A Day at Preschool:
Its an early start for the caregivers, as the children start arriving as early as 7-30 am. The "mamas" as they are called, go out into the field early in the morning and drop the little ones off at the centre. Three years ago, when the centre opened, the children arrived so dirty that Pappy, our wonderful caregiver, would have to wash them before they could go into the classroom. Thank God, that has changed now. And with the arrival of the well, there is plenty of water for regular handwashing.
By 8 am all the children have arrived and are gathered outside. They stand in colourful, ragged rows, or sometimes in a circle and sing the national anthem. After that, they play singing games or jumping games, while they are waiting for their porridge. They children are split up by age into three different classes and sit in their desks, patiently waiting for their breakfast.( the very first fundraiser that we did three years ago, was held to raise funds to renovate this building and divide the one large room into multiple classrooms, and purchase desks and chairs).
The porridge soon arrives, in big jugs, prepared by one of the house girls. Some mornings I helped with the distribution of the porridge. The first morning that I helped out, I completely choked up, tears running down my face. These little ones, who just a few moments ago where rambunctious and noisy, where now sitting in their desks, some with their hands folded in their laps, quietly waiting. Slowly they would drink this nutritious meal, returning the empty cup to the teacher.
Donating money for food is one thing, but actually passing a full cup of porridge to a hungry child is something totally different. Most of these children will not have eaten since their last meal at the preschool the day before.
I also got a glimpse of some of the 300 plus children that are waiting to get into a preschool. On family day they come to the school and the team is trying to feed them all. Making the resources stretch that far is not easy and breaks your heart. Here are the children that JHA presently supports, in their uniforms, or at least somewhat tidy in clean clothes and on the other hand there are the remaining children, dirty, torn clothes, no shoes or broken shoes….and even more hungry than the Preschool children…..and than you go outside the Gashora sector to the next village in the Bugesera District and the story repeats itself over and over again…..
Once they finished their porridge, the children either go outside to play ball games in the field, or now with the new playground at the new school, they play leapfrog and jumping games. Or they just hang out picking up branches and playing with the leaves. There are just the few toys we brought in 2018 and they can only be passed out to small supervised groups of kids. Being shown how to put puzzles together or stitch the string through the cardboard card. Trying to keep duplo blocks etc at the school is always a challenge as they often end up in little pockets and become prized possessions.
The big parachute continues to be the all time favourite and has everyone squealing with delight as the ball bounces off into all the directions.
The few times that Rogers ( JHA team leader) has time to come down to the center the kids get a real workout. Game after game, Rogers tirelessly sings and plays with them and chases them and they hang off of him, never wanting to let him go. In fact all the volunteer caregivers are doing a tremendous job, considering the lack of resources and training. Though this is presently changing as we have a wonderful new teacher from California in Gashora and a volunteer from AIESEC helping with the training of the volunteer caregivers and helpers.