Katie Hart, a math and science teacher at Oregon Virtual Academy (ORVA), recently went on an eye-opening trip to Uganda.
Traveling with her mother, children, and friends, Katie made the two-week trip after being inspired by the work her mother does with Good Samaritan Ministries, an organization that believes the cycle of poverty can be broken through education and empowerment.
“Ever since I was 14 years old, my mom has done work to raise funds that support teachers in Uganda,” Katie said. “I have seen pictures from her numerous trips, met Ugandans who have come over to the U.S., and helped her when I could. This trip was a chance for me and my kids to see what my mom has been working on all of this time. It was a chance for us to meet the people in the pictures and get to know the heart behind the stories.”
Katie went into the trip with a mission to learn more about Uganda, its education system, and how she could make an impact.
“We went with open hearts and minds knowing that we may serve in ways we didn’t expect, but our ultimate goal was to let the Ugandans know we care and find ways we could help when we got home,” Katie said.
Typical days on the trip included visiting classrooms, learning how to cook, watching soccer matches, visiting a men’s prison, and engaging with different types of people in Uganda. Katie was amazed by the different people she met and how much of an impact she could make by simply listening to someone’s story.
“A lot of the time we were there was spent connecting with people,” Katie said. “We shook hands, gave hugs, and just listened to the stories of the people.”
Katie had the chance to learn about the Ugandan education system and was able to see what a typical day of a teacher and student looks like in Uganda. She was fascinated by the fact that Uganda does not have a public education system, leaving 40-60% of school-aged children unable to attend school. Katie appreciated being able to learn about the experiences in their schools and was honored to share her own.
“The attitude towards education in Uganda is a positive one because students feel privileged to be able to attend class,” Katie said. “The idea of a virtual classroom was mind-blowing to the Ugandan teachers because they do not even have internet access, one of their biggest hopes.”
Being able to relate to and help the teachers there was an amazing experience for Katie. After a physics teacher approached her about how to teach physics with limited resources, Katie was honored to give advice due to her similar experience.
“It was very exciting to be able to connect with him on that level and encourage him that just because we may not have the tools to teach physics to students the way we may want to, students still have experiences we can build upon,” Katie said. “They know what it’s like to watch a rope swing. They know how gravity can affect ripe mangos and pull them off the trees. When our biggest tool in the classroom is a whiteboard we can’t forget to utilize the experiences our students share.”
After an incredible two weeks of learning, experiencing, and meeting the compassionate people of Uganda, Katie left filled with inspiration and encouragement.
“I have come home inspired by the heart of the Ugandans,” Katie said. “I now have a much greater appreciation for the opportunities our students have. Ugandans do so much with so little, and while they still struggle, they always smiled and welcomed us. I would love to provide them with internet access so I could encourage them more but also so that we could learn from each other and grow together as professionals.”