Students at Radnor Middle School are raising funds for development projects helping Ugandan students to stay in school – and creating micro-business enterprises in the bargain.
Their efforts over the past two years led to the construction of new latrine facilities for the Bupala Primary School in rural Uganda. Inspired by this success, Radnor students have begun fundraising for another project: an organic chicken farm at the school. Both projects directly benefit Bupala school and have created new business enterprises for the village. The school latrine was engineered to produce fertilizer that creates a job for a local person to sell to area farmers. The school will eat and sell the eggs, proceeds from which will purchase additional lunch foods and school supplies.
This special relationship between the Radnor and Bupala schools began with a pen-pal project initiated by Radnor English teacher Jodi Sabra and Kuchanga Travel.
"I wanted to show kids that they live in a big world and they have the ability to change it for the better," said Jodi. In 2010 her eighth-graders began exchanging letters, poems, photos, artwork, and soon realized that their Ugandan peers shared many of the interests and aspirations as they did, but that basic material disadvantages, unheard of on the Philadelphia Main Line, often put an abrupt end to those youthful dreams. One of the most shocking examples was that Bupala girls reaching puberty often dropped out of school – not because they were forced to, but because the school's crumbling latrine had no doors. Simple lack of privacy was ending girls' education and with it their potential to advance themselves.
This summer Jodi and Kuchanga Travel went to Bupala village for the dedication of the latrine, bringing with her hundreds of hand-painted decorative tiles from the Radnor community. The tiles were one of several fundraising projects the Radnor kids organized, raising more than $10,000 in all, including a grant from the Radnor Educational Foundation.
"This was a big old deal in Bupala," Jodi said. "All the villagers and students and their families were there to celebrate the latrine commissioning. There were elders and politicians making speeches, singers and dancers, and those who came to see the first compostable latrine in the region. The country's main newspaper even sent a reporter from the capital. And I was able to come back and tell my students, 'Your friendship and enterprising hard work made all this happen.'"
On Jodi's return, the Radnor school community and students were so moved by the stories and photos of Jodi's visit to Uganda, they decided to cover the schools' lunch fees for the next year until the chicken farming project can be established.