It has been just two days, and yet we've met as a board two times, gathered for a wonderful meal together, and enjoyed working in dynamic collaboration to arrive at a unified understanding of how Clover will grow and support the children we serve. Our developing friendship reaches beyond the already unique bond of trust with our Ugandan colleagues; we embrace each other as friends and look forward to a long future in making a dramatic, positive difference in the lives of the children, families and community we serve.
Clover Uganda's Executive Director, (and Salma's mother) kindly received us when we arrived earlier on Wednesday. She and her driver Faisal have been remarkable companions as we loaded the car at the airport with 7 heavy suitcases, navigated through the crazy and crowded streets of Kampala, and stopped many times to change money, buy a sim card, pick up a few groceries.
Today, we arrived at the Clover Center delighted to see a wonderful environment that has been created for these children. The middle class with teacher Millie, the upper class with teacher Mary, and the babies with Esther, Clover's Program Director (until we hire another needed teacher), all engaged in learning and play. The walls of the small classrooms are covered with color and letters and numbers and pictures of animals and objects and words. A lunch of corn, rice and beans was being prepared in the kichen.
We heard from Esther, whose shares her home with the Clover center (until we hopefully, within a couple of years, build a school), that in the 8 months the children have been with Clover, the positive change in their physical and emotional and social ways has been significant. Upon first arriving, the children were "dull", sick, malnourished, not social, often marked by injury. Their homes in the neighboring slums are often one small room of mud walls and metal roofs shared with two or many more siblings and adults, without water, and polluted streams just outside the door. It is not uncommon, as we walked through the slums of Busega, to see a child as young as two, walking alone, barely clothed, barefoot on the muddy pathways between structures.
To then walk into Clover and see the 40 children that are fortunate be there (as many are waiting for the opportunity), with sweet smiles and engaging eyes and true interest, it is clearly something those of you who support our efforts should feel beyond good about. You are indeed making a difference, and Clover will be certain the the difference is a lasting one--that these children will be given the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Peter, Joannie and I are in awe by what our Ugandan team has accomplished with so little. As Esther said, Clover is much more than a day care, beyond a preschool, as we take care of the children we serve as if they are our own. Clover knows each child, recognizes if they are sick, nurtures their confidence, encourages their learning, provides clothes and provisions, and food for empty stomachs, and accompanies them to the doctor if they are sick.
As I write, I hear the rooster crow (really), and I need to rise for another full day. I feel deeply fortunate to be a part of Clover.
All photos are on Clover's Facebook page. Need to run...