"The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." - Dorothea Lange

Monday, February 20, 2012

precious possessions: guest post by melissa

"This past week I helped prepare the new Senior 1 students for school. Each school typically has a list of requirements for students - items for the school (like photocopy paper, brooms, toilet paper), school supplies (notebooks, pens, art supplies, etc.), personal items (hygiene items and clothing), and dormitory supplies (basin, bed sheets, mattress, mosquito net, soap, etc). I have developed a system for purchasing most of the supplies from various shops in Kajjansi. I like to shop locally and support the small business owner. Every student goes to school with the same supplies, so it simplifies shopping considerably. While I make these purchases carefully within a tight budget, I give little thought to the items otherwise.

However, I have been humbly reminded of the significance these supplies are to the Change The Truth students. CTT provides as many of the essentials as possible within the parameters of the annual sponsorship, as CTT wants students to be equivalent with their peers in the boarding section at school. SMK and guardians have provided as much as possible for the orphans, but it is a reality that personal possessions are few and precious. Children learn to share, borrow, and barter with one another at an early age. So it only stands to reason that receiving individual items would carry additional meaning and significance.

There have been a couple of distinct moments that I have given pause to what ‘new and personal’ supplies really mean to the CTT students. The students have been received second-hand clothing or shoes for their entire lives, which they often have to wear for more than one year. So the idea that they are getting a new pair of school shoes annually is sometimes mind-blowing. Then when they find out that they are going into Kampala to shop for those shoes themselves, they are doubly thrilled. Something so small and simple from my experience is so special and thrilling to the CTT students.

In addition, students take notice that they are going to school with their own bathing soap, washing soap, shoe polish, vasoline, etc. These are items that they are typically used to sharing or borrowing from others. When students are presented with these simple items, their reaction would make one would think they were plated in gold! Students then take meticulous efforts to label their items, pack them neatly in their small metal case and then inventory their case. Some students can be found opening and reopening their cases several times a day, just to make sure their items are still there.

When heading to school, a student’s essentials are all contained in this small case. I have often challenged myself to think about what would go into my case. What would be the most valuable or useful possessions for me? For most students, it is their notebooks from previous years, a few photos/letters, and their personal care items.

I certainly hope that I remember this experience in the future, and I continue to appreciate the smaller essentials (like soap, toothpaste, pens) a bit more than I have in the past. After all, life without them would be a completely different experience, so CTT should be proud of providing a well-rounded, fully supported experience for its students. I am a witness to how even the smallest items have enriched their lives!"

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