Crestview Elementary School students meet Ugandan pen pals
Writing letters to pen pals may be a dying art, but not only are students at Crestview Elementary School writing letters, a few were lucky enough to meet their correspondents Wednesday morning.
Joy Field, who teaches fifth-grade science at Crestview, said she and Principal Stacy Davis were inspired after reading “Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption,” by Katie J. Davis. The author moved to Uganda to work with the people there, especially orphans.
Field knew a couple at her church, Marc and Glenna Applewhite, who travel to Uganda each year as missionaries, and they connected her with the Lulwanda Children’s Home in Uganda.
Field said she and Davis decided they would like students to communicate as pen pals with the children in Uganda, a practice she acknowledged is not done much anymore.
“I’ve taught 10 years,” Field said. “This is the first time that I’ve been at a school that’s done something like that.”
Field said it is good practice for students in both countries to write letters.
Because there are only 109 students in Lulwanda, Field said younger classes that are still learning to read and write, including kindergarten, first and second grades, have taken just one pen pal for the entire class to share. But in grades three through five, each class has been assigned eight or nine Ugandan students to write, with three or four students writing to each orphan.
Field said students who attend Crestview Elementary School are “so blessed.”
“There’s a lot of times that our kids struggle to appreciate the education that they’re getting,” Field said, adding that she wants students to learn to have that kind of appreciation.
Teachers and administrators at Crestview also hope to have their students raise money and school supplies for the students in Uganda.
Although the pen pals at Crestview only recently sent off their first letters to Uganda, all of the Crestview students were visited Wednesday by two Ugandan students and some of the founders of the Lulwanda Children’s Home.
The two Ugandan students were accompanied by Morris and Aida Ogenga, who are church planters in Uganda.
Ogenga said she and her husband have been coming to the United States seeking help for a school for orphans since 2000. The school started that year with 25 student residents. Today, Lulwanda Children’s Home has 109 student residents, all orphans.
Aida Ogenga said the couple started bringing a pair of children on the trips to the U.S. to meet with sponsors so they can see the impact of the children’s home.
Sarah Fatuma, 11, and Siraji Maumo, 12, both gave prepared speeches to students in the cafeteria of Crestview Elementary School. Sarah Fatuma is called Sarah in the United States, but goes by only Fatuma in Uganda.
The students in Uganda usually speak Luganda as their first language, but they also learn English from kindergarten on, Aida Ogenga said. People usually speak seven or eight languages on average in Uganda, she said, but there are actually 56 dialects in the country.
The Crestview students were very attentive to the messages of the students, who both talked about losing their parents and later being able to go to the children’s home.
But it was a song and dance the Ugandan students performed with Ogenga that most excited the students, some of whom could be seen shadowing some of the movements in the audience. Students were especially appreciative of a portion of the dance featuring Fatuma.
As soon as they were done, Davis took the microphone, asking if they could do the song again and teach the students to do the motions, to the surprise of the Ugandans. Crestview students literally jumped out of their seats at the chance to learn a new song and dance.
Later as four fifth-graders led Fatuma and Siraji on a tour of Crestview, the two enjoyed a bug dance with kindergarten students, and then the kindergarten goodbye song, which the two were later heard singing in the hallway: “Adios, amigos, adios, goodbye!”
The fifth-grade tour guides were excited that the Ugandans learned the song so quickly and explained that it had both English and Spanish words.
The students toured several classrooms, looking into an art class, participating in a tag-like game in a physical education class and getting hands-on experience in a science experiment involving making volcanoes from Play-Doh and vinegar.
But again, it was the music class that seemed to most excite the young students from Uganda.
Each of them took turns on a variety of bell instruments, but when Ogenga entered the music room a bit later, she and the students each grabbed one of the drums and performed an impromptu concert of their traditional music for the students in that class.
After the tour, the fifth-grade tour guides presented the Ugandans with four large bags of games, books and school supplies gathered by Crestview students on just one day’s notice.
Following that presentation in the library, Siraji said he hopes to one day be a pilot, even though he only flew for the first time a few weeks ago. His favorite subject in school is math. Before coming to the U.S., he had never had to wear long clothing, and he said he was hopeful that he would see snow in Lubbock today.
Fatuma said what she likes best about her own school is that students can be close to their teachers. “And you learn many interesting things,” she said.
Her favorite part of coming to Crestview, she said, was “talking with them (the students) and singing with them and teaching them new songs, and they also teach (us) new songs.”
In the Lulwanda Children’s Home, Fatuma said, the students actually have music competitions at school. She said she enjoyed playing new instruments in Crestview’s music class.
Glenna Applewhite told Crestview students during the presentations in the cafeteria that students in Uganda could really use school supplies, such as metric rulers, crayons, dry erase markers, scissors, chalk, handwriting paper and construction paper.
Field, the teacher, told students they would have another chance to help the Ugandan school and they would get a note in their weekly folder telling how to help, she said.
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