DEAR Day stands for Drop Everything and Read Day in Uganda! It's an annual event Peace Corps initiated last year in partnership with the Ugandan Ministry of Education and Sports. The idea is that in the whole country, at 11AM, everyone stops what they are doing and reads for at least 20 minutes. We want to encourage reading culture but at the same time not punish people who are not used to reading for long periods of time. This is especially helpful for primary schools where I'm sure if we asked them to read for an hour or so, things might get a little restless. 

DEAR Day was on March 5, and so many schools and organizations participated! Not just education Volunteers either.

At my college, we organized time for the tutors and staff, but the schedule was such that we didn't have the right amount of materials for the students, and the timing was not so good. But enjoy pictures of my staff reading!

One of my librarians! He is actually reading a PC book about libraries.

People love the newspaper here.

Even more when the newspaper is in your language.

One of the secretaries in the office specifically requested Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe is pretty popular around here.

Some tutors read on the veranda by the staffroom.

My PES (Professional Education Studies) tutor reading Teach Like a Champion, one of the books we used in our PC teacher training.

My Language tutor also reading Things Fall Apart, which is probably apt as this book was printed in the morning.

My counterpart, the Deputy Principal of Pre-Service, reading the news.

Another secretary in the administrative block.

What a beautiful day for literacy.

I loaned out a copy of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and this tutor said he really likes it! He asked to borrow it to keep reading.

For the support staff, including cooks, workmen, guards, drivers, etc., we did Read-Alouds with some Big Books that I got from Peace Corps. This was helpful because for some of them, English is not a very comfortable language. My Language tutor translated while we read.


Mid Service

The end of January brought our Mid-Service Conference, meaning we had completed 50% of our service so far, and it had been one year since we swore in as Volunteers. The overall mood was really positive, as it was the first time since the previous year we'd all been together as our own group. It was reassuring and comfortable to see everyone, to talk, laugh, reminisce, and just enjoy each other's company.

During the first day of the conference, we were asked to share a recap of our first year at site, and I chose to do a mood graph. Literally, a graph, with mood based on journal entries from my past year. I didn't journal everyday, and I didn't put in mood numbers for days without entries, so there's a lot of gaps. But I think it's helpful to look back and see it.

I've already started another mood chart for 2015, the difference being that I rate each day at the end of it, versus going back and rating an entire year at once. One thing I've definitely noticed is that I have way more good days than bad ones, but I remember the bad ones more.

We also worked on plans for how we would use our second year, attended some sessions about grants, and actually making and updating your LinkedIn. Never too early to think about the future! I didn't take so many pictures because honestly, I was too busy chatting with everyone. It was wonderful.

Also there was one day where I looked awesome and was just standing around, and so one of my good PCV friends who always has a camera decided on impromptu photo shoot.

Overall, it was strange to think we had one year left, and that the first one had already gone so fast. Our trainers from the previous education group, and most of the previous education group had COSed (Close of Service, meaning they finished their contract). A new Health and Agribusiness (HAAG) group had come in June 2014, and a new education group had come in November 2014. In six months (three months as of now, March 2015) a new HAAG group would arrive, the 2013 group would depart, and our group would be the "seniors" on campus.

Time flies, people. And sometimes, it rides in a matatu.

P.S. Matatus = minibuses which serve as public shared taxis 


Gulu on Holiday

So Gulu.

Over the long term break (basically December - January) I helped out at a high school girls' engineering camp in Gulu! This camp is sponsored by an American organization which has been coming to Uganda for a while. I was invited by one of my RPCV friends who was coming back to UG just to do this camp for two weeks. The first week focused on water filtration and purification, and the second week focused on solar cookers. I was working with two other women, Aarthi and Erin, who work in the STEM field, which was wonderful and empowering for the girls we were working with. We also had help from two male Ugandan teachers, Chris and Kennedy.

The beginnings of class.
After some introductory lessons, we asked the girls to build towers which had to meet certain requirements. Their materials were index cards, tape, and binder clips.

Cost calculations for water filters. 

Clay balls to remove bad smells and color.

Erin and Aarthi work on their filter!

Filter made by yours truly and my fellow PCV Jay.

Indian dinner night!

The teams line up for judging day. The judges taste their water and grade them on it.

The time keeper!


For solar cookers, we first took the temperature of the water in the shade to get our baseline.

More presentations!

Our girls spoke about their projects in front of the other camp participants, (there were robotics classes, and a group of blind students who did presentations) as well as in front of their families.