February 2, 2004 – our school opened and a new era began!

Take a step back in time and read co-founder John Wanda’s thoughts on Arlington Junior School’s Opening Day

On February 2, 2004, a school bell rang for the first time at the REACH for Uganda in Bumwalukani village. Seventy-eight children, from ages 6 to 13, excitedly filed through the new doors to their new classrooms. Each boy wore a checkered shirt, grey shorts and stockings, and black shoes. The girls wore a checkered dress, red stockings, and black shoes. Each girl or boy carried a backpack, in which there was a math set, six exercise or notebooks, two pens, a pencil, a one-foot ruler, an eraser, a sharpener, and some crayons. Each child had a classroom, all the scholastic materials they needed, and a teacher ready to teach them on the first day of school.

When the history of Bumwalukani village is eventually written, this date will stand out as the beginning of a new era.  Through the generosity of friends at the American Chiropractic Association, Bethel United Church of Christ and many other friends and well wishers, we have spent the last two months preparing for this day. We began building the new school on November 10, 2003. Furniture will be arriving in bits and pieces as we pay for it. Two of the classrooms have no windows or doors, and there is no lighting. Still, we consider it a great achievement to have opened this school today.

In a period of less than three months, we identified and bought land, moved the occupants to other sites, and began constructing three blocks of the new school. As we speak today, the main block is fully done. The other two blocks were roofed over the weekend, courtesy of a drive led by Susan Peters and Beatrice Tierney. Three latrines, one for boys, one for girls, and the other for the teachers, have been completed.

REACH is the first school in the area where children will wear shoes to school. To put it in perspective, I did not wear shoes of any kind until 9th grade when I was 15. I bought my first shoes from a fellow student for about $1, after he had used them for two years. To imagine that these kids will start school in grade 1 with new shoes makes me almost jealous.

Starting this school has been a journey in faith. It began as an idea in Bumwalukani village, offered as a suggestion to improve on the scholarship program already underway. This faith journey continues today. Even as we thank all of you for being so helpful, we encourage you to continue walking this journey with us. Bumwalukani village needs you as much as ever. When the people of this village see the new buildings in their midst, when they see their children walking to school in their new uniforms, when they see the curiosity of their neighbors asking about their school, they cannot feel but pride and happiness. They point with one hand over the hills to the source of their happiness. Beyond those hills, they say, are people who believe in us. We may thus be far away from Bumwalukani, but we are now considered their neighbors. Let’s keep that neighborly spirit going!

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