Friday, May 27, 2011

My Day with Nicholas

Yesterday was one of the most memorable days I have had in Kampala. I shadowed Nicholas, one of EAC's students. He is the most gentle, kind, and hardworking person. On Monday, we had reunited in epic fashion. I was walking back to the EAC office from the EAC home when I heard my name being called. I was confused. Who in Kampala would know my name? It was Nicholas! He told me "I am so happy to see you." The feelings were mutual. Currently, he is enrolled in a technology and leadership program through the KiBO Foundation. Service learning is one of the main components of the organization’s curriculum so I asked Nicholas if I could join him for a day to learn about the program.  He was happy to let me tag along. The day turned out to be more powerful and fun than I expected.

I met Nicholas at EAC’s home at 8 AM. For transport, I took a boda boda. I wore my heroic new motorcycle helmet (or “element” as it is pronounced in Kampala). It is red with flames and has a clear sheet a plastic that moves up in down in the eye area. I told the driver to go super slow and not pass any vehicles, a request that he followed. So, I got his number if I ever need a ride. Ask anyone and they will tell you that it is important to have a few trusted boda boda drivers. I was happy to find my first.

 From the house, Nicholas and I walked to the KiBO Foundation. It was a 30-45 minute walk. Interestingly, Agie, EAC’s program manager in Kampala and one of my favorite people, saw me walking. She did not see Nicholas and called me because she did not understand why was walking the opposite direction of the EAC office and said I looked confused. I thought that this was funny. It was probably just my normal face because I live life in a constant yet wonderful state of slight confusion. It’s hard to explain.

During our walk, Nicholas and I had a wonderful conversation. First, he told me about the KiBO Foundation. The organization main program, which he is enrolled in, is about three months long. Students learn work skills, which they then apply to a service project. For a straightforward explanation, go here – Nicholas’s class is raising money to assist a primary school. To fund the project, every student is required to raise at least 50,000 Ugandan shillings. Nicholas raised his money by providing car washing services to EAC staff and assisting an orphanage that raises money by catering events. Later in the post, I will go into more detail about Nicholas's plans to eventually open a bakery and the orphanage that he helped. In addition to personal fundraising, the students held group events, which included an entertainment show that some of EAC's students performed in and a car wash. 

Later in the day, Nicholas gave me the proposal that the class put together for fundraising purposes. The  impressive document outlines the project and provides a proposed budget. It will be an amazing source to me as I consider elements of the service curriculum I create for EAC. It is important to note that Nicholas was elected to be Project Manager. According to one of his teachers, he has done an amazing job of organizing the project. I would agree. Throughout the day, he would tell me about decisions he made about how to approach the other students. It was as if he had been in my Human and Organizational Development courses at Vanderbilt.

One of the things that Nicholas told me that made me happiest was that he learned that the computer is just a tool. He said that when he started KiBO, he thought that he would simply learn computer skills and that would make him more employable and better off; however, he learned that computer skills are just a small part of the equation. He said, “Skills are just tools to be used to get important things done.” That is one of the major points I want to make in the curriculum that I create.

KiBO has inspired Nicholas to really think about how he can give back to his community. The idea of performing community service now excites him. After he explained KiBO, I explained my project. Nicholas told me that he liked what I was doing and would like to assist me. After asking Jeremy, it looks like this may be possible. This is a prospect that I am very excited about.

When we arrived at KiBO, the receptionist called the program coordinator over to give me an overview of the program and tour of the facilities. I felt bad because I had very few questions. Nicholas had done such a great job of explaining the program that I did not have much more to learn! After the tour, I assisted Nicholas with making LinkedIn account and went with him to pay carpenters that are making doors and windows for the school that they are assisting. Saturday is the groundbreaking of the project and graduation of his KiBO class. One of Nicholas's teachers joined us to go to the carpenters. We became instant buds because he is a huge fan of basketball and said his favorite team was the Dallas Mavericks! 

After going to the carpenters, Nicholas and I went to lunch at Palm Pizza, one of the places that Nick Hall and I used to like going last year. During lunch, he told me about his hopes to open a bakery called ONick's People's Bakery. He has an amazing vision and his passion for baking is clear from the moment he begins to talk about his idea. He asked me if I would be willing to go with him to the Daughters of Charity Orphanage to see a cake that he was working on. Even if I had something important to do, I could not have said “no.”

We stopped by the EAC home so I could get my backpack and then started our walk over. This proved to be a powerful journey for me. Nicholas and I took a shortcut through one of the slums in Kampala. While I visited a school in this area last year, I had not walked through the community. Nicholas apologized for taking me through this area, which I told him was unnecessary. It was important for me to see and caused me to think. I was proud of him because he had a great deal of knowledge about different NGOs operating in the area and which ones the communities were receptive to. It is going to be great to have him assisting me when I go out to create service opportunities. I do not know how adequately describe the slum. I think it something that you have to see for yourself. Pictures or words cannot really capture the reality. I will continue to think about it and maybe write a posting later about it. I can tell you that people were surprised to see me, a “muzungu” (white person), walking through their community. Children came up to shake my hand and ask me how I was doing.

When we arrived at the Daughters of Charity, I met some of the staff and promised to return to learn more about the organization. Then, Nicholas showed me the cake he was working on. It was 15 layers and really impressive! I really think he has a future in baking. This was the final activity in a wonderful day. I developed a stronger bond with Nicholas, witnessed amazing potential, and was inspired by the work of KiBO.  

After Daughters of Charity, I returned to the EAC office and started going through reports written by EAC children. They were assigned to do a service project in their homes during one of their school breaks. I am charting these reports and will write a post about my finding when I finished. Following work, Jeremy invited Will and I along with a few others to come chill at his home. We had a great time. It was relaxing few hours and full of laughter.  On the subject of Jeremy, he has been amazing and extremely helpful to me since my arrival. I owe him a special shout out and thank you. When we left his home,  Will and I returned home to cook our first meal. That is an uninspiring story for another post . . . 

- Feldman 


No comments:

Post a Comment