Raise the Roof Academy, Bwassandeku, Uganda
Giving hope and building a future through education! The mission of Raise the Roof Academy is to “engage groups and individuals to enter into empowering relationships that foster hope, stability, and wholeness, with children in rural Uganda who are orphans or vulnerable, in the work of building and resourcing schools as centers of transformation.” The team at Raise the Roof believes that education provides the highest return of any social investment in rural Africa. Education empowers people.
Raise the Roof Academy was built in the fall of 2010 and opened its doors for a school with thirty children. The academy began a child sponsorship program to introduce people in the United States to the children in rural Uganda to help them receive an education.
At Raise the Roof Academy, the children receive breakfast and lunch, educational opportunities, health and hygiene training, and the caring embrace of a local school and church that fosters love and growth.
Raise the Roof Academy is home for more than 600 children. As the school grows, Raise the Roof leaders hope to have enough space to accommodate non-sponsored siblings. A permanent building will transform the community for generations to come and allow Raise the Roof to welcome thousands of children each year and provide them with an education.
A Story to Tell
Meet Shabila Kayikulu. She is nine years old and is in Primary 4. She lives with her 80-year-old grandma and her older sister, Joan.
Shabila has had many health and hygiene-related issues. Her living conditions are harsh. Even a bar of soap is a luxury. Shabila used to walk many miles to attend school, and this contributed to her poor health. A donation of a van to Raise the Roof Academy made it possible for the Academy to help transport children like Shabila who live farther away. Now Shabila is able to attend school daily, and she has been able to catch up on her school work.
Shabila has to fetch water every evening and morning from a distant spring. This means waking up very early and going to bed late at night. When her older sister, Joan, is away, Shabila is the head of the home.
During a 2015 mission trip, missionaries took the Primary 4 and Primary 5 students on a field trip to Makerere University in Kampala. Shabila participated on that field trip, which was the first time she had seen a tarmac road, ridden in a bus, or traveled to a big city. She saw a glimpse of a brighter future, and she dreams of becoming a nurse to help her people.
(The following activities may be used in any order that works with the children you teach.)
Locate Uganda on a map. Bwassandeku is a small rural community in Uganda. It is not shown on many maps. How far does Shabila live from where you live?
Uganda is a very beautiful country. It is landlocked, which means there is not any water surrounding it. Many people live in rural areas and rely on farming as a way of life.
There is not a lot of water in this area. Food is scarce. Soap, shampoo, and other hygiene products are expensive, so good hygiene and personal health are problematic for the children who live in this area. Many people in this area struggle economically and physically. Raise the Roof provides children an opportunity to go to school so that they might be able to make their own way in the world.
Read Jeremiah 29:11-14 together. In this Scripture, the prophet Jeremiah reminds us that God is with us, that God will take care of us, and that God will bring us home. God is our helper and our protector. Ask the following wonder questions:
- I wonder what you learned about God.
- I wonder what you learned about yourself.
- I wonder who helps you.
- I wonder where your safe place is.
Talk with the children about how Raise the Roof provides a safe place for children to go during the day to learn and to grow. Pray for the children, their sponsors, and their teachers.
Sing songs that remind you how God is with us, taking care of us, and protecting us. Include one or more of the following:
“He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands”, 518, The Worshiping Church
“Thank You, Lord,” 84, United Methodist Hymnal
“On Eagle’s Wings,” 143, United Methodist Hymnal
Invite children to use the medium of their choosing to create their safe place. You might provide several options, including –but not limited to– crayons, watercolors, Legos®, pipe cleaners, chalkboard, Playdough®. As you walk around, invite children to share their creation with you. Respond by saying: “I am so glad you have a place where you feel safe. Thank you for sharing it with me.”
Children might also choose to share with a group. For those who want to share their creations, invite everyone back to a common area, give each child an opportunity to share, and then invite children to respond with the words above. Close with a prayer thanking God for places that make us feel safe and asking God to provide a safe place for all of God’s children.
Break Bread Together
There are many people living in this part of Africa. The people of Uganda eat various types of vegetables that they grow, including maize and starchy roots like cassava and sweet potatoes. They also eat meat or chicken stews served with rice, flatbread, ugali (porridge) or matoke (a cooked plantain/banana mash). A sweet favorite is a type of doughnut called mandazi. If you have time, you might choose to make some mandazi and bring them to your classroom for children to taste. There are many recipes available online. Or you might choose to bring in flatbread and invite children to eat this with bananas. As you eat, talk about what it would be like to live in Uganda. Ask children to share what they are thankful for.
The children at Raise the Roof Academy received a new playground in 2016. Imagine never having a playground and then receiving the gift of a safe place to run and play! Ask the children what games they like to play on the playground. Then as space permits, take time to play one or two of those games. Or if you have a playground at your church, take time to play; then ask the children to share their favorite part at the end of their play time. You might also choose to play a game of duck-duck goose, freeze tag, hopscotch, or another beloved children’s game as a reminder that it is important to play and to have a safe place to play too!
Bless One Another
As you prepare to say goodbye, thank the children for joining you as you all learned more about the children in Uganda and the Raise the Roof project. Ask them to go home and share what they learned with their families and to invite their families and friends to help raise money for children in Bwassandeku to have a safe place to grow and learn. As they leave, take time to offer each child a blessing:
Ask the children if they would like to receive a blessing, then make the shape of a cross on each child’s forehead or hand while saying these words:
(Make a vertical line.) “God loves you.”
(Make a horizontal line.) “God is with you.”
(Look the child in his/her eyes.) “Go share God’s love with others.”
- Invite the congregation to pay attention this week to where they feel safe. Give each person a Lego® block to carry as a reminder.
- Suggest that every time they enter their safe place (home, school, work, car, etc), they hold the Lego® and pray: “God, thank you for this safe space. Help me work with others to create a safe place for your children to grow and learn.”
- Invite families each night to share where they felt safe as they place their Lego® blocks on the dinner table or in another area of the home where everyone can see. Over the week, the Lego® creations will grow.
- Invite families to decide together how much they want to donate for each Lego® block in their creation. This might be $.25, $1, $5, $10. Invite families to bring their Lego® creations and donations at the end of the week to church. Take pictures of the Lego® creations and post the photos and the amounts raised on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtag #childrensfund.
Send all money collected to your annual conference treasurer marked The Advance #3021113. (You can also give electronically at http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/3021113.) OR you may send your money directly to: United Methodist Children’s Fund for Christian Mission (or UM Children’s Fund), Discipleship Ministries, PO Box 340003, Nashville, TN 37203-0003. (Please include your church name and complete address with your contribution.)