Sitting Down for a Good Cause

Photos by Aaron Eichorst

What if there wasn’t a school in your town? Would you walk miles to get to one? Would you sit on the floor if there weren’t any desks and scribble your lessons in the dirt if you didn’t have paper? Would you sit outside under a tree if there weren’t any classrooms? Many kids in sub-Saharan Africa would and do just that because they don’t have a school in their village.

Ms. Witthauer and her third graders spend a day as rural Ugandan students.

Enter Ms. Witthauer’s third- and fourth-grade classes at Clark Elementary in Charlottesville, Virginia. They heard about kids in Africa without schools and wanted to help. So, they talked to Building Tomorrow (BT), an organization that raises awareness and money to build schools in these countries. They find areas where kids have few, if any, schools, and with the help of the local community, build

10-room schools. So far, BT has built four schools in Uganda and is in the process of building six more!

Ms. Witthauer’s classes spent one week learning about kids in Uganda and other sub-Saharan African countries. At the end of the week, the students held a Sit for Good day in their classroom.

For the whole day, they gave up their desks, chairs, books, and other classroom materials to see what a school day in rural Uganda might be like. Some of Ms. Whitthauer’s students share their experiences.

To see a video about these students’ experience, click here!

“First, we just wanted to raise awareness about Uganda,” reports Khalia. “But, the students of Clark decided to also raise money to help Ugandans build better schools. We gave our classrooms buckets to collect coins. One day we had a very successful pencil sale. Then we had a bake sale that was even more successful. We also made teachers and kids aware of a Ugandan student’s needs through the morning and afternoon announcements. One day we participated in a day of Ugandan life.By the end of the week, we raised $682.95!”

Luka and Amber calculate the costs of constructing a Building Tomorrow Academy.

So what’s it like to spend the day as a student in a Ugandan classroom?

“When our third- and fourth-grade classes were in that one small room, there was no personal space. We were all sitting on the floor, close to our friends, just like Ugandan kids,” says Shayla, one of Ms. Witthauer’s students. “We didn’t have any chairs or supplies. In Uganda, they follow rules like we do here in Charlottesville. But, students in Uganda must use one supply all day. If my pencil broke, I would have to use someone else’s pencil because, as a Ugandan student, I would only get one all day!”

After learning about Ugandan culture, Olivia notes that, “most American children do not have to get water from wells in the morning, but Ugandan children do. We have books, pencils, chairs, and more. Some Ugandan students don’t have these things. Ugandan schools may have dirt floors, limited space, or not even have a roof!”

“I would want the Ugandan students to have the supplies we have … and to encourage reading in their schools because it helps you to learn about the world,” continues Jasmyne.

“I would make sure they have bright colors in their classrooms. They should not have to learn in a drab environment,” offers Mila. “I would also encourage them to read, write, and prepare for getting a job in the future.”

“The most fulfilling part of collecting money for Sit for Good was being cramped in a tiny room with 30 people, counting money, and putting it in 50-cent, $2-, $5-, and $10-rolls,” recounts Aesop. “It was cool knowing all of that money was going to build schools for kids in need.”

“Having a new school would change my life if I was a Ugandan child,” says Amber.

Jasmyne agrees. “If I was a Ugandan student and had a new school, it would mean that someone cares for me and that I was a very, very special kid. To have a new or better school would change my whole life.”

Children in Sentigi, Uganda wave excitedly at the site of their future school, The Building Tomorrow Academy of Sentigi.

“A new school would make me feel cared for and it would give me another chance to have a better life and education. An education would help me contribute to everyone that I meet,” declares Mila.

Ian summarizes by saying, “What started out as a project to raise awareness ended up being a project to raise money. We were proud to help Ugandan students. It was a great accomplishment to have our whole school participate. It was a lot of work, but we did it, and we are helping for tomorrow.”

To learn more about Building Tomorrow and the Sit for Good program, visit the BT Web site at sitforgood.org.

When building a school in Uganda, every dollar matters!

  • $1.00 buys nine clay bricks
  • $2.50 buys a box of nails
  • $10 buys a 10-foot piece of gutter
  • $20 buys a desk
  • $45,000 will build a fully furnished school for 325 students.

Community members volunteer over 25,000 hours to complete the construction.

Are you curious about how much your education costs? Click here to find out with Building Tomorrow’s “education calculator!”

A typical day for a grade school student in rural Uganda

  • 6:00 a.m.-Wake up; clean up
  • 6:15 a.m.-Collect water from the well
  • 6:45 a.m.-Clean the compound at home; take animals to the farm to graze
  • 7:00 a.m.-Have breakfast
  • 7:15 a.m.-Start to walk to school
  • 7:35 a.m.-Arrive at school
  • 7:40 a.m.-School assembly
  • 8:00 a.m.-Classes begin
  • 10:00 a.m.-Break
  • 10:40 a.m.-Lessons
  • 1:00 p.m.-Lunch break
  • 2:00 p.m.-Back to class
  • 3:00 p.m.-End class; start to work in the garden; clean compound
  • 4:00 p.m.-School ends; start walking home
  • 5:30 p.m.-Have something to eat
  • 6:00 p.m.-Collect water from the well; get animals back from the farm; collect firewood
  • 8:00 p.m.-Return home; clean up
  • 8:45 p.m.-Start homework
  • 9:30 p.m.-Have supper
  • 10:00 p.m.-Finish homework
  • 11:00 p.m.-Go to bed

* Source: Building Tomorrow Web site

Are you and your friends or school involved in a special project to help others? If so, tell us about it, and we may feature the story in Jack and Jill! Write to me at lia@uskidsmags.com or “Get Involved,” Jack and Jill, P.O. Box 567, Indianapolis, IN 46206. Include your name and phone number so we can contact you if your project is featured!