My name is Charles Cranford and I am currently interning at the James Place and working specifically with the preschool ministry. Though I have been on trips with HEAL in the past, and even visited Tina and Trey in Uganda in 2012, it has been such a blessing to finally see all of their prayers and hard work come to fruition in the form of the James Place. I am blown away by each staff member as they use their God-given gifts to serve the women and children who are here daily. Though I was a complete stranger to most of them a little over two weeks ago, they have quickly made me feel like family.
Our preschool has fourteen students who are here Monday through Friday, and our older students (4 and 5 year olds) return every afternoon for an hour of tutoring as they prepare to begin school this coming year. They are eager to learn and full of a healthy blend of energy and joy. There is nothing quite like hearing their voices singing praises to God every morning as I prepare my part of the lesson. They know they are loved; and that is what was most immediately evident to me upon my arrival. During tutoring last week, I was teaching them the "G" sound and the word "good". I asked them to give me an example of something or someone who is good in order to see if they understood, and one little boy in the back emphatically raised his hand and blurted out proudly, "Jaja Tina!". Uncle Trey and many other members of our staff were named shortly after. I believe that says more about the staff and their hearts for God and our children than anything I could ever write. Each day I see this on display in their willingness to teach, listen to, play with, prepare food for (and clean up food after the ensuing mess) and spend time with the children.
Having taught in the American school system and having worked with teachers and students in Belize, I was not quite sure what to expect from our students here in Uganda. However, after observing our teachers, Aisha and Jackie, for one day, I knew the James Place kids were in good hands. They are working hard not only to educate their students to the best of their abilities, but also to continue to better educate themselves as teachers. Their passion and constant desire to better understand the material themselves will serve their students more than they will ever know. As a teacher who specializes in reading and phonics, I was also pleasantly surprised to find that most of the children already knew their letter sounds and are even starting to read words! We are working hard in our tutoring each afternoon to make sure these skills continue to improve before they start school, and at the rate they are learning, I believe they will be more than adequately prepared. Aisha also has given me the task of creating an alphabet craft each morning so that even our younger ones can begin to better understand their sounds and letters. If you know me, "artistic" is probably not your first choice of words to describe me, but the kids have had a blast constructing objects for each of their letters and proudly displaying them on the walls each day.
As someone who is passionate about education, I know that the preparation our kids receive at the James Place every day will be more valuable to them than any of them can ever realize now. They are given careful attention and tools to learn each day that most children in Uganda cannot even dream of having. Even more importantly than that, they are being shown the love of Christ each day, manifest in our teachers and staff. They not only get to hear the Word of God every day, they get to see it lived out. As you read this, please pray that God will continue to equip Tina, Trey and the rest of the HEAL Ministries staff with the wisdom to continue to lead and serve the women and children here at the James Place, and that He will continue to raise up leaders all over Uganda to serve and love others in the same manner. I know that we have only begun to see the fruits of their work, and I pray that each child here will continue to grow not only in knowledge, but also in their understanding of God and His love for them.