening our leadership model and providing services that truly prepare children for success into young adulthood and beyond.
During our time together, we spoke with fourteen alumni all serving in significant leadership capacities while in Secondary School. There, we discussed major life transitions and led a training on how to request and look for feedback about their leadership strengths from peers and other community members. The alumni were able to settle back into a safe space to talk about personal difficulties, strategies on adjusting to secondary school, and other pressures around leadership and adolescence. We are very excited to continue to serve these great group of youth leaders in this next phase of their life!
Interested in being part of our 2023 trip to Uganda? Let us know!
Leadership Labs: Building Spiritual Strength & Character
The backbone of every amazing Summer School Leadership program is our uninterrupted time of teaching to pour into the students hosted by so many of our amazing volunteers who annually support the BHP team in facilitating a curriculum around spiritual empowerment, character development, and team-building. This year we hosted a dozen visitors from across the USA who taught on so many great lessons, such as leading from a pure heart, the importance of obedience, and how to live in honor for yourself and your community.
These teachings serve as workshops where students get the opportunity to journal, ask questions, and reflect on their leadership journey and self-development. They were also times of powerful ministry full of prayer, scripture readings/ devotionals, and spiritual gift empowerment. We saw the light in many students’ eyes and the joy in new songs sung as they left each day feeling motivated and free to be all who God says they are. And every single one of our visitors enjoyed connecting and loving on each of the students!
Finally, we want to say:
Your support is what makes having this kind of impact in Uganda possible. As we looked into the students’ eyes, we saw their hope. Our prayer is that you will too.