The Rubanda Solidarity School Multipurpose Hall
Council: 12941 - BIDDEFORD
The Rubanda Solidarity School Multipurpose Hall
February 3—18, 2020 3 Knights 164 hours Community category
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Years before being assigned to the Diocese of Portland as a missionary priest, our council chaplain Father Dominic Tumusiime founded a primary school in his home town of Rubanda, Uganda. He named it Solidarity because, to him, that term represents the combination of faith, academics and life skills necessary to give Uganda children an education to prepare them for the future. With time the school has added students and staff, and an organization has grown up around it to operate and care for the school in Father’s absence. Every winter he takes a vacation from pastoral duties and goes home to Uganda to check on the school and bring to it what improvements he can. In 2018, one of those improvements was one of our Brother Knights, who accompanied Father Dominic in Uganda for a month to consult on his profession, organic farming, and to bring in beneficial organic farm practices that would better feed the school population. At the end of their stay in Uganda that February, they formed the idea of adding a multipurpose hall to the school campus where large groups could meet.
That was the beginning of a two year plan to make the multipurpose hall a reality. The Brother Knights of our council soon got behind the fund raising. Donations came from private individuals, council membership, and parishioners. Council 12941 solicited other councils all over the state of Maine and received numerous donations from them. For two summers the council set out a donation jar alongside the bread we sold at the Saco Farmers’ Market every Saturday. In 18 months, through the generosity of many, we raised $24,000, the amount necessary to move the project forward.
In the fall of 2019, the Multipurpose Hall was built as a second floor room on top of 5 existing classrooms. It is made of concrete, 36’ x 75’, and roofed with corrugated steel. 2700 square feet is enough to accommodate a crowd even larger than originally planned.
The Knights of our council arranged to send a small delegation in February 2020 to attend the hall’s dedication at Solidarity school and deliver a commemorative plaque recognizing major donors. The trip to Uganda coincided with Fr Dominic’s annual visit and included further donations of equipment and expertise to the school that would make long lasting improvements there. Two or our Brother Knights and their wives were joined by one of our Good Shepherd Parish staff and her sister to round out the delegation. While at the school, the delegation cut the ribbon on the Multipurpose Hall and presented the plaque. Then they got down to making their respective contributions including:
• A large quantity of heirloom seeds for the school garden along with the tools to plant and weed them. The seeds would produce plants that would bear hardy seeds of their own at the end of the season and set the school up so that it would no longer need to buy seeds annually. Our gardening Brother also set up a composting station to enrich the garden soil and increase crop yields. He fine tuned the farming practices he had implemented two years before and surveyed another garden location for suitability as a food source for Ugandan priests’ retirement home.
• Microscopes for Rubanda Solidarity Primary School as well as a seminary and secondary school across town. The party brought in 7 microscopes that were donations from University of New England, who had recently upgraded their Biology Department equipment. This gift created learning possibilities that are few and far between in Uganda on any grade level. The microscopes created a sensation with staff and students alike. They will help set Solidarity apart as a school offering an excellent education. The kids had never seen anything like them before.
• A projector for helping create class room materials that would apply to all grades, from nursery school to grade 7, and increase the ability of the staff to serve the children’s educational needs.. Puzzles and various types of games that would engage children at recess in new ways.
• Lessons in character education intended to introduce and reinforce ways for children to get along in life—in school and out. The messages were “Please”, “Thank You” and I’m Sorry”.
• Training in the basics of sanitation and nutrition, especially as regards bathroom and dietary topics. These matters have a direct influence on student health and ability to learn.
• Advice on business office management, including organizing work space, keeping up to date records and getting the school ready to add a computer to its operation.
This project has formed a bond between Rubanda Solidarity Nursery and Primary School and our council which will last long after Father Dominic has moved on to another parochial assignment. It was an experience that those involved will never forget—a strange and beautiful location, filled with warm, appreciative people, and a charitable mission that will help improve the lives of many and gratify the hearts of all.