Tag Archives: Uganda

Raise Your Hand with PED

Happy New Year from the PED family! We hope you all enjoyed the holidays and that 2013 is off to great start for you. We’re ready to kick 2013 off with a bang and appreciate your continued support as we make this our best year yet.

On January 26, we’ll be hosting a premiere for our very first PED mission statement video, which provides an in-depth look at the education system in Uganda. This premiere is incredibly important to our 2013 programs and we hope you’ll join us! Mark your calendars and bring your friends and family!

When: Saturday, January 26, 2013, 7-9 pm

Where: Instituto Cervantes Chicago, 31 W. Ohio St, Chicago, IL 60654


   and visit our Facebook event page

In the meantime: If you’re already part of the PED family and want to demonstrate your continued support, please visit our Facebook and Twitter pages and download our “Raise Your Hand” cover and profile image – then, upload it as your own profile picture with the caption provided.

As always, we appreciate your help!




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Faces of PED Friday (Debbie Damron)


In the summer of 2008 and 2009, my friend Dianne and I went to Uganda. We had each sponsored a family in need from Namyoya and during these trips, we were able to visit them. Our hearts melted as we met with the families and school children. We both felt as if we had been called by God to serve these very poor but loving people. We each were excited to see what God had planned for us next.

In April 2010 our friend, Tusingwire Milton ( PED Ugandan Country Director) , sent an urgent email to me stating that the little pole and thatched roof school we had visited in Kamwenge had been destroyed in a fierce rainstorm. Having worked in the field of education for 38 years, my heart broke when I read this news. I immediately felt God nudging me to be the one to help solve this immediate problem. So I sent an email to Milton stating that I would personally help build the school. I had saved about $3,000 hoping to use that for a future trip to Uganda in 2010, but now I could channel that money towards a new school. Unfortunately, after getting exact costs from Milton, I was quite short from the $10, 250 that was needed. After doing some fundraising on my own, I frantically called Dianne asking for her assistance in this big project. With donations pouring in from family, hundreds of friends the First Presbyterian Church in Ottawa, and several organizations, the school was paid for! How excited we were! This project had grown from a small, one person mission, to one that involved hundreds of adults and students in the Ottawa area.

It was just overwhelming to see how God provided for the construction of this school. So I asked Milton if I could name the school GLORY PRIMARY SCHOOL, giving all the glory to God for its completion. The students and teachers, as well as the community, joyously accepted the name because they know that “GOD IS GOOD ALL THE TIME” and He provides for all their needs.
Once the school was finished, the community requested that Dianne and I be a part of the official dedication, which was scheduled for March 2011. We were so humbled by this request and could not possibly have turned it down. We packed our 4, 50 pound bags with additional gifts for our sponsored families and Glory Primary School and headed back to our beloved Uganda.

There were two days of festivities planned at the school. Milton, Dianne and I were greeted by all the school children as they marched and sang to us on our walk back to the school. Seeing Glory for the first time nearly took my breath away. It was painted turquoise both on the front and inside, and looked so elegant against the green vegetation. After the ribbon-cutting ceremony, we were showered with gifts of banana fiber dolls and soccer balls, as well as a great variety of fresh produce from the families. As we accepted these generous gifts, we couldn’t stop thinking that this represented food that could have been given to their own families, yet they chose to be generous and give it to us.

We were seated as the guests of honor, but we assured the community that we were there representing all of our friends in the US who had made the school project possible. Every gift we gave the school, whether it was maps, dolls, soccer balls, math sets, or pencils, the children received with extreme gratitude. On the second day of the celebration, the desk/chairs arrived. This was probably our favorite part of the celebration. As the desks were placed in the classrooms by the children, the school seemed more real than ever. This was especially significant for me because, for a number of years, these same children had been ridiculed for the inadequacy of their old school “facility”. I know they couldn’t have been more proud as the prayers for their new school became a reality right before their eyes.

A delicious feast had been prepared for us—one that the children typically had only once a year, if that. A goat had been butchered for the occasion and several other large pots containing delicious smelling produce simmered over an open fire in the back of the adjacent unfinished church. After the meal was consumed, we were entertained by a net ball game on a quickly made court that was completed by the neighborhood men. Before we knew it, our time in Kamwenge was over, and we had to depart—but not without a promise that we would continue working towards improving their small community.

To further my fundraising efforts, my friend Cindy, who is a Rotarian, helped me put together a power point presentation that highlighted our March trip to Kamwenge, as well as several proposed projects that have been put together by Milton, Dianne and me that would help sustain Glory Primary School and the neighboring community. Since summer I have been speaking to a number of Rotary Clubs in our area. Ottawa Noon Rotary president Pamela Beckett has been very enthusiastic about supporting our efforts and it appears that very soon we will have the financial backing of Ottawa Noon Rotary, as well as several other clubs to ensure that the communities in the Kamwenge District will have improved lives for their future. Kabarole Rotary Club in Uganda will assist Milton in overseeing the implementation of these life-improving projects: a water collection system at the school, a bore-hole well, a maize-milling machine, a school library, a playground with equipment, and additional teacher provisions. In addition, we also had great news from Presbytery at First Presbyterian Church that the grant written for textbooks was approved for $3,000, so the teachers and children will especially be blessed with that donation. And to think all of this began with one totally inadequate woman responding in a positive way to God’s quiet nudging!!!

The great people at Pangea Educational Development have agreed to assist Dianne and me in organizing these jobs in a three-year plan. While we work here in the U.S., it is reassuring to know that there are very competent people like Milton in Uganda with whom we are partnering to accomplish the work that God has put in our hands. We know that the people in Kamwenge are counting on us. It is with immense gratitude to all involved that I tell this story.

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Faces of PED (Adam Bauer)

I used to think I had problems. One day my DVR neglected to record one of my favorite shows. So I had to wait two days for it to become available OnDemand. Then one time I forgot the cord that connects my iPod to my car radio, so I had to listen to the radio for the entirety of my two hour drive. You know, those types of problems. But those, in fact, are not problems. They’re just annoyances; minor annoyances at that. Through my travels and time with PED, I’ve learned that I’ve been dealt a very good hand. As Mitt Romney stated ever so eloquently the other night during the GOP debate (mind you, this is most likely the only time I will ever quote him), “Just because you’ve been dealt four aces, it doesn’t make you a good poker player.” That’s most definitely been the case for me. I have, and have always had, a fantastic life. None of it was my doing. I was lucky enough to be born into a fortunate, supportive, and loving family. We weren’t perfect, but we were far from bad. That was my blessing; I was given that gift.

​PED gave me the opportunity to do some actual traveling. Not to knock Sandals or Carnival Cruises, but there are not a lot of true learning experiences to be had on those trips. While in Uganda, I had the opportunity to meet some exceptional people. You know how people like to say, “We are all the same” or “There is no difference between us (the people in the United States) and them (the people in Africa)”? Well, I found that that’s not true. There were some major differences between me and the Ugandans I met. They all worked harder than me. They were more generous than me. They all had real problems. I have infinitely more opportunities and resources than any of those people. But it wasn’t my doing. I didn’t work for it or earn it. I was given it. Many of us are. It’s just thrust upon us when we are born; whether it’s by some sort of god or blind coincidence, depending on your matter of faith.

​ The people I met have given me more motivation than any high paid speaker could. I now find myself working harder and smarter. I’m more generous with the (little) money I have. But not to be overlooked or undervalued is the fact that I now get more satisfaction out of my leisure activities. Maybe it’s because I now recognize its value, or the fact that I know that I’m lucky enough to even have it. Either way, I received infinitely more out of that trip than I paid for. Oh yeah, and those problems I talked about earlier? They don’t bother me anymore.

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Faces of PED Fridays: Laura Dering

Prior to my trip to Uganda, I was quite certain of two things.  One being that I would become very tan(or very sunburned) and the other being that I was most definitely going to be eaten alive by strange insects.  It was only a couple of days before I realized I was mistaken and my spf 80 and 95% deet bug spray stayed nestled at the bottom of my suitcase for the remainder of the trip.  At this point in time I came to the conclusion that googling ‘what to expect in Uganda’ per chance was not the best possible preparation for my travels.

The events and ideas I took away from my visit that resonate most in my memory are concepts I would not have been able to fully soak in without physically being in Uganda and experiencing them myself.  Two things are constant throughout the world: time and music.  Though constant, these notions are substantially dissimilar between the United States of America and Uganda.  In the U.S. time is rationed throughout the day.  Every minute is carefully portioned in planners and smart phones.  Strict schedules are adhered to and individuals become extremely disgruntled if appointments are cancelled or heavy traffic delays errands.  In Uganda time is not seen as a hindrance or stressor.  It is simply observed as day turns to night and as moments between meals pass.  Time is not focused on or used as a definitive deadline.  If someone tells you they will pick you up at 5pm or a meal will occur at 6pm it may be a few hours after that until the action arises and it is completely acceptable and to an extent even expected.  Spontaneity is more important to them than scheduling.

Noise seems to fall into the realm of personal space in the United States.  Booming bass systems and loud stereos are generally viewed as disrespectful.  Neighbors do not appreciate it when others that dwell around them play music loud enough for them to audibly hear it a few doors down.  It is rather revitalizing that the opposite seems to hold true in Uganda.  Citizens navigate down roads with speakers strapped to the top of their car roofs projecting reggae and Rihanna.  Boisterous melodies flow from fruit stands as well as open shop doors.  Loud laughter and occasional dancing can be observed by the passerby.  Ugandans prefer to celebrate life and live out loud rather than coloring inside the lines.  They have given me an understanding of how satisfying it can be to live simply instead of getting caught up in deadlines social norms.  Even though the group I went with ventured to Uganda to help the local citizens, I think they may have given us more than we realize.



Interested in volunteering with us next summer? Fill out an application today!

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Learning Never Ends – A Reflection

On June 27th (and the 28th for one forgetful member) our team embarked on their trip to empower students, staff, and communities in the country of Uganda as a part of Pangea Educational Development’s first official volunteer trip. On the plane ride over, I sat awake in the middle of the night, unable to sleep, thinking to myself, “I can’t believe that I’m here right now. How could I ever have considered anything else?” What am I talking about? Well, the funny thing about this trip and my role in PED is that I wasn’t initially planning on attending the trip.

Having gone to Uganda twice before and having spent 3.5 months of my life there, I thought that spending my time taking a summer course or working on my French in another country would be time better spent. Yet, as I contemplated my options, I came upon a sobering reminder: Uganda has taught me more than any class or other experience that I’ve ever had every time that I have been blessed to go there. Sure enough, it didn’t disappoint this time either.

Right up until the moment we left, life was a rush as usual (just ask former PED Intern and my amazing friend Nate Stetzler). Nate drove me around to banks, to pick up supplies, picking up arriving team members from the airport, packing bags with donated supplies, and do all of the last minute things that made our trip a success. It’s a number of people like him doing things behind the scene that make the wonderful things we do happen. Yet as we arrived in the country a different pace of life took over our van of anxious and chatty college students. While many of them can attest to the frustration it may have sometimes caused earlier in the trip, each grew to appreciate this warm climate cultural trait. This small difference is an example of the many that slow us down and reorient our perspective on trips like this. Whether it’s the simplicity of living, the extreme value people hold in their education, or the hospitable charismatic flare of the Ugandan people, something begins to strike you on a trip like this. What is most beautiful is that it’s different for each of us. Mine was something that I saw our group of volunteers.

Over the trip our group did a lot of fantastic work, acquiring blisters, rolled ankles, sore bodies, and patience. It isn’t the work that really impressed me though. It was the powerful whisper of guidance and understanding of board member Glenna Sullivan. It was the pragmatic idealism of Matt Pietrus as he sought answers to the overarching systemic environmental and economic issues he observed. It was the empathetic understanding of Jacquelyn Rodriguez, Kara Rhodebeck, and Katie Ott turned into passion to empower the young girls at St. James Primary School and Tooro High School. It was the shift from fear for life to interviewing to stay for two years with another NGO in Ben Harman. It was the quiet confidence and personable connections that Trevor John made with Ugandans, treating them as brothers and sisters. It was the outgoing and humorous personality of Laura Dering that made numerous difficult situations, early wake-ups, and hot days under the sun enjoyable and even rejuvenating. It was the undying commitment to our mission, volunteers, and their community from Milton Tisungwire, Abdul Metebe, and Herb and Ellen Cook. It was the late night dedication of Kevin Oh to update the PED community with nearly daily video updates of our work and fun in the field. It was passionate leadership of Andy Bauer that made all of the little things happen and inspired the same passion for education in each of our volunteers. It was these things that reinvigorated inspiration for myself.

After nearly a year since our inception, Andy, Kevin, and myself have experienced excitement, progress, and seeing a great number of you rally around our cause and passion with what PED does. It has come at a small cost, though. There are many who aren’t as passionate or who even care about what we do or who we do it for. We have experienced drained bank accounts, sleepless nights, and a never-ending list of things that need to be done. Yet, none of this is complaining by any means. It is these successes on our trip that make it all worth it for me. Next year we aim to get 6 times the number of volunteers out at our schools as well a few new sites. I hope you will be part of it too. Find out more on our volunteer page and follow our volunteer program on twitter at VolunteerPED and stay posted for the release of our trip application on Monday, August 15th!

“Experience is the child of thought, and thought is the child of action.”
Benjamin Disraeli

I believe each of our staff and volunteers have had a tremendous life changing experience. This has led to their thoughts that have challenged their perspectives and outlooks. It isn’t long before you hear about another story of action spurring from a group like this, much like we ourselves were born from. Volunteer with PED, next year is sure to be all that it was this year and better.


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Uganda: Work and Play

We owe BIG props to Milton (PED’s Uganda Director) and Abdul (PED site supervisor).  They played a huge part in facilitating a meeting between our PED staff and the staff of St. James.

Meeting Goal:  Prioritize needs and self-sustainability projects desired by staff

Outcome:  A well thought-out list of 8 business projects and 11 needs that can be supplied through support and future income.   Great progress completed in a completely respectful and collaborative process!

The rest of the day was spent playing games with the adorable and energetic children of St. James.  Can’t wait to continue the progress and adventures!


Abdul and Milton address St. James



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Packing our bags (5 days of preparation)

Sitting in front of some empty luggage, random toiletries, and a truck load of school supplies, it hits me. I leave to go back to Uganda in five days. I am five days away from seeing myself in my purest form. I cannot express the emotions that go into preparing for this trip…but I’ll try.

Of course the first feeling I have is excitement. I am excited to go back to the place that pulls on my heart. I’m excited about reuniting with old friends and meeting new ones. There is also the excitement about the unknown. Africa is filled with the unknown. There is a very simple saying that can be heard on our volunteer trips, “this is Africa” (TIA for short). Africa is unpredictable. Plans that you have had for months can change in a second, and that is the beauty of it. I love being in a place where you are free to, and sometimes need to, go with the flow. There are many times when I would love to go with the flow, but with the current structure of my life and the basic structure of our culture you are almost forced to constantly be on task working for something, regardless if it is working or not. In Uganda you are allowed and almost have to change things on the fly. Life is too short, why not insert some randomness into it.

I also have to prepare for the opposite emotions that I will inevitably feel. While out there, we will come in contact with some of the most challenging situations of poverty imaginable. Families who are constantly in search for their next meal, orphans wandering at night looking for shelter and structure in their lives, and schools regularly on the cusp of closing due to funding. This immediately invokes emotion in every individual. With that said, you would never know their situation by seeing them. One would immediately assume that they are living in constant sadness. We have this perception both because of the media’s role of showing dramatized images of Africans in extreme poverty and sadness, and also our own ideas of money and happiness. For anyone that has been to Africa, in this specific case Uganda, you know that this is not completely true. The smiles are inspiring. What is missing with funding is made up for in their sense of community. The African proverb , “it takes a village to raise a child”, is true and still in good use in all African countries.

The most amazing part of the volunteer experience is being able to see yourself in its purest form. In this day and age where technology and media are constantly at your finger tips and living in a culture where money is king, you get to see yourself without any of those distractions. You get to be you. Life can get complicated, but while in Africa almost all those complications are muted, and you are able to live and react to situations as the purest form of you. And in five days, I will once again get to see me.

To keep up with everything we are doing make sure that you keep following the blog and stay up to date with us on our facebook or our twitter page.


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