It’s difficult for me to sum up my experience at HEAL Ministries so far, but it is nothing short of eye opening, inspirational, and moving. It is incredible how a place so far from home can still make you feel at home. The love displayed within the walls of the James Place is unlike any I have experienced before. HEAL has helped me recognize the importance of reaching out to others and creating relationships amongst all different kinds of people. HEAL gives women the opportunity to advance their lives through different job opportunities. These jobs help women showcase their own creativity, while also helping them to develop useful skills for their future. My teaching skills have allowed me to develop relationships with women, men, and children of all ages and walks of life. Overall, HEAL has taught me to open my heart to others who, outwardly, seem different, but in reality are not so dissimilar to me.
One of my favorite memories so far has been developing a relationship with a little boy who is in the childcare program who speaks absolutely no English. I was working as I normally do, and saw that he was crying, moaning, and visibly sick. After taking his temperature, sitting with him as he took a nap, and getting him to eat some food, he was taken to the doctor, where it was discovered he had pneumonia. I continued with my day and when I saw that he was back at the James Place, I went up to check on him. As I approached him, he immediately reached out his hand towards me, showing me the IV bandage that the doctor put on him. It may seem like a minor moment, but his recognition of me after I had spent the day worrying about him and caring for him was very special. Ever since this day, I am welcomed by a big hug from this boy when I see him. I tell him kwagala nyo (“I love you so much”) quite frequently and love on him whenever I can. This memory is one of many favorites here at the James Place, and I am grateful to experience this one, as well as many other similar ones throughout my time here.
My day at the James Place starts at 8:00am with breakfast, and then entering into preschool class at 8:15. For the next two hours, I read a Bible story and help students learn reading, writing, and math. There are 13 students in preschool, and we divide them in groups based upon their ability level. These small groups help allow students to receive one on one attention, which is helpful as they prepare to enter P1 (the equivalent of elementary school back home). At 10:00, I start helping the supervisors make their reports, which are used to keep track of weekly data and duties that keep the James Place running. These reports are typed on the computer, which is a skill that many of the staff members are not used to doing. It is always fun to start working with a new staff member who has never used a computer before - watching their elation, nervousness, and joy at using a computer for the first time is amongst my favorite things here. Reports normally take a few days, but it gives me one-on-one time with many staff members. I also try to teach a new computer skill each time a staff member reports, so that they can build upon and understand how to work a computer in depth. Lately, I’ve shown many staff members the website “Google Earth” and we have used satellite images to look at different parts of the world, which I believe helps them develop a global perspective and an understanding of the world outside of just Uganda. This is an integral piece of my teaching philosophy and something I really focused on back home, so I am glad I am able to continue this over here.
As the day draws to a close, I return to preschool and help students play dress up, go on a field trip, play in the sandbox, or do a craft. Tutoring is the very last thing I do; I pull students aside to do one-on-one work and further develop what they have been learning in class. Looking back at my day, I feel very lucky because I am able to work closely with staff in all parts of the ministry, as well as with students in preschool and childcare. It fills me with joy that I am able to teach at so many different levels, but also that I am able to learn so much from the staff and students each day. The love that I am able to receive and give to others here is my favorite thing about HEAL Ministries; it is truly a ministry that embraces Jesus’ call to love others and I am lucky to experience this love and these relationships everyday.