Over the past few weeks, I have traded the constant motion of Kampala for the stillness of the bush. The sound of bodas, car horns and city life faded out as we traveled north, and I welcome the changed of pace. Four hours north of Kampala, nestled between the town of Karuma and the Nile River, is Restoration Gateway (RG). Founded by Janice and Dr. Tim McCall in 2007, Restoration Gateway serves as a home and school for orphans. RG began with three boys and is now home to more than 140 children. The campus, clinics and agricultural land span 700 acres of some of the most beautiful country I've ever seen.
During my time here at RG, I will be serving as the secondary school agriculture teacher. The program is centered around a student run garden. Lianna Scholz, an Oklahoma native, has developed a comprehensive curriculum that addresses agriculture here in Uganda as well as around the world. Students from the secondary one (S1) and primary six and seven classes work each afternoon to manage the garden. At the moment, the students are growing sweet potatoes, green beans, sweet corn, common beans, cucumbers, pumpkin, radishes and carrots among other things. This garden does not just serve as a test plot; it is also an enterprise. RG students have been involved in each step of the process, from clearing the space that the garden occupies to the sales of products grown by the classes.
This is the secondary school where I teach on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Two of the primary goals of the agriculture program at RG are education and empowerment of the students. By getting outside and participating in a learn-by-doing curriculum, these students do not just learn about the principles of agricultural production; they are able to experience them first-hand. These kids are learning the crucial skills of preparation and planning, diligence and dedication, and risk and reward that are integral to agriculture. Slowly, programs like those at RG are changing the perception of agriculture - shifting away from subsistence and moving toward viewing agriculture as a lucrative means of income, a viable career path, and an important factor in the development and progress of Uganda.
Before leaving Uganda, Tanner learned how to find pumpkin leaves that are suitable for eating.
Some days, when I stop to pause, I am struck by what is happening here. People from all walks of life - families, church groups, interns, long-term volunteers, Ugandan staff, the directors and friends of RG - are pouring out into a community that has seen more than its share of turmoil. These children are challenged, taught, cared for and deeply loved by those who serve on this campus. Restoration Gateway is growing an empowered generation, and I am honored to play a tiny part in that.
Gabriella Bragoli is a 2016 Noble-Watoto Fellow working at Watoto Child Care Ministries in Uganda. Bragoli is from Chico, California, and has one semester left in the master of international agriculture program at Oklahoma State University, where she focuses on food security and development.