UGANDA, Africa — Sending donations to schools in Africa has a large impact on the educational system there. Funding can support building projects, teachers’ salaries, supplies for students or after-school supplementary programs. Many times, however, donors in the United States do not have the opportunity to see the direct impact of their efforts in Africa. This is not the case with the Sister Schools program.
In order to increase the impact on recipients in Africa and donors in America, Terry McGill started a program called “Sister Schools.” The program partners schools, individuals and businesses in the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. with schools in Uganda. Sister schools tells the U.S. donors exactly what a specific school in Uganda needs and then distributes the supplies donated or money raised to that school.
The program varies slightly depending on the age group of the donors involved. For young students, teachers in the Puget Sound area can sign their classes up for partnerships with classes of similarly aged students in Uganda. Sister Schools will show pictures and share stories of the children in Uganda with students in Washington. The American students then hold supply drives to gather donations for their counterparts in Africa.
Once the donations have been collected, Sister Schools’ volunteers bring them directly to the children in Uganda. They take pictures of the children receiving the supplies and record their reactions. The volunteers send the pictures and reactions back to the classroom of young donors in the U.S. so that they can see the direct impact of their efforts.
Older students involved in the program learn the ways that funding can benefit their partner classrooms. For example, American students may collect pens and pencils for supply donations, but also raise money for a school to build a functional library. The follow-up process is exactly the same; volunteers from Sister Schools always send pictures of recipients and information about their donations back to the classrooms in the U.S.
Individuals or businesses interested in helping through Sister Schools can support the scholarship and literacy programs. The Ugandan government’s support for education covers a limited amount of the funds needed to send a child to school. At the primary level, families have to pay for uniforms and some textbooks and supplies. After seventh grade, families have to pay for tuition as well.
Through its scholarship program, Sister Schools pairs an individual or business with a specific student in Uganda. Donors can watch their donations successfully send a child through years of formal education. The literacy program requires larger donations, but is a very effective way for businesses to do philanthropic work. The donations raised through this program make it possible for volunteers in Uganda to build literacy centers that supplement in-school education.
Individuals who feel inclined to donate their time rather than, or in addition to, their money, may sign up to volunteer with Sister Schools. Volunteers can help organize donations at the warehouse in Seattle or take the journey to Uganda to become one of the distribution volunteers with first-hand experiences.
Sister Schools adds a personalized element to the donation process. Students, individuals and businesses are more motivated to donate because they actually see the impact of their generosity. One teacher whose students participated in the first year program comments, “Many of our students have developed a passion for service work after their involvement in Sister Schools programs.”
Additionally, many classrooms choose to keep in touch with the schools in Uganda by establishing pen-pal relationships. In this way, children in the U.S. continue to learn about the culture and living conditions of children that are the same age as them in Uganda. By provoking thought in Americans and providing Ugandan students with supplies necessary for academic empowerment, Sister Schools creates a lasting effect in both areas of the globe.
– Emily Walthouse