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A $20,900 Thanksgiving Miracle

For many, perhaps, this feels like a Thanksgiving to forget. All the distancing, mask-wearing, and missing family has put un-welcome strain on all of us. 
However, throughout this whole year here at Zozu Project, the US staff and board have been learning a much-needed lesson from the team in Uganda. We have been learning what it looks like to have joy amidst trials. Simple to say, hard to do. 

As the homeschool program in Uganda was extended and extended, the school needed more library books for teachers and students to check out and have at home. When we gave the principal of Solid Rock the news that the money for those books was on its way, we received this message:

“I can’t really express my joy! There is no message I can type to show you how happy I am!… I can’t stop blessing the Lord for you.” 

The staff at Solid Rock are always the ones teaching us visitors how to be thankful and content. 

Those words took me (Elsie) aback. Can’t stop blessing the Lord? That has not been my experience these past few months. You are much more likely to have heard me say “I can’t stop tracking Covid news” or “I can’t stop checking the news for election updates” or “I can’t stop wondering how long this is going to last.” But can’t stop blessing the Lord? That, rightly, convicted me. 

Why is it that Principal David said that he can’t stop blessing the Lord? Because he saw, in the midst of trial, a gift from God’s hand to be thankful for. He didn’t give 90% of his attention to the 90% of things that were going wrong, and 10% of his attention to the 10% that was going right. He gave 100% of his attention to the work of God in his life. 

This mama has no husband and no right hand, and she’s one of the happiest mamas I have ever met. 

So the question on my mind was, where is God at work? And I started looking out for it. We didn’t have to wait long. 

With the purchase of the books for Solid Rock, a new problem arose- where were we going to put them? With the children learning from home, the classrooms had room for now, but what about long-term? The Ugandan team correctly discerned that they needed a brand new library annex, more than double the current size of the library. The construction cost for plans they drew up came in at $20,900.

Whew. We’re already supporting a staff of over 30 people in Uganda, providing an education for over 400 children, and taking on a new preschool class of 50 children in February, none of whom are sponsored. How, we asked ourselves, are we going to fundraise for a major capital project right now, smack in the middle of an economically uncertain time? 

Plans for the library annex. 

Out of nowhere, not two weeks after receiving the library plans, an old friend got in touch with Mick and Elaine Lebens, our founders. They emailed to let us know that they manage a family foundation, and they asked if there was anything we’re fundraising for right now? It couldn’t have been a more opportune time. “Wow,” we thought, “they might be able to help a bit with the library project. Maybe they could fund a few bookcases, or lay the foundation.”

After looking at the plans and the budget for the library, they replied with an email that blew us away. They said they would be happy to donate the entire $20,900 to build the library, and we could expect a check in the mail as soon as we were ready to start construction

Foundation being laid for the library! The single gift that made this project possible was an out-of-the-blue miracle. 

Construction has begun, and we couldn’t be more thankful. This connection and this gift was a miracle, completely unasked for, right when we needed it. Can’t stop blessing the Lord? You bet. This Thanksgiving, may you have the eyes to see God’s gifts to you. He is still at work. 

Blessings, 
Elsie Munoz, and the US Zozu Staff


Sponsor FAQs, September 2020

As we enter September, Zozu Project staff have developed a rhythm of visiting the children. The social workers are checking in on everyone, and the students are resuming their studies at home. It’s not easy, but considering the circumstances, it’s going well.

Here in the US, I [Elsie] and Elaine, have started to receive a torrent of letters from students to their sponsors. This is good news! Channels of communication are open again, and as we send these letters along, we have been hearing some questions often. As of early September, here are some FAQs:

Can I write to my student? How?

You most certainly can write! Please put your letter in a PDF form, and email it to info@zozuproject.org. Feel free to include pictures, news of your family, how your children are handling school being closed, etc. Set your expectations, however, that a response may take a while. The staff have to visit the students at home and bring all of the letter-writing supplies with them.

Can I send a physical or financial gift?

Because of high shipping costs, long wait times, and uncertain delivery, we don’t mail physical gifts. These are reserved for when a team visits in person and, as you can imagine, we do not know when that will next be. As soon as sending physical gifts is an option, we will be sure to let you know via email.

Financial gifts, on the other hand, are welcome at this time! You can give online at this page on our website, or send a check to Zozu Project at PO Box 1635, Templeton, CA 93465. Please put “gift for [student’s name]” in the memo line. We suggest something between $25-100. More info can be found here. As with letters, expect a significant wait in hearing back.

How can I best support my student and their family right now?

Continuing your sponsorship, and writing letters to encourage them are the most supportive things you can do. Truly, the value of your monthly contribution cannot be understated! When you made that commitment, you gave them access to all of the services they receive now. Without your help, your student would not be receiving an education at all during this time. Please continue in prayer for them if that is your habit, or begin to pray regularly for their protection and growth in the Lord.

Why have I not heard from my student?

It could be that a letter from your student is on its way to you right now, or that there are circumstances that make it difficult for our staff to reach your student. It is not uncommon for children to be sent to extended family members outside of the district over long school breaks, and some students are difficult to get in touch with. Rest assured, we are doing all that we can to reach them.

What if my student is in Secondary School? What are they doing?

The secondary school students are too far away from their campuses to be receiving educational materials from them directly, but Solid Rock teachers have stepped in. Your sponsorship has purchased workbooks for all 10 core high school subjects for them, and the elementary teachers are including them in their visits. Their education is continuing, and it’s your sponsorship that makes it possible.

Is the country opening their economy again?

In Uganda, everything is open (with restrictions) save schools and churches. The parents have therefore been able to return to work, and the food distributions are no longer continuing. The international airport remains closed to all travel that is not native Ugandans returning home.

If you have any additional questions, please get in touch with Elaine at info@zozuproject.org or Elsie at elsie@zozuproject.org. Also, if you are not yet on our email list please get in touch with Elsie to sign up. On behalf of the children, thank you.




Back to (Home) School

We’re seven months into the Ugandan school year right now, as of July. Four months ago, schools across the country, including Solid Rock, were ordered to close. Students in Uganda have now lost half of their school year, which begins in February and ends in November.

WHAT HAPPENED AT SOLID ROCK

Solid Rock Christian School, the Ugandan school supported by Zozu Project, was affected just the same as all the others. Only, for our students, the effects of shutting school doors had the potential to be far worse. Our students, coming from homes of poverty, depend on the two meals a day given at school. Many of their parents cannot read or write to help their child keep learning at home.

Teachers went home too, and then became stuck. When the school was closed, young teachers took the opportunity to go be with family in other districts. A few days later, the government suspended public transportation. For months, only a small team of local, hardworking staff has been doing all of the work required to get emergency food and hygiene kits to the children.

BUT AFTER FIVE MONTHS, THINGS ARE STARTING TO LOOK UP

Last week, the president of Uganda addressed the nation with updated regulations for the country. Our staff all listened in. Solid Rock School Principal, David, reported: “Almost all other sectors were allowed to resume with some standard operation procedures set up by the ministry of health. It’s only the churches and schools that he told to wait since they gather many people.” Some key points from the new rules that impact our work were:

1. Schools will continue to be closed until at least September, when a further decision will be announced
2. Buses will be allowed to operate at limited capacity
3. Food markets are opened
4. Cloth masks must be worn by everyone, everywhere, outside of the home.

While the prolonged school closure continues to be difficult, the worst of the food crisis has passed, more teachers are able to return, and it’s time to start a serious program of home education.

HOMESCHOOL ARUA-STYLE

Last week, the teachers that were able to return convened (outside, six feet away, with masks) to figure out how to teach the students in the homes. The plan is to prepare learning materials to be distributed to the children in their homes. This is a big deal! A few months ago, we had to get permission from the government just to pass out food. Needless to say, teachers and students are itching to get going again. According to one social studies teacher, they hope to keep the students “positively occupied.”

Since none of the children have internet in their homes, teachers are making packets to be hand-delivered. A child can read a portion of work and answer questions. After two weeks the teachers will collect it, grade them, give feedback, and hand out another portion of work. With over 450 students over a whole district to care for, this is going to require a lot of time and travel on the part of our teachers, but they are more than up for it.

FOR SUCH A TIME AS THIS

If you have ever traveled to Africa, you have probably learned that the motto is “be flexible.” Over the years of visiting Uganda, we have had prop planes delayed for hardware problems, 4 pm meetings that started at 5, and the first day of school change dates less than a month out. We Americans have had to learn how to have a flexible, open mindset that comes very naturally to our staff, the students, and their parents.

This community is able to work in a COVID world. With political wars, the Ebola outbreak, and famine-inducing droughts in the not too distant memory, they are more accustomed to life being changed dramatically in a day. Time and again we have witnessed our staff showing open-handedness to circumstances and the sovereignty of God. That open-handedness allows them to love their students freely, without concern for the vicissitudes of a life in poverty. When circumstances demanded that teachers become relief workers, they rose to the occasion with humility and faith in God. The children who depend on them are blessed for it.

Now, without classroom or teaching aids, they are educating the students without complaints. The students, while missing school, are happy to have something to do to learn. After all, many of them still remember the years when they received no education whatsoever. It may be difficult, but in times like these, the hard-won resilience of this community truly shines.

We still don’t know how long the school doors will be closed, but until then, keep the teachers and children in your prayers. We praise God for sustaining them over the last few months, and believe that He will continue to do so.


Is COVID-19 the Biggest Enemy?

While political, racial, and economic tension is rocking America, here at Zozu Project we have daily kept our eye on our brothers and sisters in Uganda, whose story we have followed at every turn. 

In March, the Ugandan government began to introduce measures such as a dawn-to-dusk curfew, school closures, and banning both public transit and private vehicle use. Yes, it was severe. The poor, who depend heavily on public transportation and earn a living in face-to-face jobs like market vending, have been hit hard. It’s projected that the lockdown will cause at least the temporary unemployment of 3.8 million UgandansSaid one young Ugandan in the area where we work, “I heard a rumor that in some villages parents are giving their girls to men for marriage so that they can get money for food.” 

“I heard a rumor that in some villages parents are giving their girls to men for marriage so that they can get money for food.”

Photo courtesy of Save The Children.net 

It’s been a challenge for our Ugandan staff to adjust, but they have more than risen to the challenge. Two weeks into the distancing measures, our director told us that “the lockdown has done a great havoc to the entire country.” The biggest issue was, and is, food. As he explained, “it [has been] difficult for our people to get food, since for many Ugandans the system of food is food to mouth daily. This means we do not store food, we have to look for food every day, even walking many miles to get it.”

So, in cooperation with the government, our staff began a food distribution six days a week. They’re going to the households of the 400+ children enrolled in the Zozu program. Over the first three rounds, more than 20,000 meals worth of food has been distributed. Thanks to donations from many, many people, and the dedication of our staff, these distributions have saved lives.

 “This was great, and both the children and the parents were very happy. They always send their thank to you and the sponsors.” Pastor John Paul, after a food distribution

It’s been over three months since the lockdown began. As the US experiments with re-opening, Uganda is doing the same. Last week, the President of Uganda announced the current plan. Schools, including Solid Rock Christian School, will be allowed to open their classrooms in July. New health measures will be added, such as facial masks for all students and teachers, but the government has yet to release a statement detailing what schools will need to do before re-opening.

With that tentative plan and another month of school closure ahead, the Zozu Project staff are preparing for their fourth round of food distribution. We’ll do everything we can to get the school ready to open as soon as legally possible. But after the threat of COVID has passed, the much-longer battle against poverty will rage on.

 “Thank you so much for the prayers and all the support to both the children and staff of Solid Rock!” – David Ssemuvubi, Principal of Solid Rock Christian School

One of our students, Consolate (front left), with her family at home.

It’s easy to conceive of the COVID-19 virus as the enemy of the families we serve. However, unemployment, low education, starvation, and malaria, (which kills over 1 million worldwide each year), are in reality more imposing threats that predate COVID by a longshot. Right now, the children we’re taking care of are more in danger from malaria because they don’t have access to the free school health clinic. Moms, dads, caretakers, and children have been facing these threats for generations.

One day, we will look back on the Corona virus with sadness at the lives that have been lost. However, we suspect that are attention will shift quickly to new challenges that need to be overcome in these children’s lives. It can be bleak to think that as soon as COVID passes, there is no guarantee that it will not be replaced with another threat, like a locust plague or a waterborne pathogen. However, while being realistic, we are not going to give up. Jesus himself quoted this passage from the Old Testament when talking to his disciples, “For the poor you will always have with you in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor…’” (John 12:8, Deut 15:11, emphasis added).

We didn’t forget about these children when COVID hit, and we won’t leave them when it has passed. In the face of widespread tumult, we rejoice in the life of each little child we provide for. Thanks to a complex web of sponsors, donors, teachers, administrators, staff, and caretakers, hundreds of children’s lives are still being changed here. God won’t be stopped. His love for these children won’t be stopped. So we won’t be stopped either. A trip is in the works for later this year, if the government and the virus allows, and we’re excited to bring you first-hand news. As everyone says these days, we’re all in this together.


A Church Success Story

“We have uncertainty as a church, but that doesn’t mean we waver in what God has called us to do.”

– Katy Griffin, Highlands Missions Pastor

Back in January of this year, before any of us knew what an N-95 mask was, the pastoral staff at Highlands Church in Paso Robles got together to discuss how to best shepherd their people through the season of Lent. In years past, they had focused on encouraging the members of the congregation to make not only little gifts to brighten someone’s day, but to make a significant sacrifice that would change lives, like Christ’s. They usually partnered with organizations around the globe to raise funds to relieve poverty, prevent sex trafficking, or feed the hungry. Hence, Lent became termed the time of “Significant Sacrifice.”

2020, they thought, would be no different. In fact, why not set bigger goals and impact more lives? In 2019 they had partnered with Zozu Project and raised funds for housing for teachers. This year, what if they could raise up monthly sponsors for all 50 of the preschool students and build a preschool playground? Through prayer and discussion, they decided to do it. They would devote a portion of each service throughout the season of Lent to advocate to their congregation on behalf of the children in Uganda. Needless to say, here at Zozu Project, we were thrilled!

Then, COVID hit. Amidst the filling hospitals and the emptying savings accounts, predictably, giving took a sharp dive. Many churches sent out notifications to their members reminding them of staff salaries and office rent, expenses that don’t go away even if the church isn’t meeting in person. Highlands was no exception: they saw a decline in giving too. Sure, they weren’t going to have people meet in the building, but they still wanted to stream services, which takes equipment, and, most importantly, pay their staff. The “well” so to speak, looked a little drier than it ever had in years past.

But come the first week of Lent, did they discuss changing the plan for Significant Sacrifice? No. Not once. The only question on the table was “How do we still do this, and do it well?”

They rallied the team to turn what were going to be in-person messages into recorded videos. They doubled up their efforts to collect photos of the school and children in Uganda to show to their congregation. They made promotional videos highlighting people who already sponsored or donated in their congregation. Without debate, Highlands leaders decided to not retreat focus on promoting their needs. Rather, they still pressed forward, perhaps more than ever, to help the needy, the hungry, and the forgotten.

As Easter approached, much to their surprise, their online attendance numbers started growing. They saw people tuning in from not just the Central Coast, but all across the country. Friends confined at home, family members from other states, and even people with no previous connection to Highlands were all watching the services. And every week they continued to show people the poverty and need in Uganda and confidently call them to give if they felt led. Were they “sacrificing” funds that would otherwise have gone to their own church? If so, so be it. That was the point, after all: to make a Significant Sacrifice in order to change lives.

As this is being written, we are still in the middle of it! The campaign will officially wrap up and a final total will be published next week. It is most encouraging to see the people at Highlands taking a stance of bold optimism. As the children are quarantined at home, this church is raising funds for their school– what hope! What confidence in the power of God to bring an end to the crisis! What willingness to sacrifice for the sake of others!

We will update this blog as the total comes in, but no matter the numeric outcome, the testimony of faith is remarkable. To give in a time of scarcity is the most generous gift of all. On behalf of the children who will be blessed, thank you Highlands, for your love!


Crazy and Common: Sharing the Crisis with our Ugandan Brothers and Sisters

Two weeks ago, I had to cancel my next flight to Uganda. It wasn’t much of a decision– it just had to be done. Weeks of carefully monitoring flight prices, emailing sample itineraries back and forth with our Ugandan partners, praying over who God might bring on the trip… all for nothing. In a moment, all that work seemingly negated. And I had no choice.

This choice-less experience has been the “MO” lately. Before all of this, there was a feeling of wide-open space in the future– a broad meadow with a clear sky. There were many decisions to make and opportunities to seize. When do I go to Uganda? When should I plan to visit my in-laws next? Can we afford that next big purchase that we have been saving for? Before, I could see forward (or so I thought) to the next few years and what they could look like. I could go on this or that trip, make this or that move, change my career in this or that way. So many coulds.

Overnight it seems, in place of the meadow of opportunity, high and impenetrable walls have risen. The distant horizon is not visible anymore. My mind revolves around wondering what tomorrow is going to look like, nevermind the next year. With little warning, my choices have been restricted to choosing what day of the week to don a mask and brave the grocery store.

Can anyone relate? I think so. So many people I know have been in a more precarious economic position than ever before, and some have actually been shoved over the cliff of unemployment. To a greater degree than I expected, I hear family members expressing worry for one another’s health. To put it very bluntly, death has come closer than we like to think it’s allowed to. We forget that it can do that.

Like many of you, I also sponsor a child who attends Solid Rock Christian School in Uganda. I have been there a handful of times now, on one occasion for over a month, and I have been able to visit her family a few times. I have been thinking about her off and on. She is probably already a foot taller since I last saw her. She’s really at an age where she should be shooting up into tween years, with proper nutrition that is. Hm. Proper nutrition is a luxury in her life, I remember.

That is, it used to be before she was sponsored and went to school. Before she went to school, she was home all day. Her family didn’t have any savings. She couldn’t have afforded to go to a doctor without her dad borrowing money. I wonder how they are fairing under quarantine.

I realize that some of what the children and families in Uganda are experiencing now was normal. Not going to school, lack of access to healthcare, job insecurity, depleted savings. They know what it feels like to have high walls all around, to not be able to see to the horizon of next month, let alone next year. They know what it feels like for their daily menu of choices to consist only of things relevant to the day they’re living in. The heightened insecurity many of us are experiencing right now is (likely to a greater degree) part and parcel of the poor Ugandan family’s life.

As I have been pushed into heightened insecurity, my faith has been tested, and well it should be. This is the pressing question: Do I really believe that God is faithful to me and my family even now? And if I don’t, who am I to proclaim his faithfulness to a people who live like this every day?

Do I really depend on my money, career, or future hopes for my family, or do I depend on God? I think of the Ugandan families I know who walk with Jesus. To this day, I have not met people who depend on God more than they do. And not just in word by quoting a verse in an Instagram post. They depend on God with their whole heart.

Thinking of them reminds me of a song:

"Nobody said this would be easy
Anyone who did never went through anything painful
But faith is not some fragile thing that 
Shatters when we walk through something hard
So, we walk on whatever may come."

The families I know walked through a lifetime of uncertainty, and out of nowhere God brought some Americans and Ugandans together and started a school in the middle of the forgotten villages, just for them. I have talked to so many parents who prayed and prayed, and Solid Rock Christian School was the miraculous answer to their prayers for their children.

God was glorified by meeting their need. He did it for them. Though they’re in lockdown now, he can do it again.

God was glorified by meeting their need. We need His help no less. Whatever my needs are, the experience of my brothers and sisters in Uganda testifies to me that God can meet them

The quarantine will end, and more than ever students will need the school. I’m glad that God has continued to provide for me so that, from a distance, I can keep providing for them. I want to make sure that when the lockdown lifts, emergency food can be distributed from the school kitchens and the clinic can be re-opened. Whatever they need, God will provide, and if He uses me to provide it, so be it. As for us on this side of the Atlantic, I’m sure He will do the same.


How YOU have Encouraged US

It’s time for another acknowledgment that we’re all going through a season the likes of which we have never experienced.

Even through the national emergencies of 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2008, we could still get together. We could still have our friends over for dinner, let a houseguest come to visit, or go to a coffee shop with a close friend. Now, when at the very least we want to give someone a hug, we can’t. 

In this time, we are so proud of you all who support Zozu Project. You are some of the most generous, hopeful, and helpful people we know. Here, we want to highlight some of the wonderful things you have been up to that we have taken note of: 

• We follow a bunch of you on Instagram and Facebook. You have posted so many posts of gratitude, joy, and creativity. One of our sponsors made a post of ten things she found joy in over the week. It made us smile and warmed our hearts in a powerful way. 

• We got an email from another sponsor highlighting a special matching campaign that we could get in on as an organization. It’s so cool that you’re thinking of the kids and asking the question “How can we help?” Seeing people take on a team mindset is motivating. 

• Your comments on the stories we share on Facebook and Instagram have been so encouraging. Every “🙏🏼” and “Good to know!” has mattered to us and reminded us that we are a team working together for good. 

 We have received a few emails that say you’re praying for the families in Arua. The edge-of-disaster feeling some of us are experiencing right now? That’s their everyday experience. On their behalf, thank you for lifting the children up. Now is a great time to get on the prayer newsletter. Email elsie@zozuproejct.org to sign up. 

As always we will keep you up-to-date with first-hand news as we receive it from the staff in Uganda. Things continue to change by the day. 

Thank you so much for sticking with us and the kids, financially, relationally, and in prayer. We’re so glad to be in this with you. You are such examples of joy in the midst of trial, generosity in the midst of scarcity, and hope in the midst of change. Thank you.  

The Zozu Team, 
Elsie, Elaine, and Mick


Our Favorite Fundraiser of the Year- By a 7th Grader!

Last month we got a surprise email from a young man. His name is Brandon, and for a 7th grade class project he was studying global literacy. They were learning about how learning the simple abilities of reading and writing can change someone’s life, and in his words “As part of our study, I want to help improve literacy in the world.”

Brandon had heard of Zozu Project through his church, Highlands, who has partnered with us for a number of years now. He wondered if students at Solid Rock Christian School could use books, pencils, pens, and paper to improve their literacy. If he raised money to provide those supplies, he asked, would the students be able to benefit? “Absolutely yes!” Elsie [our Director of Communications] emailed back.

So, Brandon put on his own fundraiser making jam in his family’s kitchen and selling it at school. It wasn’t fancy. All he needed was some glass jars, strawberries and sugar, and a folding table to put them on. Amazingly, by this small act of love, he raised enough for pens, paper, and English textbooks for an entire classroom!

This material outcome is a great blessing, but there’s more. Brandon is in 7th grade– the exact same age as the students who will benefit from his work. He realized that he could do something, didn’t need it to be big and glamorous, and wasn’t daunted by fear of failure. Maybe he’s teaching us- what standard do we think we need to meet before we can do something? Perhaps making jam in a home kitchen is just as loving as a fundraiser at a winery with hundreds. Perhaps more so. We’re inspired by Brandon to not look to the right or left to see if we’re “good enough”– just look at the need and decided what you can do about it. Then do it.


And They’re Off!

Just this weekend, we said farewell for the semester to the graduate class of 2019. They’re moving to Kampala to attend a quality Christian boarding school where they will be challenged by new experiences, grow academically and spiritually, and find out more of who God made them to be.

Most of these students are only 12 or 13, and this will be the first time they have ever lived outside of Arua! Last year, we talked to some of their parents. “Are you nervous at all, sending your child off? Do you want to keep them with you?” we asked. They all said no, that they were simply excited to see their children succeed and couldn’t be prouder. 

Our school director told us that the community is delighted to be sending off not just one, but two classes – both this year’s class of 2019 and last year’s class of 2018. With each new class, the hope of the community grows. Most children in the area around Solid Rock don’t expect to graduate from elementary school, let alone attend a good high school. However, as these older neighborhood friends receive an education, work hard, and get the chance to pursue their dreams, the younger children can see a new future for themselves.

We are amazed by their teachers. They provide hope to the people around them, working in the community day in and day out. We are amazed by their sponsors. By giving up their own resources they make it possible for the children to go to school in the first place. And, of course, we are amazed by the children themselves. They own their education and have worked so hard to get here.

At the end of the day, we are simply humbled to be a part of God’s wonderful work through us all. If you haven’t joined us in the work, we invite you to sponsor a child today. If you have jumped into making a difference with us, thank you.


Surpassing Expectations

Three months ago in November, the candidate class at Solid Rock took their Primary Leaving Exam. This exam is standardized, administered by the government, determines their future, and is hard! Our students often come in with little educational foundation. Their parents usually aren’t able to help them study, as many of them can’t read. They don’t have older brothers or sisters who have done this before. They don’t have so much as a table at home to study at. Everything about their environment and upbringing is working against them.

So what do these students do with so many factors working against them? They work harder than we have ever seen a student work. Most importantly, their teachers come alongside. Staff and students come to school on Saturdays throughout the school year to run practice exams. The week of the exam, students sleep at school, joined by a few staff each night, so that they don’t have to walk the miles between school and home. They are encouraged to meet with teachers on breaks, do homework before leaving school, and work together to help each other study.

The class. A “funny face” picture.

The grading system used in Uganda is different but can be translated into our system of As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs. Last year, the graduating class of 2018 surpassed expectations with a 100% pass rate. Those 32 students were Solid Rock’s first class, and they essentially started their education at fourth grade. When all students passed, the vast majority with Bs, everyone rejoiced! They performed the best in the county, were going to high school, and stood as an example of hope for the younger students.


Students with their diplomas and graduation gifts- a new blanket and backpack to take to boarding school!

This year was an improvement beyond our wildest expectations. From mostly Bs and a few Cs and Ds in 2018, this year’s class progressed to entierly As and Bs, with three students scoring A+s, and one appearing in the local paper! In Arua district at large, 2% of students passed this same exam with an A. At Solid Rock, 22% did. According to the school director, Solid Rock is “the talk of the subcounty.”


Ugandan culture prizes education– people follow the local school’s exam results like Americans follow their football teams. In a communal society like this one, people identify with the performance of their group (family, school, tribe, etc) more than their individual performance. So when a school does well, everyone in the vicinity rejoices. Right now, Arua is rejoicing! Because of Solid Rock’s students the whole community, from the graduates themselves to their siblings to their teachers to families that don’t even have students at the school but just live nearby, has reason to be proud.

In the lives of these families, this pride is of much greater value than the test scores themselves. After all, the core of their suffering does not lie in low test scores but in low self-esteem. An abiding belief that you are unloveable and un-useable wrecks havoc in the hearts of children. But a belief that you are valuable and worthy– now that’s life-changing, empowering, and chain-breaking. Test scores alone do not confer worth, but rather reveal the inherent worth that these children have always had but have never seen in themselves.

Thank you to sponsors, supporters, teachers, and families for making this possible. God is doing a great work in this community and in each of these children’s lives, and His plans will never fail. We are humbled to be a part of it, and so thankful for all of you who have come alongside these children. As the students and teachers say, “to God be the glory!”

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